On January 29, House Bill 6517 was passed by a nearly unanimous vote of 165-5 (3 abstentions) in the lower house of the Philippines Congress. Known as the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, the legislation paves the way for legalizing the use and domestic production of cannabis for patients in need. It will also enable further research into the medical efficacy of cannabis.
The bill, which was authored and introduced by Representative Rodolfo Albano III, is specifically aimed at providing relief from symptoms associated with a number of medical afflictions such as cancer. It was supported by the former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who suffers pain from multiple cervical spondylosis and has used cannabis patches when visiting countries where it’s legal.
While opponents fear that it would lead to a surge in recreational use, Albono stated, “The bill clearly provides that the use of medical marijuana has to comply with strict regulatory requirements under the Department of Health (DOH). By saying that the medical marijuana will be a gateway to illegal drugs or will encourage addiction, the critics of my bill obviously do not know what they are talking about.”
What Medical Cannabis in the Philippines Will Include
If the legislation becomes law, multiple government agencies will be responsible for establishing as well as overseeing the medical cannabis market. The DOH will take charge of registering and issuing licenses for physicians, patients and caregivers, as well as developing the system’s framework and regulations.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will implement proper testing of medical cannabis products for potency, consistency, and safety – plus compliant packaging and accurate labeling. The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) will oversee the activities of all registered Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers, including: importation, cultivation, manufacture, storage, distribution, prescription, dispensation and sales.
An Advisory Committee on Medical Use of Cannabis will also be established to counsel these agencies.
While home-growing and smoking cannabis will be prohibited, patients will have access to other forms such as oils, tinctures, capsules and extracts. They will first need to have a “bona fide” relationship with a doctor licensed by the PDEA to prescribe medical cannabis. Patients must then register for and carry an identification card which is valid for a full year. Caregivers can also apply for an ID card but may only provide medical cannabis for one patient.
Qualifying conditions for medical cannabis in the Philippines will include:
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe and chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Epilepsy, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Damage to spinal cord nervous system, intractable spasticity
- HIV or AIDS
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Rheumatoid arthritis or similar chronic disorders
- Conditions requiring hospice care
Included language also leaves the door open to additional conditions that may later be identified by the Department of Health through recommendations by the Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee.
What’s Required for HB 6517 to Officially Become Law
With House passage, the bill will now be sent to the Senate where a new version may be passed. That language must then be ratified by a bicameral committee and signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. In a move that seems to contradict his notoriously brutal “war on drugs,” Duterte has already expressed his support for the measure which means that medical cannabis in the Philippines could become a reality.
While there is no defined timeline to set up a system and regulations once medical cannabis is legalized in the country, our Medicine Man Technologies team is optimistic that patients will soon have access to the medicine and relief they need. We’ll be sure to keep you updated.
If you wish to start your own legal enterprise in the U.S. or anywhere across the globe, please contact us for private consulting, as well as help with licensing, cultivating, dispensary operations and more.