Philippines Votes to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Middle of Drug War

Duterte speaks
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte speaks before Philippine Councilors League in Pasay city, Metro Manila, Philippines, March 8. Despite Duerte's reinstatement of the death penalty for certain drug offenses, a bill proposing the legalizing of medical marijuana has been approved. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

The Philippines has voted to introduce the free and lawful use of medical marijuana, just one day after it voted to reinstate the death penalty for certain drug offenses. Last week, President Duterte said he would restart the war on drugs, a movement that has caused the death of over 7,000 people as a result of extra-judicial killings.

House Bill 180 explains who and how medical marijuana should be used. It details who will be approved to prescribe it—qualified medical cannabis physicians; who will be allowed to receive it—cannabis patients with an ID card; and who can assist in its distribution—qualified medical cannabis caregivers and qualified cannabis compassionate centers, according to the Asian Correspondent.

Rep. Seth Jalosjos proposed the bill and said that legalizing marijuana for medical use "will benefit thousands of patients suffering from serious and debilitating diseases."

"I have high hopes under the Duterte administration that this measure would be enacted into law. Finally, there is hope for our people, especially our children, who suffer from medical conditions like epilepsy, cancer and multiple sclerosis," Jalosjos told the PhilStar.

As the mayor of Davao City, Duterte conceded cannabis might be useful medically, despite his strong opinions against its use as a recreational drug. "If you just smoke it like a cigarette, I will not allow it, ever. It remains to be a prohibited item and there's always a threat of being arrested. If you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die.

"Medicinal marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now. There are drugs right now being developed or already in the market that (have) marijuana as a component."

Studies have shown that, in American states where medical marijuana is permitted, deaths by painkiller overdose have dropped by 25 percent, while research by the National Institute of Drug Abuse in the U.S. has found that cannabis is not a gateway drug.

Jalosjos urged Filipinos to "open their minds" and to "shed your fear of the unknown" regarding medical marijuana, the Asian Correspondent reported.