Swift House action on cannabis bill urged

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    THE Dangerous Drugs Board’s decision to approve the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for severe forms of epilepsy should pave the way for the swift approval of a bill legalizing the domestic production and international marketing of the medicinal strain of the cannabis plant, Deputy Speaker Luis Raymund Villafuerte of Camarines Sur said yesterday.

    House Bill No. 3961 seeks to create the Philippine Cannabis Development Authority (PhilCADA) to ensure that all medical cannabis products from the farm all the way to the finished products are of pharmaceutical grade.

    Earlier, Undersecretary Benjie Reyes, a permanent member of the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB), said the board recently approved in principle a resolution allowing the local use of CBD to alleviate severe forms of epilepsy.

    Villafuerte said his proposed PhilCADAshould not be deemed in any manner as promoting or legalizing the recreational or non-medical use of the cannabis plant, as he reiterated his full support for President Duterte’s anti-narcotics war.

    He stressed that medical cannabis refers to cannabidiol or CBD, the non-addictive, non-intoxicating strain of the cannabis (marijuana) plant, which is different from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is classified in the Philippines as illegal as it delivers the euphoric “high” which can lead to addiction.

    “This game-changing decision by the DDB should serve as a strong impetus for 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,” Villafuerte said.

    In HB 3961, Villafuerte said the US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first and only prescription medicine using 100 percent CBD called Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures.

    He also said CBD is legal in 31 US states and 59 other countries.

    “It is very important for the Philippines to catch up with their western and Asian counterparts in legalizing, under prescribed conditions, the cannabis for medical and scientific/research purposes, while at the same time cashing in on its commercial opportunities, economic value and market potential.”

    Citing published data, Villafuerte noted that the global legal medical cannabis market is expected to reach $55.8 billion by the end of 2025.

    Under Villafuerte’s proposal, only state universities of agriculture authorized or sponsored by the PhilCADA will be allowed during the experimental period to grow and cultivate specific cannabis species for a prescribed period before private enterprises can be allowed to grow and cultivate cannabis plants.

    Isabela Rep. Antonio “Tonypet” Albano is the author of House Bill No. 279 or the “Act providing right of access to medical cannabis as a compassionate alternative means of medical treatment, expanding research into its medicinal properties and for other proposes.”