A committee of the Philippine Parliament has considered a bill to decriminalize the production, sale and consumption of cannabis in the Philippines.
The lower house’s Dangerous Drugs Committee, chaired by Robert Ace Barbers, has offered to form a technical working group with the Health Committee to flesh out the bill introduced by former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
In his speech, Alvarez used colorful language to describe the current state of cannabis in the country.
“The classification of cannabis and its derivatives as a dangerous drug is bullshit. It does not mean anything. And we have to correct this nonsense,” he said on Tuesday, February 21.
“If the government allows harmful products like alcoholic beverages, carcinogenic cigarettes and sugary drinks that promote diabetes, why can’t we decriminalize the production and sale of a substance that is less harmful, that has many benefits and which can be a source of revenue for the government? asked Mr. Alvarez.
The former House leader also argued that legalizing cannabis in the Philippines would generate wealth that the government could use for its programs and projects.
“We can decriminalize cannabis and its derivatives, and we can collect billions in taxes on its production and sale. We can use these additional revenues to build more roads and bridges, more classrooms and hospitals, and more public services in pursuit of the common good. We can also use the additional taxes collected to help our country pay off our deep debt caused by the economic crisis during the pandemic,” Mr. Alvarez said.
What the bill says
Republic Act 9165, also known as the Amended Dangerous Drugs Act, classifies cannabis as a dangerous drug and substance.
Those found guilty of cultivation of cannabis and possession of 10 grams of cannabis resin or cannabis resin oil, as well as 500 grams or more of cannabis, are liable to a fine of up to 10 million pesetas and life imprisonment.
Alvarez’s proposal, House Bill 6783, seeks to exclude cannabis, cannabis resin and extracts, and cannabis tinctures from the list.
Batanes representative Ciriaco Gato expressed concern that removing cannabis from the list would pave the way for recreational use of cannabis.
“I think that if alcohol and tobacco are really bad, so is cannabis. As to which is more harmful, I think it depends on the amount,” Gato said, arguing that a variety of cannabis has negative effects. “Cannabis, like alcohol, has certain effects from a medical and social point of view. »
The proposal is still in its infancy, and it is not among the priority bills of the Marcos administration. The Dangerous Drugs Commission is also seeking to conduct a more in-depth examination of the subject.
“I would like to listen to the opinions of all the members first, and the opinions of the experts,” Barbers told Rappler when asked if he would support the measure and possibly defend it during the House plenum. .
“A lot of discussion will have to be had because if the intention of the proponent is to remove it from the list, there must be reasons why they want to remove it,” he added. “Before pursuing the idea of making it available for sale, it must be removed [de la liste des drogues dangereuses]. »
In addition to the bill introduced by Alvarez, numerous bills aimed at legalizing medical cannabis in the Philippines have been submitted to the health committee. The House, led by then-Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in the 17th Congress previously approved a bill to legalize medical cannabis, but the proposal did not pass the Senate.