DDB: No more use for medical marijuana bill with cannabidiol approval

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 16) – The recent approval of a cannabis product for compassionate use does not necessarily increase the chances of the government's legalization of medical marijuana, the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) clarified Monday.

"On the contrary, this will just show na hindi na kailangan 'yong bill na 'yan kasi (thay they don't need such bill anymore because) they can have this medicine for compassionate use," DDB Chair Catalino Cuy told CNN Philippines' Newsroom.

Citing similar sentiments from the Department of Health and the Philippine Medical Association, Cuy said the approval of marijuana component cannabidiol (CBD) provides the same effect to patients in need, therefore invalidating the use of the proposed medical marijuana bill which has been pending for congressional approval since 2014.

Cuy clarified that they do not have the power to legalize medical marijuana. They only reclassified medicines with CBD component in a bid to keep up with the standards of the United States Food and Drug Administration and its 0.1 percent tetrahydrocannabinol threshold which previously allowed CBD use in treatment. This means CBD is different from cannabis per se.

Tetrahydrocannabinol is the main psychoactive compound which gives off the "high sensation" in marijuana.

"We [only] reduced some requirements na napag-aralan naman natin na hindi na necessary to provide the medication na 'yan for compassionate use sa 'ting mga pasyente," Cuy said.

[Translation: We ony reduced some requirements which we discovered were unnecessary to provide the medication for compassionate use of our patients.]

It also clarified that marijuana use remains illegal in the country for both recreational and medical use.

"Matagal nang pinag-usapan yan dahil for compassionate use na nga lang 'yan para pagbigyan yung mga pasyente, mga loved ones. Pero according to DOH, meron din naman kasing ibang medicine na makapagprovide ng same relief," Cuy added.

[Translation: It has long been tackled that this is only intended for compassionate use as a way of responding to the pleas of patients and their loved ones. But according to DOH, other medicine alternatives are capable of providing relief.]

The DDB chief noted that the importation of cannabidiol will only be allowed as long as permits will be authorized by the DDB and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

Sections 2 and 3 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 allows for the reclassification, addition, and removal of any drug from the list of dangerous drugs, Cuy said.

The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has been widely called out for its massive anti-illegal drug campaign since he took office. Real Numbers PH previously bared that as of January, the death toll of suspected drug dealers and users had risen to 5,552 since the government’s crackdown had started in 2016.

Rights groups, on the other hand, claimed that there were 13,000 reported deaths in the country under the administration.