Breakthrough for Philippines medical cannabis bill; momentum builds in Asia & Oceania

Philippine medical marijuana, Breakthrough for Philippines medical cannabis bill; momentum builds in Asia & Oceania

(Update: A proposed law in the Philippines died in the Senate after President Rodrigo Duterte had a change of heart and withdrew his support.)

Original: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte now says he will support any legislation to legalize medical marijuana, giving a cannabis bill currently before the country’s House of Representatives a much greater chance of success.

The Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which would legalize some forms of MMJ, had faced an uphill battle to become law, but Duterte’s tacit support opens the door to eventual approval.

Read the full text of the proposed law here.

The policy shift was announced by Malacanang – the Philippines’ version of the White House – this week, ABS-CBN News reported.

The bill proposes that “the state shall legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis which has been confirmed to have beneficial and therapeutic uses to treat chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition.”

If the measure becomes law, it would open access to patients for a wide variety of uses, including:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome.
  • Severe and chronic pain.
  • Severe nausea.
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy.
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those associated with multiple sclerosis.
  • Palliative care.

The country’s Department of Health (DOH) would be the main regulatory agency overseeing medical cannabis, including issuing licenses and maintaining a registry of cannabis patients.

The secretary of the DOH would be in charge of coming up with the necessary regulations to support the pending law.

To qualify for medical cannabis use, a patient must be diagnosed by a physician who is licensed to prescribe MMJ.

According to the bill, medical cannabis would be accessible only via pharmacists through the following facilities:

  • DOH-retained hospitals.
  • Specialty hospitals.
  • Private territory hospitals licensed and registered with the DOH for this purpose.

Smokable medical cannabis would be prohibited.

Momentum builds in Asia, Oceania

Asia’s medical cannabis industry has seen several significant developments recently, indicating that 2019 could be a breakout year for the region.

South Korea’s Legislature passed a medical cannabis law in November, marking a major milestone in the global industry.

Medical cannabis products will be tightly controlled in the Northeast Asian country, but the law’s approval marks a turning point in how medical marijuana is perceived in traditionally conservative societies – potentially foreshadowing the approval of medical cannabis in the Philippines.

Days after South Korean lawmakers approved MMJ, a draft bill to legalize medical cannabis in Thailand breezed through a key hurdle in the country’s National Legislative Assembly.

New Zealand’s parliamentarians passed a bill last week to legalize medical cannabis, paving the way for businesses to produce cannabis products for domestic and international markets.

“This demonstrates that more countries across Oceania are taking a progressive approach to cannabis reform,” said Adam Miller, managing director of Australia-based consultancy BuddingTech.

“This will create a ripple effect, leading other countries toward cannabis policy change and, in turn, will increase patient uptake as more people become aware of the therapeutic potential of the cannabis plant.”

New Zealand’s government also announced today that a binding referendum on ending cannabis prohibition will be held alongside the general election in 2020.

“The global cannabis dominoes continue to fall around the world, and the Philippines would bring the global list of legal countries to over 50,” Stephen Murphy, managing director of Prohibition Partners, told Marijuana Business Daily.

“Despite the Philippine president’s well-known stance on drugs, what is interesting to see is the clear separation of medical cannabis and acknowledgement on the medicinal properties of the plant.

“The Asian region is gearing up for significant growth over the next three years.”

Matt Lamers can be reached at

To sign up for our weekly Canada marijuana business newsletter, click here.