Philippine House of Representatives Joint Committee Passes Medical Cannabis Bill

The recent passage of a medical cannabis bill in the Philippine House of Representatives has many organizations and agencies expressing their support or opposition for legalization.

On Feb. 6, the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) published a letter of opposition. The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) represents an estimated 98,202 physicians, which includes 121 societies, 8 specialty divisions, 96 specialty societies, and 50 affiliate societies. The letter includes a coalition of 21 medical organizations and associations in total.

“The Philippine Medical Association (PMA) Coalition recognizes that the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs recently reclassified cannabis (marijuana) from Schedule IV to Schedule I of the Dangerous Drugs List—a move that recognized the plant’s medicinal value,” the letter began. “However, the UN Commission also emphasizes that cannabis is still under restriction on its use for non-medical and non-scientific purposes. That being said, the PMA coalition therefore strongly opposes all legislative bills intending to legalize cannabis (marijuana) if it is not for medicinal value as approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration.”

The letter explains the harms of “unproven medical indications” in connection to cannabis consumption, with an example of how cannabis can negatively affect the brain of a developing fetus in a pregnant person. The letter also claimed that children are at “significant risk” when exposed to cannabis, citing Sec. 12 Article III of the Philippine Constitution, which protects “the life of the unborn from conception to birth” as well as the life of the mother.

The PMA referenced a statement from the Committee of European Doctors from November 2023, which claims that cannabis is “a hazardous and addictive drug and serious public health concern, and therefore discourages cannabis use.”

The PMA also listed 10 statements regarding its stance on cannabis, including a statement that it does support medical cannabis if it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and calls for more research overall. “We strongly support the conduct of local scientific studies on cannabis for medicinal purposes in legitimate research institutions under strict Institutional Review Board-approved research protocols to address the existing knowledge hap on cannabis efficacy and safety,” the PMA wrote. Another point claims that there is a “clear trend towards the harmful effects [of cannabis] that outweigh the purported benefits.” 

“To stand against the legalization of cannabis is to stand for a safer, bright future for all Filipino children. Let our position be clear and our voice unwavering; we must prioritize the well-being of our youth, ensuring they grow up in an environment free from the dangers posed by readily available marijuana,” the letter concluded.

According to, a joint panel of the Philippine House of Representatives approved a medical cannabis bill on Feb. 7. While the bill wouldn’t remove cannabis from the country’s list of dangerous substances, it would require the creation of a Medical Cannabis Office, which would be the “primary regulatory body for medical cannabis under the direct supervision and control of the Department of Health.” Additionally, it would allow patients to use medical cannabis if they have specific qualifying conditions, and cannabis would only be obtainable through “licensed hospitals, clinics, drugstores, or other medical facilities” after being prescribed by an accredited physician.

FDA Director General Samuel Zacate spoke at a press briefing on Feb. 13, confirming that he supports medical cannabis legalization. “Filipinos must have a wide range of therapeutic indications or drugs of choice. So ako [sic] for the record […] is very much open for marijuana as long as it has been streamlined and does not pose harm to the public,” Zacate said, according to The Philippine Star, although he did say the decision is “subject to the wisdom of the legislative [branch].”

According to Republic Asia, the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) released its own statement regarding medical and/or cannabis legalization on Feb. 14. “The DOH recognizes efforts to legalize medical cannabis use, which is distinct from recreational marijuana use. Any such initiatives should be based on the best available scientific evidence, weighed for cost-effectiveness and public health impact,” said the DOH. “Legislation should also consider the regulatory capacity of all government agencies that will be involved, should there be approval.”

The DOH confirmed that it does not support cannabis cultivation or the manufacturing of cannabis products. “The DOH reminds the general public that any use of marijuana at this point is still punishable by law, unless granted a compassionate special permit (CSP) signed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General that would allow its use and importation in the country,” the DOH continued.

Nearby in Thailand, which legalized recreational cannabis in 2022, legislators have drafted a bill to ban adult-use consumption. The country’s government welcomed public opinions in January, and are now on the cusp of pushing prohibition legislation onto parliament. The new draft would criminalize cannabis “for entertainment or pleasure” with a 60,000 baht fine (or roughly $1,700 USD). Medical cannabis would still be permitted, according to a report from Associated Press.

The post Philippine House of Representatives Joint Committee Passes Medical Cannabis Bill appeared first on High Times.


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