A lawmaker has proposed the establishment of a state agency that will oversee the development of what could be a legitimate multibillion-dollar export industry producing medical cannabis from the strain of this plant that is not addictive and does not produce the so-called buzz or “high” for users.
Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep Luis Raymund Villafuerte said his proposal “should not be deemed in any manner to advocate, promote, authorize, legalize the ‘recreational’ and/or non-medical use of the cannabis plants,” as he reiterated his full support for President Rodrigo Duterte’s all-out war on illicit drugs and narco-trafficking.
“Other countries with zero tolerance for drug trafficking like China and Singapore are either already producing medical cannabis or considering the legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes,” Villafuerte said as he filed House Bill 3961.
Once enacted, Villafuerte said his bill is expected to benefit not only ailing Filipinos in need of the revolutionary treatment offered by the drug but also the government in terms of export revenues that can be tapped from its potential $57-billion market.
“Medical cannabis is now legal and used for health, scientific and research reasons in 60 countries across the globe,” he said.
HB 3961, Villafuerte made it clear that medical cannabis refers to cannabidiol or CBD, the non-addictive, non-intoxicating strain of the cannabis (marijuana) plant, which is different from tetrahydrocannabinol, which is classified in the Philippines as illegal as it delivers the euphoric “high” leading to addiction.
HB 3961 noted that the US Food and Drug Administration has already approved the first and only prescription medicine using 100 percent CBD called Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures.
Also, international experts have cited the medicinal qualities of the cannabis plant, including US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy who said in a recent CBS TV interview in the US that it “may be useful for certain medical conditions”.
Villafuerte noted in the bill that the World Health Organization itself has published a report confirming that cannabidiol or CBD “exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential .... there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”
CBD is legal in 31 states of the United States and in 59 other countries, while THC is illegal in almost every part of the world, Villafuerte noted.
He said the establishment of his proposed Philippine Cannabis Development Authority will ensure that all medical cannabis products from the farm all the way to the finished products are of pharmaceutical grade.
A special panel of technical experts will also be set up under the bill to monitor cannabis farms, the processing or manufacture of cannabis products and its use that may be authorized by PhilCADA, Villafuerte said.