Medical Cannabis in the Philippines Passed by House of Representatives

Medical Cannabis in the Philippines

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
  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • 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.

U.S. Virgin Islands Officially Legalizes Medical Cannabis

Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act

In November 2014, 56.5% of voters in the U.S. Virgin Islands voted in favor of a non-binding referendum indicating their support of legalizing medical cannabis. Four long years later, and after several failed bills were introduced by Senator Positive T.A. Nelson, the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act was finally signed into law by Governor Albert Bryan Jr. on January 19.

The U.S. territory joins two others, Guam and Puerto Rico, in their endeavors to provide compassionate relief for citizens. In a statement released from Government House, Bryan expressed his support, “I have approved the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act because it is a step in the right direction toward assisting Virgin Islanders suffering from autoimmune and other debilitating medical conditions.”

System Oversight, Regulations and Implementation

While there will still be certain details to work out in the coming months, there are a number of details already spelled out in the act. An Office of Cannabis Regulation (OCR), operating within the Department of Licensing, will manage the system. It will be in charge of licensing cultivators and patients, as well as overseeing testing facilities, manufacturing operations and dispensaries.

In addition, the U.S. Virgin Islands will have a Cannabis Advisory Board with nine members appointed by the governor. It will be comprised of representatives from a variety of areas, the health department to agriculture, disability rights advocacy, finance and more. The board will supervise the OCR and develop new rules and regulations for it to implement.

The language of the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act already spells out a number of areas in regards to infrastructure:

  • Transfers of cannabis from a manufacturing facility to a dispensary will incur a 10% excise fee.
  • Patients will pay a 5% excise fee on all sales.
  • A $500k loan will be used to launch the program, but it must be self-sustaining within two years.
  • Beyond funding the system, revenue will go towards: drug education/rehabilitation, agricultural programs, infrastructure, medical tourism, as well as funding both sports and arts programs.
  • Application fees for Tier 1 growers (maximum of 100 plants) will not exceed $500, while larger growers (1,000 plants), manufacturers and dispensaries will pay no more than $5,000.
  • A draft of additional rules must be created within 120 days and finalized no more than 60 days later while allowing the public to provide feedback within a 30-day window.
  • Cultivators will not be allowed to also apply for and own dispensaries.
  • The OCR will begin issuing ID cards to patients within 120 days. It must also register all qualified businesses within 90 days of their application submission.

What Patients Who Are Virgin Island Residents Can Expect

Residents must first register with the OCR ($50 fee maximum) and receive an ID card allowing them to purchase, possess up to four ounces and consume medical cannabis. They may also request a card that specifically allows them to grow up to 12 plants in a secure location.

Patients must have written certification of a qualifying condition from their healthcare provider (doctor, homeopath, nurse practitioner, etc.) with whom they have a “bona fide” relationship in regards to their condition. A copy of the submitted application for the registry and the provider’s certification can be used as a temporary ID until the OCR sends a permanent card.

At this point, eligible medical ailments include: cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, hospice care, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, chronic pain, neuropathic pain, autism, opiate use disorder, or the treatment of these conditions or conditions that cause cachexia or wasting, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms.

Like other programs around the world, the Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act makes it illegal to drive, operate a boat, train or aircraft under the influence. Smoking in public is barred and a landlord is not required to allow a patient to grow on their property. Patients who violate the new laws may have their ID card suspended or revoked, either temporarily or permanently. They may also face criminal charges and penalties. Patients caught selling cannabis will be permanently banned from the program.  

Patients, registered caregivers, program businesses and other involved parties will also be protected from arrest and prosecution for medical cannabis related activities, as long as they’re aligned with all applicable laws. They will also be protected from discrimination in regards to housing, child custody, enrollment in schools, medical care and employment, off-hours only. Employers will still be able to prohibit employees from working under the influence.

The Potential for Medical Cannabis Tourism

The Virgin Islands Medicinal Cannabis Patient Care Act also opens the door to medical cannabis tourism by giving registered patients from areas where it’s legal, access to a non-resident ID card which will allow them to buy and use cannabis when visiting or first moving to the Virgin Islands. Patients who are not registered in their “home jurisdiction” but have an eligible condition can also find a physician, then apply for and receive an ID card. The cost to get a card is currently $50 for five days and $100 for 30 days.

While Medicine Man Technologies has witnessed the legalization of numerous medical cannabis programs, it seems that the Virgin Islands has put a lot of thought into the now passed legislation. Basic structure to allowing patients from other states and countries to support its tourism industry, these inclusions just might reflect the four long years it took to make medical cannabis a reality in this Caribbean archipelago.

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.

New Jersey Legislature Fails to Vote on Adult Use Cannabis in 2018

New Jersey Adult Use CannabisDuring Governor Phil Murphy’s campaign for the Garden State’s top office in the 2017 election, he promised to work with the state’s legislature to legalize adult use cannabis in New Jersey during his first year in office. However, the drive fell short despite a major victory in November when two panels in the Senate and Assembly passed three bills that would pave the way to making adult use cannabis a reality.

Further debate and (hopefully) a vote will now be pushed out to 2019.

If and when current points of contention are settled, the primary bill will allow adults (21 years of age and older) to consume, as well as buy and possess up to an ounce of cannabis. In addition:

  • A Cannabis Control Commission will be established and responsible for licensing all cannabis-based businesses.
  • At the state level, cannabis sales will be taxed at 12% and local governments may also apply an additional 2% tax.
  • Dispensaries will be able to create consumption areas upon approval by local government. This would essentially give customers a place to enjoy cannabis outside of their homes.
  • Programs will be set up to support minority-owned, female-owned and small businesses.
  • Local governments will be able to prohibit cannabis-based businesses within their communities.
  • Dispensaries will be able to create a fleet or hire independent contractors to deliver cannabis to customers who might not have transportation or live near a dispensary.

The other bills being considered include one that would expand New Jersey’s existing medical cannabis program, permitting patients to possess up to three ounces of cannabis instead of the current maximum of two, as well as allow edibles and improve the licensing process for businesses.

The final bill called for the development of a system to expedite the expungement of low-level cannabis offenses and reducing the waiting period from ten years to just five.

Sticking Points, Governor Murphy vs. Lawmakers

Despite everyone being on the same page regarding the legalization of adult use cannabis in New Jersey, there are two points of contention that apparently prevented the bill’s passage before the close of 2018.

One area that will require compromise is the tax rate on cannabis sales. While the current bill sets it at 12%, Governor Murphy has suggested an excise tax of 25% which is more in line with other states such as Washington where sales tax is 37% and Colorado where there is a 15% excise tax and 15% sales tax.

The proposal is opposed by both State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin. While both lawmakers support legalization, Sweeney has stated that he wants the tax rate to be kept low in order to prevent people from returning to the black market due to high prices.

In addition, both sides have differing opinions on whether or not a Cannabis Regulatory Commission is needed full-time. Governor Murphy is against it, Sweeney is for it, and the bill calls for an assessment three years after implementation to make a determination regarding the necessity of full-time.

If all of these issues can be worked out and the bills passed in 2019, New Jersey will be the first state to launch a legal, adult use cannabis market without a ballot initiative. While Vermont’s legislature made it legal for adults to grow, possess and consume cannabis, it’s yet to establish a fully regulated industry for cultivation, production and sales.

Of course, Medicine Man Technologies will be here to give you the latest updates on adult use cannabis in New Jersey. So, please stay tuned.

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.

Medical Cannabis Bill Passes in New Zealand

New Zealand Medical CannabisOn December 11, 2018, nearly a year after it was first introduced, New Zealand’s Parliament passed the Misuse of Drugs (Medical Cannabis) Amendment Bill on its third and final reading. With a vote of 63 in favor and 53 against, the bill was backed by the Labour, New Zealand First and Green Party. It received royal assent and became an official Act on December 18.

Chloe Swarbrick, Green Party drug law reform spokesperson, had this to say about the passed bill, “This is a huge day for New Zealanders in pain and suffering who’ve been denied the only medicine that works for them. Too many New Zealanders are going into debt to access expensive big pharma products, or being turned into criminals in having to access an unregulated black market for cannabis.”

Welcome Changes to the Original Draft

Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we have been watching New Zealand’s progress since the bill was announced last year. We’re pleased to see that changes have been made to alleviate certain limitations regarding patient access and the timeline for implementation.

While the original bill only provided medical cannabis for terminally ill patients expected to live less than a year, the final legislation gives access to patients requiring palliation. The goal is to “alleviate pain and suffering for a person with an advanced progressive life limiting condition, who is nearing end of life.”

In addition, there will be “an exception and statutory defence” for patients who possess and use illicit cannabis. This will enable people who have or acquire a doctor’s certificate to be fully protected from prosecution in court. Around 25,000 New Zealanders are expected to benefit from this change.

New Zealand will now move forward in establishing a legal medical cannabis system to provide patients with quality cannabis products. And while the original draft indicated that it would take up to two years to implement regulations for licensing the cultivation, manufacture and production of medical cannabis, the final bill will require the scheme to be put into place no more than a year after its passing.

In order to meet this timeline, a channel will be opened to allow cannabis strains currently being grown by illicit operations to join the regulated domestic market. This will enable New Zealand to jumpstart its program without relying on imported cannabis products.

To create and implement the framework, a Medicinal Cannabis Oversight Panel will be brought together to ensure all points of view are represented. Medical professionals, including doctors and pharmacists, along with industry experts, consumers and Māori leadership will be able to weigh-in on processes. The group will also consult with the public later next year to gauge their concerns and share information.

Another noteworthy update is the removal of cannabidiol (CBD) as a controlled substance and making it a medicine that may be prescribed by a doctor without Ministry of Health approval. Products containing CBD will only be restricted if tetrahydrocannabinols (THC) or other psychoactive substances are present.

What’s Next for Cannabis in New Zealand

A week after the Misuse of Drugs Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament, Justice Minister Andrew Little also announced that a binding referendum ending cannabis prohibition will be held during New Zealand’s general election in 2020. If passed, it would legalize personal, adult use cannabis. Medicine Man Technologies will provide updates as the vote approaches.

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.

Voters Approve Medical Cannabis in Utah, Compromise Bill Will Replace It

Medical Cannabis in UtahOn election day, Utah surprisingly passed Proposition 2, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, with nearly 53% of people voting in favor of the measure.

However, before residents even headed to the polls, a compromise bill to replace Prop 2 was already in the works. And during a special session of the state’s legislature on Monday, December 3, Utah lawmakers passed the bill with the Republican-controlled House voting 60 to 13 and the Senate sealing the deal with a decisive final tally of 22 to 4.

Governor Gary Herbert then signed the bill into law on the same day with the statement, “Utah now has the best-designed medical cannabis program in the country.”

Behind the Scenes of the Compromise Bill

Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we’ve certainly witnessed how contentious the push for progress can be, but Utah comes with a unique political landscape. Let’s take a look at how it all unfolded.

Prior to the election, representatives from the Utah Patients Coalition, Prop 2 sponsors, and Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute (a libertarian think tank and financial backer of the campaign) met with opponents of the legislation, including the Utah Medical Association and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The goal was to gain early buy-off from these influential groups as well as support from the conservative-leaning Utah State Legislature and Governor Gary Herbert.

During weeks of private talks, both sides hashed out amendments that would alleviate the opposition’s concern that the original measure’s language left the door open to recreational use while still providing patients access to medical cannabis when Prop 2 passed. What made these talks so vital is that Utah is one of 11 states that allows unrestricted legislative alteration. Without a proactive move, it was possible that a simple majority vote by the legislature could have gutted the bill or completely repealed it.

Boyack stated, “Even though we wish it were so that they would leave it alone, the entire establishment we’ve known forever hates Proposition 2. You got the governor’s office, the House, the Senate, law enforcement, church groups and many others in that machine…We have to be frank about the situation that we’re in and recognize that notwithstanding Proposition 2 passing we don’t have the ability to forever defend it from being touched at all. That’s why these negotiations have been so important.”

Public Weighs in on Proposed Changes

After Utah voters approved the medical cannabis initiative, meetings continued between the groups as Governor Herbert announced that he intended to call a special session of the legislature so that a vote could be taken on the compromise bill. Prior to the session, a public hearing of the Health and Human Services Interim Committee gave proponents the opportunity to express their concerns that the new regulations would lead to higher costs and potentially force patients to return to the black market.

One attendee, Debra Jenson, who suffers from a neurological condition and had this to say, “For every extra mile you add for where we can pick up our meds, for every extra layer of red tape you add when we go visit our doctors, for every extra question, for every extra doctor visit we go to, you are adding to our agony. You are adding stress to our lives, which adds to our pain. You are shortening our lives.”

Despite such impassioned pleas, Greg Hughes, Utah House Speaker and sponsor of the replacement bill, stated, “This idea that something’s being sabotaged, that something’s being undermined, is just not the case. There is no gutting of any proposition, there is no undermining of any will of the people.”

How Changes Will Affect Patients

Now that the compromise bill has been passed, several changes will be implemented. One of the most controversial is reversing the ability of patients who do not live within 100 miles of a pharmacy to be allowed to grow cannabis at their homes.

However, as of December 1, patients have “affirmative defense” protection. In essence, if a patient with a qualifying condition and recommendation from a doctor were to purchase cannabis in a format now legal in the state, they could technically be arrested but prosecution would be very unlikely. Protection extends to illegal acquisition as well as legal purchases from bordering cities in Nevada and Colorado.

As for qualifying conditions listed in the original Prop 2 language, two were removed because they were perceived to be too open-ended. These include autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal issues other than Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis which were originally specified. However, hospice was added and the definition of “pain” was expanded, allowing doctors to recommend medical cannabis instead of an opioid medication for patients who might be allergic or at risk of overdosing.

According to Connor Boyack of the Libertas Institute, doctors will also be able to recommend medical cannabis if a patient has persistent pain that does not respond to over the counter drugs (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) or other interventions such as chiropractic care or acupuncture.

On the Friday prior to the special session, one of the final changes made to the compromise bill was to improve access for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly veterans. Previously, they were required to receive a diagnosis and recommendation from a doctorate-level psychiatrist or psychologist. Now, veterans can also go to doctorate-level clinical social workers or providers with the U.S. Veterans Health Administration.

Part of the framework for Utah’s medical cannabis system was also amended. And while a “state central fill pharmacy” will be created and send out products for patients to pick up at state health departments, there will still be opportunities for private companies. Boyack explained, “seven dispensaries are what are being called medical cannabis pharmacies – those are privately owned, all of the growers are privately owned and all the processors are privately owned. So the entire system, including seven dispensaries, is privately owned with the exception of one dispensary that will be state-owned.”

In addition, the number of grower licenses that will be issued was reduced from a maximum of 20 to just 15. Newly added caps for cultivation include 100,000 square feet for indoor operations and 4 acres if grown outdoors. As demand for medical cannabis grows down the road, these growers will be able to submit an annual request to expand their space by up to 20%.

Other changes to the original Prop 2 language include:

  • Dispensaries will be called pharmacies and must have a full-time, licensed pharmacist on staff.
  • Before a doctor or pharmacist is able to recommend or dispense medical cannabis, they must undergo four hours of ongoing education.
  • To better serve smaller communities, the ability to recommend medical cannabis to patients has been expanded to include nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
  • Landlords will be able to prohibit use or refuse to rent to patients that use medical cannabis.
  • Cannabis flower will be permitted but must be weighed for uniformity and sold in blister packs.
  • Edibles must be in a plain, cube-shaped gummy or lozenge form. Shapes appealing to children, such as gummy worms and bears, are banned.
  • Patients under the age of 21 will first require a doctor’s recommendation then receive approval from a state-appointed “Compassionate Use Board” which will serve as a second opinion.

What’s Next for Medical Cannabis in Utah

Opposition to the compromise bill has now extended beyond a public backlash. Two Utah advocacy groups are now on the verge of filing lawsuits. Together for Responsible Use and Cannabis Education (TRUCE) and the Epilepsy Association of Utah both allege that the Mormon church undermined Prop 2. In a letter sent by their attorney, Rocky Anderson, the church is accused of attempting to interfere with the passage of a voter-approved initiative.

While Medicine Man Technologies was certainly disappointed to see the will of the people ignored by the legislature, this is still progress for a notoriously conservative state. We will continue to watch as the new program is rolled out and hope that no further changes will be made.

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.



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