THE chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography on Wednesday expressed openness to a proposal to allow the use of cannabis (marijuana) for select medical conditions.
“If it will help in saving lives, why not?” Sen. Victor “JV” Ejercito said.
The use of marijuana for patients with debilitating medical condition is acceptable, he added, provided that security measures are in place to prevent abuse.
Ejercito was reacting to an earlier statement of newly appointed Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd expressing support to the use of cannabis for medical purposes.
The House Committee on Health already passed House Bill (HB) 180 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Bill authored by Rep. Rodolfo Albano 3rd in September.
The bill seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of marijuana, which, according to various studies, helps control epileptic seizures, manage arthritic pain, treat HIV-AIDS symptoms and even prevent the spread of cancer cells in the body.
Under the bill, centers authorized by the Health department will be established in hospitals where the sale and use of cannabis will be undertaken.
The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency will regulate the use of medical marijuana in these centers.
Identification cards will be issued to patients who are certified by physicians to undergo marijuana-based treatment.
The intention of HB 180 is to invoke the right of the patient to choose treatment and the duty of the physician to honor the patient’s decision.
“There is proof it can really relieve pain for cancer patients and is effective in treatment of epilepsy and other cerebral conditions,” Ejercito said in a text massage.
The senator noted that substance abuse remains a concern but putting safeguards in place could help prevent it.
Ejercito said he expects the proposal to encounter strong opposition the moment it reaches the chamber, especially from Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd, who has been opposing the idea.
Sotto had warned that legalizing the use of marijuana even in select medical cases could spell national disaster and would only benefit drug syndicates that are already making a killing from the sale of cannabis.
He said if marijuana was legalized, the government in effect would be promoting its use, creating a notion especially among the youth that smoking pot is acceptable.
Ejercito added that defending such kind of proposal would not be easy but he is ready to consider it if it would help prolong lives of people who are sick.
At present there has been no counterpart bill pending before the Senate and it is likely that the chamber would just wait for the House to pass its version.