By Wilnard Bacelonia

MEDICAL CANNABIS. Senator Robinhood Padilla in a photo taken during a study tour on medical cannabis in Israel in May 2023. Padilla on Wednesday (March 20, 2024) sponsored his Senate Bill (SB) No. 2573, or the Cannabis Medicalization Act of the Philippines, at the Senate plenary under Committee Report No. 210 after being signed by 13 senators. (Photo courtesy of Senator Padilla’s office)

MANILA – Senator Robinhood Padilla on Wednesday ushered Senate Bill (SB) No. 2573 or the Cannabis Medicalization Act of the Philippines to the Senate plenary under Committee Report No. 210 after being signed by 13 senators.

In his sponsorship speech, Padilla reassured that SB 2573 has enough safeguards from cultivation until it reaches qualified patients.

Magkakaroon po tayong mga electronic monitoring systems in place upang masubaybayan ng pamahalaan at ng kinauukulan na ang lahat ay tumatalima sa mga limitasyong isinaad ng batas (We shall have electronic monitoring systems in place that will enable the government and authorities to ensure that everyone adheres to the limitations stated in the law),” he said.

Padilla said only a qualified patient will be allowed to use cannabis for medical purposes and in designated treatment facilities.

Under SB 2573, physicians will be prohibited to prescribe medical cannabis if they have no S2 license; if the patient is unqualified; and if it will not be used for a certain medical condition, as well as prescribing beyond the needed dosage of the patient.

They are also not allowed to prescribe medical cannabis for themselves and relatives up to second degree of consanguinity or affinity.

Inilatag na rin po natin ang mga partikular na ipinagbabawal na gawain para sa mga medical cannabis industry player, gayundin sa mga indibidwal at iba pang (We also have laid down particular prohibitions for medical cannabis industry players, as well as individuals from other) entities,” Padilla assured, saying strict regulations will govern the importation of such products.

Meanwhile, Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, who chairs the Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, decided to co-sponsor SB 2573 and cited Section 2 of Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 stating that the government shall “aim to achieve a balance in the national drug control program so that people with legitimate medical needs are not prevented from being treated with adequate amounts of appropriate medications, which include the use of dangerous drugs.”

“Examining this more closely, then, we can see that the proposal of our dear colleague, Senator Padilla, is in full consonance with the existing anti-illegal drugs policy of the government,” dela Rosa said.

“In cultivating the passage of this bill, then, we are giving our patients relief from their suffering. We are giving them a comfortable fighting chance,” he added.

Under the bill, a Philippine Medical Cannabis Authority (PMCA) shall be created under the Department of Health (DOH), and will follow the structure of the Israel Medical Cannabis Agency (IMCA) under the Israel Ministry of Health in issuing permits and licenses for the use of medical cannabis.

The PMCA will draw up a Comprehensive Cannabis Medicalization Plan; regulations for the medical use of cannabis; a monitoring and regulating system for medical cannabis; and issue licenses for registered entities for the medical cannabis industry. It shall also provide for research and development on medical cannabis.

Also, a Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee (MCAC) led by the DOH Secretary as ex-officio chairperson shall be created. Its members include the Chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), Directors-General of the Food and Drug Administration and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and Secretaries of Science and Technology and Agriculture.

Patients are to register with the PMCA for an identification number and registry card with QR code.

The list of medical cannabis products being proposed to be legalized will be limited to edibles, pills, oil, tincture, flower, topicals, and inhalers. (PNA)