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Medical marijuana in the Philippines?

In a historic vote backed by 27 in favour, 25 against, and one abstention, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs removed cannabis from 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs – listed alongside opioids, and other deadly and addictive drugs, including heroin. 

What does it mean for the Philippines?

Well, not much, as it turns out; since the UN has no police power over member states and the UN has no power over the laws of the Philippines.

If Philippine laws states that cannabis is illegal, then it is, for all intents and purposes, illegal. 

The silver lining?

Well, to put it simply, our law on dangerous drugs is based off of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as amended by the 1972 protocol. What ever was classified there as dangerous drugs are the exact same substances that are banned here. However, the law does not indicate that whatever amendments the UN does to the list applies after the law was signed.

The Philippines can use the reclassification of cannabis as a basis on a policy standpoint. There should be a law decriminalizing marijuana or an amendment to the current law that makes possession of cannabis illegal. 

Since there’s a law criminalizing it, it has to go through congress and have it discussed amongst themselves that there’s a breakthrough with the use of marijuana; and that even the UN reclassified cannabis together with other jurisdictions abroad like that of Canada and Uruguay, and argue: why not the Philippines?

What are we looking to decriminalize?

The current law states that possession of 10 grams marijuana resin or marijuana resin oil equates to life imprisonment to death and a fine of PHP 500,000 up to PHP 10 million.

The same applies to cannabis in raw or dried form.

The other silver lining

So it’s actually better to consume cannabis immediately in the Philippines says a lawyer.

If you are caught but have already consumed the drug, under the law, you are considered a victim.

It only states that the sale and possession of cannabis is illegal and that possession means there is intent to sell whatever was found in your person.

In case you were caught to have been intoxicated with cannabis after lab testing, then the government is required to send you to rehabilitation facilities for 6 months. A subsequent offense means 6-12 years in prison and up to PHP 200,000 fine. 

If there is still cannabis remaining found within your person after being caught to be under the influence of cannabis, you will still be liable for possession.

Here’s the exact provision of being a “victim” to drugs

SECTION 15. Use of Dangerous Drugs. – A person apprehended or arrested, who is found to be
positive for use of any dangerous drug, after a confirmatory test, shall be imposed a penalty of a
minimum of six (6) months rehabilitation in a government center for the first offense, subject to the
provisions of Article VIII of this Act. If apprehended using any dangerous drug for the second time,
he/she shall suffer the penalty of imprisonment ranging from six (6) years and one (1) day to twelve
(12) years and a fine ranging from Fifty thousand pesos (P50,000.00) to Two hundred thousand
pesos (P200,000.00): Provided, That this Section shall not be applicable where the person tested is
also found to have in his/her possession such quantity of any dangerous drug provided for under
Section 10 of this Act, in which case the provisions stated therein shall apply.

Medical use of cannabis is legal

Unbeknownst to even our congressmen and senators, the law on dangerous drugs has provisions on allowing medical use of cannabis in the country.

The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 or Republic Act 9165 clearly outlines:

The government shall however 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.

What can we do?

Lobby for the amendment, provide substantial and indubitable research (if possible), and create cases which support the cause of decriminalizing cannabis as a dangerous substance.

The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 or Republic Act 9165 also provides rooms for amendment where:

SECTION 93. Reclassification, Addition or Removal of Any Drug from the List of Dangerous Drugs.

The Board shall have the power to reclassify, add to or remove from the list of dangerous drugs.
Proceedings to reclassify, add, or remove a drug or other substance may be initiated by the PDEA,
the DOH, or by petition from any interested party, including the manufacturer of a drug, a medical
society or association, a pharmacy association, a public interest group concerned with drug abuse,
a national or local government agency, or an individual citizen. When a petition is received by the
Board, it shall immediately begin its own investigation of the drug. The PDEA also may begin an
investigation of a drug at any time based upon the information received from law enforcement
laboratories, national and local law enforcement and regulatory agencies, or other sources of
The Board after notice and hearing shall consider the following factors with respect to each
substance proposed to be reclassified, added or removed from control:
a) Its actual or relative potential for abuse;
b) Scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect if known;
c) The state of current scientific knowledge regarding the drug or other substance;
d) Its history and current pattern of abuse;
e) The scope, duration, and significance of abuse;
f) Risk to public health; and
g) Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled
under this Act.

The Board shall also take into accord the obligations and commitments to international
treaties, conventions and agreements to which the Philippines is a signatory.

The Dangerous Drugs Board shall give notice to the general public of the public hearing of
the reclassification, addition to or removal from the list any drug by publishing such notice in any
newspaper of general circulation once a week for two (2) weeks.

What’s your take on cannabis for recreational use in the country?

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