House panel approves medical marijuana bill

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The bill seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis, or marijuana, which is known to have therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 26) — A House committee approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes Monday.

In a press release Tuesday from the bill's author, Isabela First District Rep. Rodolfo Albano, the House Committee on Health endorsed the controversial "Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act".

However, Albano clarified the bill disallows marijuana to be administered in its raw form, as a plant or as hash which would be smoked.

"You have to extract the properties of the medicine, parang opium. You have to extract opium para maging morphine. 'Pag morphine na, kailangan mo pa rin ng [you still need clearance] clearance sa doctor," Albano said Tuesday.

The bill seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis, or marijuana, which is known to have therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions such as arthritis, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis, among others.

Under the bill, centers dedicated to cannabis' medical use and sale will be established in hospitals. The centers will be licensed by the Department of Health, the principal regulatory agency, along with the Food and Drug Administration.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency will regulate the dispensation of medical marijuana in these hospitals.

Patients who are certified by physicians to qualify with marijuana-based treatment will be issued identification cards, and doctors will be trained to specialize in the medical use of the drug.

The bill also plans to create a research facility dedicated to studying the controversial drug's medical benefits.

Prior to his Presidency, then-candidate Rodrigo Duterte said that while he will not legalize recreational use of marijuana, he supports its use to treat medical conditions.

Marijuana remains illegal in the Philippines. Anybody caught possessing or using marijuana even for medical purposes may be sentenced to years in jail or life imprisonment.

"Its very clear in the bill. We're not doing it for recreational purposes and we are not decriminalizing marijuana. Marijuana is still considered as a dangerous drug and all the laws pertaining to the use of marijuana and the planting of marijuana is not decriminalized," Albano said.

Countries that have legalized marijuana use include Uruguay, Spain, and Germany.

CNN Philippines' Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.