Department of Health: Strong scientific and cost-effective analysis needed for medical cannabis proposals

DOH: Legalization of medical marijuana should be based on scientific evidence

On Tuesday, the Department of Health (DOH) stated that any proposals to legalize medical cannabis or marijuana use in the Philippines should be grounded in rigorous scientific evidence and evaluation of public health implications.

While the DOH acknowledges efforts to legalize the medical use of marijuana, the agency emphasized that it does not support the cultivation of cannabis plants or the manufacture of cannabis products. It stressed that any initiatives to legalize medical cannabis should be based on the best available scientific evidence, weighed for cost-effectiveness, and public health impact.

At present, the use of marijuana in the Philippines is illegal, except for cases granted a compassionate special permit issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This permit allows patients with qualifying medical conditions to import and use medical cannabis products.

Last week, a joint panel of the House of Representatives approved a bill seeking to legalize the medical use of marijuana without removing it from the list of dangerous drugs. The bill also proposes the creation of a Medical Cannabis Office under the DOH, which would be responsible for accrediting doctors and other licenses for medical cannabis use.

During a confirmation hearing in 2023, DOH Secretary Teodoro Herbosa voiced his support for the legalization of medical marijuana. FDA Director General Samuel Zacate also expressed openness to the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

However, medical groups led by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) oppose measures to legalize cannabis for any use other than those with medical value approved by the FDA. The PMA stated that using cannabis as a recreational drug or as medicine for unproven medical indications is dangerous.

Legislation regarding the legalization of medical marijuana should also consider the regulatory capacity of all government agencies that will be involved if approval is granted, according to the DOH.

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