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Solon pushes plea to legalize cannabis

A BICOL lawmaker on Wednesday said last week’s vote by the United Nations (UN) Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND) to delete cannabidiol (CBD) from its list of most dangerous drugs should prompt the House committee on health to take urgent action on his proposal to legalize the production and international marketing of this non-addictive and non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

Cannabis CBD“This will make it a lot more accessible and cheaper for Filipinos in need of this revolutionary medicine,” said Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte.

“I am calling on the House committee on health chaired by Quezon Rep. Angelina Tan to finally consider the pending House Bill (HB) No. 3961 and submit it to a vote by the panel, in the wake of game-changing initiatives that have bolstered the international recognition and commercial marketing of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of CBD, which is the non-addictive and non-hallucinogenic component of the cannabis plant,” Villafuerte, who authored HB 3961, said.

Villafuerte, a staunch supporter of President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s war on drugs, said the speedy congressional action on— and approval of—HB No. 3961 will not run counter to the government’s policy against the illicit drug trade because “CBD is the medicinal strain of the cannabis plant that is neither addictive nor producing the so-called buzz or ‘high’ for recreational users.”

“Considering the UN CND vote last week to remove cannabis from the list of the dangerous category of narcotic drugs—where it used to be listed alongside heroin and other addictive opioids—it’s about time for the House health panel to submit HB 3961 to a committee vote so lawmakers could finally take action on this proposal,” Villafuerte said.

Villafuerte first appealed to the House committee on health to take immediate action on HB 3961 when the local Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) approved last February the use of CBD for people with epilepsy.

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) also recommended to the CND to allow CBD with 0.2 percent THC to be reclassified in the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances as Schedule 4. The Philippines is among the 34 signatories to this treaty.

He said that with this most recent CND vote, the DDB and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should now take the appropriate steps in support of this medical breakthrough at the UN.

The lawmaker stressed that the kind of CBD he wants the government to develop and market from the cannabis plant for its multibillion-dollar export potential is the same ingredient found in carrots, black pepper and Echinacea tea, among others.

For Villafuerte, the congressional approval of new legislation creating his proposed Philippine Cannabis Development Authority (PhilCADA) to oversee the local production of CBD would “subsequently make it more affordable for people in need of its treatment, instead of its use being limited to those suffering from epilepsy.”

He said the HB 3961-proposed establishment of PhilCADA would “eventually lead to the local, regulated supply of this pain reliever that will become more accessible and affordable for Filipinos afflicted with certain diseases.”

He said, “Such an end result is in keeping with the ultimate goal of President Duterte to make medical care more accessible and affordable for the Filipino people, as shown by, among others, his enactment of Republic Act (RA) 11223 establishing the UHC (universal healthcare program) and RA 11467 that earmarked additional funds for the UHC and exempted from the VAT (value-added tax) the medicines for the treatment of hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol.”

President Duterte has also issued Executive Order (EO) No. 104 putting a cap on the retail and wholesale prices of 88 medicines and 133 preparations drugs, including those for hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and certain types of cancer, said Villafuerte, who co-authored the law on the “sin” tax hike.