By Charina Clarisse Echaluce
“Please honor your word.”
This was the call made by medicinal cannabis supporters to President Rodrigo Duterte, who said a year ago that he would not deprive the Filipinos of the medical benefits from cannabis or marijuana.
On Facebook, the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS) shared a post that it created last year to thank Duterte for expressing his support.
During the campaign period, Duterte had said, “Iyong marijuana, I’ve heard, sabi nila, it’s effective. And I will not deprive the Filipino of the benefits of medicinal marijuana, but I must have a clear definition of what it is and it must be approved by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration].”
Dr. Donnabel Cunanan, a member of the PCCS’s Executive Committee and mother of a young “cannahopeful” (cannabis hopeful) named Julia, expressed alarm over the number of children who are in need of medicinal cannabis who have died within the past four years.
“Halos 50 na [pasyente na ang] namatay. Karamihan mga batang may intractable seizures gaya ng sa anak ko. Madalas side effects ng gamot [ang dahilan ng pagkamatay]… [Ang mga namatay ay] mga bata na below seven years old (Almost 50 patients have died. Most of them are children with intractable seizures, just like my daughter. Most of them died because of the side effects of their medicines…. Those who have died are children below seven years old),” she said in an interview.
“Mag-aapat na taon na din kaming nag-aantay. Madami-dami na din sa miyembro namin ang namatay at madami pa din ang patuloy na umaaasa lalo na ako para sa ‘king anak na si Julia at sa mga pasyente namin sa PCCS (We’ve been waiting for almost four years. A lot of our members have died and many continue to hope, especially me, for my child Julia and for our other patients in PCCS),” she further stated.
Cunanan said they are thankful for the President’s support but they just hope that he will honor his word.
“We really thank the President for his positive view on the medical use of marijuana; he said in an interview before that he will allow it and that ‘marijuana is medicinal.’ We are hopeful that he will do what he said and legalization of cannabis for medical use will happen under his administration. We are waiting for him to do what he said, that the PCCS and our hopefuls will be able to see him,” she said in the vernacular.
In 2014, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Bill or the House Bill 4477 was filed by Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III. It is a “comprehensive law that aims to make medical cannabis accessible to Filipinos who suffer from debilitating conditions,” Albano said.
In June, 2016, Albano refilled the HB 4477. It is now called House Bill 180 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.
Not the raw form
Earlier, the PCCS assured that it is not advocating the legalization of the raw form of marijuana.
“What we are advocating for is the use of the whole plant to be processed into pharmaceutical grade medical cannabis in finished dosage form such as cannabis oil extract, tincture, suppositories, capsules, pills, spray, and topicals. However, it should be noted that raw form of cannabis is the source of the extract, and not to be handed to patients as consumable or end-product,” it said in a statement.
“Likewise, we recognize that juicing fresh cannabis plant produces a non-psychoactive yet powerful dietary supplement with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective properties,” it added.
Several medical anecdotes, on the other hand, show that marijuana is capable of treating cancer, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, and epilepsy.
The group also clarified that the HB180 does not recommend smoking marijuana.
“HB 180 does not recommend smoking where marijuana is used in raw form. The bill does not even decriminalize smoking as a form of medical cannabis. The patients can use medical cannabis in the form of oil, spray, tincture, topicals, patches, suppositories, capsules, pills, or vaporized with the use of vaporizer for faster relief of respiratory conditions,” the group explained.
It added that vaporizing should not be mistaken for smoking, which involves combustion.
“Vaporizing on the other hand involves heating the oil below combustion temperature to release the active ingredients,” it said.
Tags: campaign period, cannabis or marijuana, House Bill, Manila Bulletin, Medicinal cannabis supporters to Duterte: Please honor your word, medicinal marijuana, pharmaceutical, President Rodrigo Duterte