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Philippine Legislators Advance Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

President Duterte is waging war on illegal drugs, but approves of medical cannabis.

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A Philippine legislative committee has approved a controversial measure to allow medical cannabis in the country. The "Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act,” which would legalize cannabis extracts to be used for medicinal purposes under strict government regulation, was endorsed by the House Committee on Health this week.

The author of the bill, Representative Rodolfo Albano, clarified that the bill will not allow the production, use, or sale of cannabis in its plant form. The bill would create centers within local hospitals where medical cannabis would be sold and used. These centers would be licensed by the country's Department of Health and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The bill would establish training for doctors who wish to prescribe medical cannabis, and set up a program of patient registration cards similar to state-legal U.S. medical marijuana programs. In addition, the bill would create a new research facility dedicated to researching the medical benefits of cannabis.

Regardless of whether the bill passes or not, recreational cannabis use remains heavily prohibited in the country. President Rodrigo Duterte has waged an extreme war on illegal drugs since he took office, which has left thousands of people dead at the hands of the country's police. But despite this drug war, Duterte said during his campaign that he would be open to supporting medical uses of cannabis.

Albano said that the delineation between recreational and medical cannabis is “very clear” in the legislation. “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."