House OKs medical marijuana bill

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 29) — The House of Representatives approved Tuesday on final reading a bill allowing the use of medical marijuana.

With 163 affirmative votes, five against and three abstentions, the chamber approved House Bill 6517 or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.

The bill will legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis or marijuana, which is known to have therapeutic purposes in the treatment of chronic or debilitating medical conditions such as arthritis, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

Under the law, doctors licensed by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency can prescribe the use of medical marijuana for qualified patients diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition, who will benefit or receive therapeutic or palliative benefits.

The bill provides that medical marijuana will be accessed from accredited hospitals, as well as Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers that will be established throughout the country.

But the bill makes it clear that cannabis cannot be sold over the counter.

Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano, the main author of the measure, has said that marijuana would not be administered in its raw form, which would allow it to be used for smoking.

President Rodrigo Duterte and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have backed the bill, with Arroyo even vouching for the effectivity of cannabis in relieving her neck pain.

The bill has no counterpart measure in the Senate. Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III believes there is no need to pass a bill legalizing the use of medical marijuana since Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 already allows its use subject to approval of the Food and Drug Administration.

CNN Philippines Correspondent Xianne Arcangel contributed to this report.