President Duterte’s decision to reject the legalization of medical marijuana is most welcome. It is consistent with the view that such legalization is bound to open a ‘Pandora’s box’ of drug abuse that can lead to an unwanted public health emergency, not to mention another law enforcement problem.
The President himself said legalized medical marijuana in the country can be misused for purposes other than to treat ailments. Drug traffickers can exploit medical marijuana to further expand their illegal trade. They could profit from medical marijuana by running dispensaries.
All the purported therapeutic values of marijuana are merely anecdotal. They have not been scientifically proven. What has been proven by science is that marijuana is a dangerous substance, mainly because it is highly addictive and can cause powerful hallucinations, including loss of sense of personal identity, among other short- and long-term side-effects.
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 methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, MDMA or 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.
The illegal drugs problem is far from over. We must not make it worse than it already is.