Atienza warns: Medical marijuana to create new drug market

February 25, 2019

MEDICAL marijuana, once legalized by Congress, is bound to open the floodgates for recreational use of the highly addictive drug by Filipinos, an opposition House leader said yesterday.

“There’s no question medical marijuana will serve as the gateway for the widespread consumption of the mind-altering drug for fun and entertainment,” said House senior Deputy Minority Leader and Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza.

The bill legalizing medical marijuana, which the House passed on third and final reading on Jan. 29, 2019 would “create demand where there is none now,” added Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila.

“If we create demand through legalization, then supply will surely come in. So we will in effect be creating a whole new drug market where there is absolutely none now for medical marijuana,” said Atienza.

He cited the case of Canada, which recently legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

“In the first two weeks alone after legalization, cannabis stores there sold some $43 million (in Canadian dollars), or the equivalent of P1.7-billion worth of marijuana,” said Atienza.

“We don’t need medical marijuana here because, apart from the fact that the drug’s purported therapeutic values are unproven, Filipino patients already have access to the most powerful narcotic analgesics when needed,” said Atienza.

“Terminally ill cancer patients for instance have ready access to morphine injections when prescribed by physicians specially licensed by the Dangerous Drugs Board,” Atienza explained.

“As to children with complex neurodevelopmental conditions, they don’t need the hallucinations of marijuana. What they really need is the tender loving care of their parents and siblings,” Atienza stressed.

The Philippine Medical Association, the professional organization of Filipino physicians, has rejected the medical marijuana bill, saying “it is contrary to the policy of the State to safeguard the well-being of its citizenry.”

At present, marijuana is tagged as a prohibited substance, just like methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, cocaine and heroin, under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Under the law, mere possession of at least 500 grams of marijuana, or at least 10 grams of marijuana concentrate (resin or resin oil), is punishable by life in prison plus a fine of up to P10 million.

Carrying lesser quantities of the drug is punishable by 12 to 20 years in prison plus a fine of up to P500,000.