Push for MJ health use renewed

February 16, 2020

A HOUSE leader yesterday said that the move by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) to green-light the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for alleviating severe forms of epilepsy should clear the way for the swift congressional approval of a pending legislative proposal for the domestic production and international marketing of this medicinal strain of the cannabis plant that is neither addictive nor producing the so-called buzz or “high” for users.

“This game-changing decision by the DDB should serve as a strong impetus to the Congress to act soon enough on a pending legislative measure creating a state agency to oversee the development of what could be a legitimate multibillion-dollar export industry focusing alone on the production and marketing of CBD or the kind  of medical cannabis from this strain of the cannabis plant that is not addictive and does not produce the so-called buzz or ‘high’ for users,” said Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.

Villafuerte said his proposed creation of the Philippine Cannabis Development Authority (PhilCADA)—as contained in House Bill (HB) No. 3961—should not be deemed in any manner to promote or legalize the recreational or non-medical use of the cannabis plant, as he reiterated his full support for President Duterte’s all-out war on illicit drugs and narco-trafficking.

Among the active components of the cannabis plant are the non-addictive pain reliever CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the kind that produces the “high” or its psychoactive effects for marijuana users.

Villafuerte issued this weekend statement in response to a report quoting Undersecretary Benjie Reyes, a DDB permanent member, that the DDB recently approved in principle a resolution allowing the local use of CBD to alleviate  severe forms of epilepsy.

According to the report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) to allow CBD with 0.2 percent THC to be reclassified in the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances as Schedule 4.

Schedule 4 reportedly refers to the substance now accepted for medical treatment and that has a low potential for abuse. CND is the DDB’s counterpart in the United Nations (UN).  

In HB No. 3961, Villafuerte noted that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved the first and only prescription medicine using 100% CBD called Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures.

Villafuerte earlier pitched his proposed PhilCADA during a hearing of the House Committee on Health, as he pointed out to his fellow legislators that other countries with zero tolerance for drug trafficking like Singapore and China are either already producing medical cannabis or considering the legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes.

He stressed that the kind of CBD he wants the government to develop and market from the cannabis plant for its multibillion-dollar export potential is the same ingredient found in carrots, black pepper and Echinacea tea, among others.

During the recent committee hearing presided over by Batanes Rep. Ciriaco Gato Jr., Villafuerte told Maria Minerva Calimag—a former president of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA)—that although he was initially hesitant about this substance’s legalization, he subsequently supported it after realizing the high cost that patients medically allowed to use it for treating various illnesses have to pay for this  revolutionary treatment.

Villafuerte said HB No. 3961 will benefit not only ailing Filipinos in need of the medical treatment offered by CBD, but also the government in terms of export revenues that can be tapped from its potential $57-billion global market.