A PROPOSAL to earmark an initial P1.3 billion for a Marijuana Research and Development Fund does not sit well with Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay) party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, who is strongly opposed to the backdoor decriminalization of the narcotic drug.
“It is a huge waste of taxpayer money that could be put to better use to augment funding for vital social programs, such as the School-Based Feeding Program for half-starved children,” Atienza, former three-term mayor of Manila, said.
“The amount – P1.3 billion – is a lot of money. It is in fact enough to provide an additional 677,000 underfed children in public schools with at least one fortified meal daily for 120 days,” Atienza said.
At present, Atienza said the Department of Education (DepEd) spends P16 for every fortified meal freely supplied to underweight children from kindergarten to Grade 6 under the School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP).
The DepEd is spending P5 billion this year and another P6 billion in 2020 for the SBFP.
“Why should Congress provide money for research into and the development of an illegal substance? If wealthy nations wish to squander public funds on marijuana research, then that’s up to them. But in our case, we don’t need it, and we certainly can’t afford it,” Atienza said.
“If other countries want to play with fire and develop marijuana for supposed medical or recreational purposes, then let them destroy themselves,” Atienza said.
President Rodrigo Duterte previously said he would not legalize medical marijuana in the country, warning that it could be misused for purposes other than to treat ailments, and that it could be exploited by drug traffickers to further expand their illegal trade.
At present, marijuana is the second most commonly abused illegal drug in the country, after methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, and ahead of MDMA or Ecstasy.
The Philippine Medical Association, the professional organization of Filipino physicians, is also opposed to legalizing medical marijuana, saying “it is contrary to the policy of the State to safeguard the well-being of its citizenry.”
At present, under the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, marijuana is tagged as a banned substance, just like shabu, Ecstasy, cocaine and heroin.
Under the law, mere possession of at least 500 grams of marijuana, or at least 10 grams of marijuana concentrate (resin or resin oil), is punishable by life in prison plus a fine of up to P10 million.
Carrying lesser quantities of the drug is punishable by 12 to 20 years in prison plus a fine of up to P500,000.