Duterte will sign any bill legalizing medical marijuana — Palace

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 18) —  President Rodrigo Duterte will sign any bill that will legalize the use of medical marijuana in the Philippines, his spokesperson said Tuesday.

In a media briefing, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo reiterated that Duterte favors the use of  medical marijuana and will support any legislative measure consistent with his stand.

"He (The President) is in favor of limited use of marijuana," Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.

"Logically then he will support and sign any bill that would be consistent with his stand."

The issue was thrust back into the spotlight after newly-crowned Miss Universe Catriona Gray said she was in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana.

In the Top 5 question-and-answer portion, the 24-year-old shared an affirmative stand, saying she was "for it" being used for medical purposes.

"I'm for it being used in a medical use but not so for recreational use," Gray answered during the pageant held in Bangkok, Thailand.

"Because I think if people were to argue 'What about alcohol and cigarettes?' Well everything is good but in moderation," she added.

Last September 2017, a House panel approved House Bill No. 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which seeks to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

The bill is on second reading, pending before the House of Representatives.

Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III, the measure's principal author, said he was pleased with the renewed interest on the topic of legalization.

In a statement, Albano noted he is hopeful that the bill will be passed before the end of the 17th Congress.

"(House Bill 6517) adopts a very strict regulatory framework while at the same time promoting the people's right to health by ensuring affordable and safe access to quality medical cannabis," Albano wrote in his statement.

"(It) does not decriminalize the use of cannabis or marijuana. This is not about the recreational use of marijuana. What it does is to create a limited and narrow exception to the country's criminal and civil laws to allow a physician to recommend medical cannabis to patients with serious and debilitating medical conditions," he added.

However, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III clarified that under the Republic Act No. 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, the use of medical marijuana is already legal if used for appropriate medication.

A provision under the act states that patients can apply for a "compassionate special permit" from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The permit allows unregistered drugs in the country to be used for medication.

Because of this, Sotto maintains there is no need to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana.

"Meron na ba kayong nabalitaan ang PNP (Philippine National Police) (na) hinuli ang medical marijuana? Wala. Hindi bawal eh. Ano ilelegalize mo? E legal," the Senate President said.

"Ang pinag-uusapan dito at ang bibigyan ng permit ng doctor at ng FDA (ay) yung medical cannabis, hindi yung medical marijuana na hinihithit. Because ibig sabihin noon recreational use na."

[Translation: Did you hear reports that the police are catching those with medical marijuana? It's not prohibited. What will we legalize? It's already legal. What we're talking about here-- and what is given permit by the doctors and the FDA-- is the medical cannabis and not the puffed medical marijuana. Because that means, it's already for recreational use.]

President's influence?

Pressed for reactions regarding Gray's answer, Panelo on Tuesday said the statement of Catriona "could have been influenced by the President's decision on that matter."

He added the President is in favor of legalizing the same if it's limited to healing purposes.

"Or I said, it could have been a conclusion reached by her because she listened to the pros and cons of the matter," he said.

In a press conference following her victory, Gray admitted she has read up on studies tackling the issue of medical weed.

"The question on marijuana is definitely relevant to the Philippines. I've seen studies on medical marijuana," the new Miss Universe said. "For recreational marijuana, I think we should study up on it more and we could put up regulations."

Even prior to his presidency, Duterte shared he was for the use of medical marijuana, as it is "an ingredient of modern medicine now."

Earlier this month, the President in the middle of a speech joked about his marijuana use— something that was slammed by numerous human rights groups and advocates.

The possession and use of marijuana is illegal in the Philippines and can be punished by life imprisonment and a fine of up to P10 million.

READ: Palace on Duterte's 'jokes': If there's no logic, it's a joke

CNN Philippines Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.