House approves medical marijuana bill on 2nd reading

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — The House of Representatives approved on second reading a bill which seeks to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the country.

House Bill No. 6517 or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act has hurdled second reading in the lower chamber on Wednesday.

The proposed legislation, authored by Isabela Representative Rodolfo Albano III, was first approved in September 2017 by the House Committee on Health.

The bill seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis or marijuana, which is known to have therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions such as arthritis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis, among others.

Rep. Albano, however, previously clarified the bill disallows marijuana to be administered in its raw form, as a plant or as hash which would be smoked.

Even prior to his presidential term, President Rodrigo Duterte said he was for the use of medical marijuana, as it is "an ingredient of modern medicine now."

In a press briefing in December, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noted Duterte will sign any bill that will legalize the use of medical cannabis in the country.

Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III earlier said there is no need to pass a bill legalizing medical marijuana.

Sotto, citing a provision under the Republic Act No. 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, said the use of medical marijuana is already legal if used for appropriate medication.

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

House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier this month vouched for the effectiveness of the medical cannabis. She said it relieves her neck pain whenever she is in a country where it is legal.

READ: Arroyo says medical marijuana works for her

CNN Philippines' Xianne Arcangel and Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.