Cannabis in the Philippines – Laws, Use, and History

Philippine drugs laws are among the harshest in the world, with death penalties for possessing a relatively small amount of cannabis. However, the country may approve a bill for introducing medicinal cannabis, with even President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledging its benefits for patients. One of medicinal cannabis’s main supporters is the Catholic Church.

    • Capital
    • Manila
    • Population
    • 109,703,000
    • CBD Products
    • Illegal
    • Recreational cannabis
    • Illegal
    • Medicinal cannabis
    • Illegal

Cannabis laws in the Philippines

Can you possess and use cannabis in the Philippines?

According to the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, it is illegal to use or possess cannabis in the Philippines. The law defines cannabis as a dangerous drug, and imposes a penalty of “life imprisonment to death” and a fine of 500,000 pesos to 10 million pesos (€8,831 to €176,625) for those caught in possession of the following amounts:

  • 10 grams or more of resin (hashish)
  • 500 grams or more of cannabis

If the amount is less than 10 grams of hashish, or between 300 and 500 grams of cannabis, then the sentence is reduced to 20 years’ and one day to life imprisonment. A fine is still given, but this is also reduced to between 400,000 pesos and 500,000 pesos (€7,065 to €8,831).

The law changes once again if the amount of hashish is less than five grams, or the amount of cannabis is less than 300 grams. In this instance, the offender can be given a 12 year and one day to 20-year sentence, and a fine ranging from 300,000 pesos to 400,000 pesos (€5,298 to €7,065).

Cannabis use:

If a person is caught using cannabis (rather than possessing) – for example, if they test positive in a drugs test – they are given a minimum of six months rehabilitation in a government centre.

If caught a second time, they could be sentenced to six years and one day to 12 years in prison. A fine is also given, ranging from 50,000 pesos to 200,000 pesos (€883 to €3,532).

These severe laws are unlikely to change any time soon. President Rodrigo Duterte said in a press conference in 2016: “If you would 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, or if you choose to fight the law enforcement agency, you die.”

Can you sell cannabis in the Philippines?

The sale and supply of cannabis is also illegal, and as with use and possession, penalties are severe for offenders.

If caught importing cannabis, a sentence of life imprisonment to death is given, plus a fine of 500,000 pesos to 10 million pesos (€8,831 to €176,625).

Philippine law also punishes ‘protectors / coddlers’ – people who knowingly shield, protect or harbour drugs-traffickers or sellers. In this instance, the offender is sentenced to 12 years and one day to 20 years in prison, and a fine ranging from 100,000 pesos to 500,000 pesos (€1,765 to €8,831).

If caught, cannabis sellers are liable to receive life imprisonment or the death sentence, and a fine of 500,000 pesos to 10 million pesos. In some circumstances, this is reduced to 12 years and one day to 20 years, and a fine of 100,000 pesos to 500,000 pesos. If the seller is caught selling or distributing within 100 metres of a school, the maximum penalty is imposed. The same applies if the seller is caught employing minors to distribute the cannabis.

Can you grow cannabis in the Philippines?

The law forbids the cultivation of cannabis, and a sentence of life imprisonment to death (and a fine of 500,000 pesos to 10 million pesos) is in place for those caught growing it. Likewise, any land used for growing cannabis will be seized by the state, unless the owner of the land can prove that they had no knowledge of the cannabis being cultivated there.

Cultivation for research or medicinal purposes is permitted, but only if it adheres to the guidelines provided by the ‘Dangerous Drugs Board’.

Is CBD legal in the Philippines?

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency states that the purchase and use of any derivatives from cannabis, including hemp seed oil, is illegal. Since CBD oil is also a derivate of cannabis, it’s safe to assume that CBD products are also illegal.

The PDEA’s Director General Undersecretary, Arturo G. Cacdac, stated: “PDEA and the FDA jointly advise the public that at present, hempseed oil containing products are strictly prohibited in our country. Although the benefits of hemp outweigh the risks, it is not yet legal or authorised by FDA to distribute of offered for sale in the market.”

Can cannabis seeds be sent to the Philippines?

Due to the PDEA’s tough stance on all derivatives of cannabis plants, seeds cannot be purchased, used or sold in the Philippines. As such, it’s illegal to send them via the post.

Medicinal cannabis in the Philippines

President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘war on drugs’ is well-known around the world, with the death penalty in place for relatively minor cannabis-related offences.

However, even the president himself has spoken out in favour of using cannabis for medicinal benefit. In 2016, he stated that he had no problem with medicinal cannabis, then later, he added: “Medical marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient in modern medicine now. There are medicines right now being developed or already in the market that (contain) marijuana as a component but used for medical purposes.”

As a result, Senator Risa Hontiveros prepared a bill called the ‘Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act’. This bill suggested that medicinal cannabis should be made available for patients via a prescription from a health official. This bill was approved on its third reading in the House of Representatives (in 2019); but it has yet to become law

As it stands at present, the law (if passed) will broadly resemble that of Uruguay, with ‘proofs of registration’ given to patients requiring cannabis. ‘Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centres’ will also be established, to support these patients and monitor the usage of the drug.

Interestingly, medicinal cannabis is already technically permitted by law. The Dangerous Drugs Act stipulates 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.” However, this new law would further protect medicinal cannabis users (for example against workplace discrimination), in addition to the health officials that prescribe them.

Industrial hemp in the Philippines

At present, the cultivation of hemp is forbidden in the Philippines, as the law prohibits all types of the Cannabis Sativa L plant, regardless of the levels of THC. Therefore, growing industrial hemp could result in the same punishments as growing high-THC cannabis.

Good to know

If you are travelling to the Philippines (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

President Rodrigo Duterte’s impact on cannabis

In 2016, Rodrigo Duterte was elected as president of the Philippines. He was previously the mayor of Davao, and had been linked in the past to the notorious Davao Death Squad, which was believed to have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of suspected drug dealers.

Since his rise to power, Duterte has embarked on a ‘war against drugs’ in a bid to stop people selling and using drugs in the country. This has, for the most part, been a violent campaign. Several thousand drug dealers and users have lost their lives, and these killings have been labelled as ‘legitimate’ by the government.

Despite the fact that the country suspended the death penalty back in 2006, Duterte has repeatedly called for its reinstatement. He and the police force have called their campaign plan ‘Double Barrel’ – a reference to using guns to eliminate both drug barons and street-level pushers and users. Although Duterte claimed that the rich drugs financiers were one of his main targets, the people who have suffered most are largely poor.

Unsurprisingly, this brutal ‘war on drugs’ has prompted international outcry. However, the Philippines’ economic performance has strengthened in recent years – perhaps due to Duterte’s harsh approach to eliminating drugs.

Is there a serious threat to cannabis users?

According to prominent cannabis activist Kimmi del Prado, Duterte’s main target is methamphetamine dealers and users, not those who sell or use cannabis. She described cannabis in the Philippines as an “open secret” with use of the drug still being prevalent in certain parts of the country.

Some of the Philippines’ tribal societies, for example, use cannabis in their rituals and for traditional medicine. Others use it recreationally, as a substitute for tobacco and alcohol. In fact, attitudes towards cannabis are largely positive or ambivalent, with just a few that are prejudiced against its use.

The activist highlights that there is a threat against cannabis users and sellers in the Philippines, but it is less pronounced than other drugs.

The Catholic Church – cannabis’s biggest supporters?

To the astonishment of many, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has spoken out in support of legalising medicinal cannabis, on many occasions.

They claim that their support is based on the fact that cannabis can be used to help many people; their reasoning is focused solely on the health benefits that the plant offers. At the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines in 2014, Archbishop Socrates Villegas commented: “Catholic health care ethics, in fact, considers as morally justifiable the use of marijuana for terminal cancer patients in severe pain.”

In early 2019, following the third reading and approval of the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio of the country’s military diocese said to CBCP News that if medicinal cannabis aided patients, “then let us, by all means, use it.”

Not everyone is in agreement with the Catholic Church, though. Some politicians have spoken out against the legalisation of medicinal cannabis, with some calling it a “national disaster”. Senator Vicente Sotto claimed that the whole notion was ‘misleading’, and used a metaphor to illustrate his point: “You don’t declare a nuclear bomb legal just because a small component of the bomb can be used to light up your house.”

Will it be legalised in the future?

It seems likely that cannabis will be approved for medicinal purposes in the near future. However, while President Duterte is still in charge, the nation’s strict laws against cannabis usage and sale are likely to continue.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

16 thoughts on “Cannabis in the Philippines – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. The mere fact that marijuana is still illegal despite the support of the catholic church whilenthe RH Bill was blocked despite the obvious benefits shows just how corrupted our government is, like it or not, the illegality of marijuana is very profitable for the government, more specifically the police, what with the number of marijuana users and the money they get from arrests, no wonder it takes so long to legalize it. That and the fact that when marijuana is legalized, a lot of commercial pills will be rendered obsolete, leaving pharmacies bankrupt, realizing this the companies then bribe the senators to oppose the law to the best of their ability. I propose a solution to this however: an honest debate relying on nothing but facts, to be nationally broadcasted for all the Filipino people to hear, to raise the wool from their eyes and undeniably prove once and for all, that cannabis is indeed more beneficial than harmful.

  2. Marijuana destoryed/destroying my brother’s life and he justifies it as “medical marijuana”. He is a nothing now… living and breathing just to sustain his vice..

  3. tangina mo tito sotto. hypocrito kang hinayupak kang tanga ka! hanggang pang TVJ lang kasi ang alam mo bobo!

  4. Why don’t you open your minds !
    Did someone go nuts by smoking weed? No one!
    that’s why they should legalize it !!
    More medication MORE FUN in the PHILIPPINES ! 😀

  5. why don’t legalized marijuana in some period of time and study the cause and effect of this drug, if harmful to our society, if its not then why we should fight for legalizing it and improved the many facts that senator tito sotto talking about, we all know senator sotto taking the facts that he didn’t know like for example he plagiarize what he talking in Rh bill debate in senate, shame on him!!!!

  6. Why is Marijuana against the law? It grows NATURALLY upon our planet. Doesn’t the idea of making nature against the law seem to you a bit unnatural?

  7. Sotto just dont know how to think.. Legalizing weed will hurt the drug dealers because every legal product is taxed.. They wont be earning as much because legal distributors will come to the picture.. I doubt if people would go for the riskier option..

  8. I think we are forgetting our purpose here on earth but let me remind you that we are here because God entrusted his creations to us so why are others eager to vanish the plant. That is a bit cruel dont you think? For a plant that gives us countless benefits..

  9. @NoWay you know what dont blame the weed its your brothers choices in life to blame.. Weed does not dictate man what to do in life.. Weed has the tendency.to be abused cause everything can be abused its up to the persons own thinking if he is going to..

  10. I am here from the US and although I live in a state (within the US) where marijuana is illegal, I use it daily for help with my diabetes and my severe anger problems. For this plant to be considered an illegal drug is in itself criminal. It is a herb put here by our creator and has health benefits second to no other plant. For any one doubting this the should order the book. Marijuana The Gateway To Health and study the facts and not the bullshit put out by Government propagandist. If people worldwide could be shown why this plant was made illegal in the first place minds would quickly change as they would see it was for nothing more than to protect the money interest of the lumber and cotton industries of the United States. Although I have not smoked marijuana since coming to this beautiful place (Phillipines), I have had zero withdrawal symptoms. Can this be said about any of the prescription drugs being pushed by the pharmaceutical industry worldwide? Wake up people!! You are being lied to constantly to protect the money interests of the world. This is a easily provable fact. Proving marijuana has ever hurt anyone physically is what is impossible! Study the facts yourselves and quit believing the lies!

  11. tree bender

    It is quite apparent that the use of MJ in the Philippines at present, is merely for recreational purpose rather than medical. And it was only recently, that Filipinos started talking about it. Well, most of MJ users who are predominantly using it for fun, would love the idea of having it legalize. But aside from them, there are also scores of people who’s love ones are lying sick in vain because the Government is depriving them from healing thru this commonly misunderstood product of nature. In my humble understanding, those people who are using it ignorantly is synonymous with our current Government officials such us “Sotto” who does not understand about it’s healing effects. I myself was cured from insomnia and depression thru this wonder herb “illegaly” of course. HOW IRONIC

  12. Archie Hinkle

    The use of cannabis is a life extending no if ands butts about it and should be legal everywhere it is not a drug but a herb!

  13. juan dedios

    hello let me introduce myself first and formoat I’m a Canadian Filipino who grew up in Canada my life was good until09 when I suffered a huge stroke wich I wasd told should have killed mebut I survived and spend most of my yime sittingsown without proper circulation I find CONSTANTIRITATION SPECIALLT AT THE TIPS OF MY FINGERS AND FEET A A CAUSE OF LACK OF MOVEMENT CANADA WILL BE LEGALISING THE PLANT FOR CHRONIC PAIN LIKE ME WE SHPILD FOLLOW THIS MOVEMENT MPTTH AMERICA IS CHANGING ITS POLICY AND ATTITUDE TOWARDS THIS LETS MOVE FORWARD ON THIS TOO MY UNCLE WHO WAS BED RIDDEN FOR 6 YEARSWOULD HAVE SUFFERED LESS HE PASSED AWAY3 MONTHS AGO IF HE WAS UNDER THECre ofcanabis use it might have eased the rest of suffering for the time he had left thnk you for understanding from TRUE ANSD FIRM BELIVER OF THE MEDICAL BENEFITS OF CANABID USE THANK YOU JUAN DE DIOS this to be

  14. TIYOY SIQUIJOR LOCALS

    marijuana is not a drug it is a herb.its a organic and natural gift of GOD..alcohol and cigarette is dangerous than marijuana..and then why should legal..
    GOVERNMENT SAYS:GOVERNMENT WARNING CIGARETTE SMOKING IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH,,and then???why should legal, and marijuana is illegal,,???that is my big question why government still legal the cigarette and alcohol..WE ALL KNOW THAT CIGARETTE CAN CAUSE CANCER AND MARIJUANA IS CAN TREAT CANCER,,TRY TO IMAGINE THERES A LOT DIED OF CIGARETTE AND ALCOHOL ZERO in MARIJUANA..
    GIVE WEED A CHANCE..
    THANK YOU!!!!

  15. Randal Gossip

    What are the penalties for possession of a small amount of marijuana if found on a foreigner ?

  16. Marijuana is herb just like tobacco I cant understand why they dont make it legal when it has so much benefits to human. Maybe, if it legal in philpines people will stop buying cigarettes and cocaine. In canada thc is legal its for relaxation and sleep deprivation or insomia.

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Maurice Veldman

    Maurice Veldman is a member of the Dutch Association of Criminal Lawyers and one of the Netherlands’ most notable cannabis lawyers. With 25 years’ experience in the field, his knowledge of criminal and administrative law supports cannabis sellers and hemp producers by addressing the inequalities between the individual and the state.
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