In brief: In the Philippines, drugs can be punished with up to life in prison. The strict regulation makes it difficult and expensive to access medical marijuana. Although the World Health Organization (WHO) recognises marijuana’s benefits for treating certain medical conditions and their symptoms, the Philippine government has been reluctant to change its position. But a SciDev.NetIn 2019, a story published sparked a discussion that helped those with epilepsy and other diseases to get cannabis products in order to relieve their symptoms.
Why it mattersThe following are some of the ways to get in touch with each other Around 800,000 peopleEpilepsy is common in the Philippines. Cannabidiol, a compound extracted by cannabis, has many health benefits. CBD can control seizures in two types of epilepsy, Lennox Gastaut syndrome and Dravet.
The big pictureIn December 2020 the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs will reclassify cannabis and cannabis resin to reflect their medical value. The reclassification aims to remove barriers for the research and development cannabis-based products.
By the numbers Only approved marijuana can be accessed legally and at a huge price – more than US$30,000 per year. As of 2021, average annual family income was US$2,693 in the Philippines.
In the Philippines, drugs and alcohol are illegal. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 can punish anyone who carries marijuana. This includes a punishment of up to and including life imprisonment. There are also plans to reinstate the death sentence, but only in cases of drug-related crimes. The law makes it difficult for people with epilepsy or other conditions to use marijuana for medical reasons.
The WHO recognises marijuana’s benefits for treating medical conditions and their symptoms. In 2020, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs voted to re-classify cannabis and cannabis resin under the WHO’s recommendation. Many countries, such as Thailand, have since changed their laws on medical marijuana.
Philippines continues to have a very strict policy. Only approved marijuana can be accessed and at a huge price – around US$30,000 per year, according to those affected. In 2015, average annual family income was US$2,693 in the Philippines.
Donnabel Cunanan, a proponent for medical marijuana, is one of the founding members in the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society. Her daughter suffers up to 1,000 seizures per day. The PCCS advocates for the legalisation medical marijuana in the Philippines. Their work led to a bill that supports medical marijuana. In March 2019, Rodrigo Duterte retracted his initial support for the bill.
What action did SciDev.Net take?
A strong political stance towards drugs has led to a lack of interest from experts in this area in discussing the issue. The Duterte administration’s war on drugs was marred by extrajudicial killings, with an estimated death toll of between 6,000 and 20,000 during his six-year term (2016-22).
Cunanan, however, was willing to speak with Sison. Cunanan was concerned that the Philippine administration’s new campaign against drugs would set back her years of work on legalising medical marijuana.
On 28 June 2019, SciDev.NetThe story is entitled Where there’s smoke: medical marijuana and the Philippine war on drugs, detailing Cunanan’s campaign. SciDev.NetThe first news outlet that wrote about this sensitive topic in depth was the BBC.
One of SciDev.Net’s core aims was to clarify the facts and science around marijuana for medical use. In 2019, marijuana use for medical purposes was still seen by the public as a justification for its legalisation for recreational use. A public debate began.
CNN and other news outlets have picked up the story. SciDev.NetThey republish the story on their own websites. The SciDev.NetThe story received 6,995 unique views and was among the top five most read news stories in 2019.
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What was the impact on SciDev.Net’s action?
After the publication of the SciDev.NetOfficials from the Philippine government contacted Adriano in order to discuss the impact on the access to marijuana for medicinal purposes. The Presidential office in Malacañang asked him to attend a meeting regarding the issue, which led to a discussion over the phone with the Assistant Secretary.
The debate over medical marijuana continued. In February 2020, the Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board, or DDB, approved the use cannabidiol, also known as CBD, for people with epilepsy. Duterte supported board approval of CBD to treat certain rare forms of epilepsy.
Cunanan told SciDev.NetThe article of June 2019 was used as a reference during a senate discussion on medical marijuana. This helped to influence a later decision in 2020 regarding CBD. She said: “Of course, your article was a big help to our advocacy. Maraming salamat mula sa aming lahat (many thanks from all of us).”
Original content by www.scidev.net: “SciDev.Net’s medical marijuana story inspires Philippines law change”
Read the complete article at https://www.scidev.net/global/story-of-impact/scidev-net-medical-marijuana-story-spurs-philippines-law-change/