For this reason, and despite the fact that the debate surrounding the legislation is still in progress, proponents say that the goal is to "...legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating disease or medical conditions." All in all, both the use and possession of cannabis are currently illegal in the Philippines and legislation to regulate the medicinal use of marijuana will only apply to certain treatments. All other uses of the plant will remain punishable by law. However, there are other factors at play, such as on the one hand the support of the Church and on the other approval by important political figures such as the Secretary of Health Enrique Ona himself, who is also a proponent of the new bill.
Last year, it was impossible to separate cannabis from intense discussions, shocking news reports and new legislation carrying a precedent. The plant was the subject of endless debates and discussions on approval, at both regulatory as well as social levels. Loved by many, despised by others – it is a plant about which everyone has an opinion. And just when we thought that there would be no more pleasant surprises, none other than the Catholic Church made several unbelievable statements that just blew us away, even the most faithful among us.
A miracle has occurred in the Philippines. As legislation intended to legalise the medicinal use of marijuana was being debated, the Catholic Church offered its open support.
The reasons behind the Church’s support
As the Church itself states, it supports the medicinal use of cannabis because it stands to help many people. The reasoning of the Church is focused on the more merciful aspects of the plant and it is not for nothing that the proposed bill is entitled “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act”. It was submitted in May of this year by Member of Parliament, Rodolfo Albano III.
The most amazing aspect of this is perhaps how clearly and vocally representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines have spoken. In a press release, archbishop and chairman of the conference Sócrates Villegas expressed himself as follows: “Catholic health care ethics, in fact, considers as morally justifiable the use of marijuana for terminal cancer patients in severe pain.”
For this reason, and despite the fact that the debate surrounding the legislation is still in progress, proponents say that the goal is to “…legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating disease or medical conditions.”
Legal context of cannabis in the Philippines
All in all, both the use and possession of cannabis are currently illegal in the Philippines and legislation to regulate the medicinal use of marijuana will only apply to certain treatments. All other uses of the plant will remain punishable by law.
However, there are other factors at play, such as on the one hand the support of the Church and on the other approval by important political figures such as the Secretary of Health Enrique Ona himself, who is also a proponent of the new bill.
At any rate, it is the case that there exists a certain amount of distrust, even in those who support legalisation. Archbishop Villegas argues that common sense must be used and urges the parties in office to ensure that citizens are protected from the consequences that may arise from easy access to marijuana. The clergyman has also stated that the Church must “…express concern about the surreptitious introduction of dangerous and addicting substances and making them legally readily available to those prone to addiction. The effects cannot be anything but harmful, especially for the youth and children.”
And for this reason, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has insisted that cannabis only be made legal for certain patients. For its part, the Department of Health seems to have made provisions to incorporate this sentiment and has, before panic could erupt, resolved to create an entity to regulate cannabis and monitor its use as a medicine.
Using a system that broadly resembles that of Uruguay, this entity shall issue proofs of registration to patients to whom cannabis may be distributed as a medical treatment. Moreover, centres shall be established to support the medicinal use of cannabis and to monitor the safety of medicinal cannabis. These centres are intended to be placed at more than 300 metres away from schools and universities.
The opposition asserts that only drug dealers will benefit from legalisation
As is the case everywhere that the use of cannabis is legalised, opponents waste no time in piping up. A significant part of the political landscape is vehemently opposed to the bill submitted by Albano. They feel that it constitutes a ‘national disaster’ and claim that it will only give rise to problems.
According to Senator Vicente Sotto, “the proposal to legalize marijuana is misleading. It is camouflaged under the term ‘medical marijuana’. And to further empower his standpoint, Sotto spoke metaphorically, saying that “[…]you don’t declare a nuclear bomb legal just because a small component of the bomb can be used to light up your house.”
While the politician concedes that legalising marijuana could be therapeutic to the sick, he states that it would be drug dealers who will profit most from the legislation. “This is a big business for drug traffickers and if we legalize marijuana this will become a bigger business for them,” he added.
Cannabis is the most used drug in the Philippines
According to the Consejo de Drogas Peligrosas (Committee for Dangerous Drugs), cannabis is one of the most used illegal drugs in the Philippines. In recent years, cannabis has held second place, trailing just behind methamphetamine, which in the Philippines is commonly called Shabú.
Legally, marijuana is viewed as an extremely concerning theme; the possession or use thereof may result in a life sentence in prison.
For this reason, the recent support of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines is an enormous step forward. The entire country is very religious, as can be seen by the fact that, not too long ago, the introduction of legislation surrounding reproductive health care, which would – among other things – provide general access to birth control, was blocked. The law was shot down, even though the Philippines is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. There, the power of the Church is more or less unassailable.
This is why the green light given by the Church is so stunning. It not only works to soothe the consciences of politicians and citizens alike, it also paves the way toward a general legalisation of cannabis in the Philippines.
Without a doubt, this is an impressive step forward. We at Sensi Seeds will continue to closely follow the news in this area and will let you know whether the smoke is white, or black.