A lawmaker said on Sunday that the move by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) to green-light the use of cannabidiol should pave the way for the swift congressional approval of the measure allowing medical cannabis.
Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund F. Villafuerte issued the statement in response to a report quoting Undersecretary Benjamin P. Reyes, a DDB permanent member, that the DDB recently approved, in principle, a resolution allowing the local use of cannabidiol—an active ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant—to alleviate severe forms of epilepsy.
“This game-changing decision by the DDB should serve as a strong impetus to 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 [cannabidiol] 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,” Villafuerte said.
During the 17th Congress, the lower chamber approved the bill allowing medical cannabis. But the Senate failed to approve it due to strong opposition from senators.
According to Villafuerte, his proposed creation of the Philippine Cannabis Development Authority (PhilCADA)—as contained in House Bill 3961—should not be deemed in any manner to promote or legalize the recreational or nonmedical use of the cannabis plant. He also 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 nonaddictive pain reliever CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the kind that produces the high, or its psychoactive effects for marijuana users.
Villafuerte said the World Health Organization 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.
In HB 3961, Villafuerte said that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has already approved the first and only prescription medicine using 100 percent CBD called Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures.
Villafuerte also said 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.”
Villafuerte said HB 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.”
Medical cannabis is now legal and used for health, scientific and research reasons in 60 countries across the globe, he said.
Citing published data, Villafuerte noted that the global legal medical cannabis market is expected to reach $55.8 billion by the end of 2025. Villafuerte reiterated that the medical cannabis in HB 3961 refers to CBD, “the nonaddictive, nonintoxicating strain of the cannabis plant, which is different from THC, which is classified in the Philippines as illegal as it delivers the euphoric high or buzz leading to addiction.”
He said the proposed PhilCADA will ensure that all medical cannabis products from the farm all the way to the finished products are of pharmaceutical grade. He added that under PhilCADA, a special panel of technical experts will be set up to monitor cannabis farms, the processing or manufacture of cannabis products and its use that may be authorized by PhilCADA.