Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said Monday that last week’s vote by the United Nation (UN) Commission on Narcotics Drugs (CND)’s 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 “to make it a lot more accessible and cheaper for Filipinos in need of this revolutionary medicine.”

“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 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.

Villafuerte, who is a staunch supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs said the speedy congressional action on—and  approval of—HB 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.

According to a report, 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.  

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

Villafuerte 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.

At one of the hearings of the House committee on health, Villafuerte had stressed that he was initially opposed to the legalization of CBD, but was later on convinced on the need to legalize its local production after finding out how expensive this pain reliever was for ordinary Filipinos medically allowed to avail of this revolutionary treatment. 

Moreover, Villafuerte said HB 3961 also seeks to promote the international marketing of CBD so the country could cash-in on this nascent multibillion-dollar industry, which—according to the Cowen Research Report in the United States—could soar into a $75-billion industry by the year 2030. 

At present, he said, the sale of CBD in the US alone is a $390-million-per-year business and could grow into a $1.3-billion trade by 2022.

“Cannabis needs to be legalized in the Philippines for medical,  scientific and research purposes.”

By cashing in on this booming global market ahead of the competition, Villafuerte said the government could generate more revenues that it could use to spend bigger on President Duterte’s centerpiece “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure modernization and his other priority programs on human capital formation such as education, healthcare, and social protection.

If the coronavirus pandemic were to stay around much longer, Villafuerte said that would-be export earnings from CBD could also be used to help fund the government’s Covid-19 response.

Villafuerte said HB 3961 should not be deemed in any manner to promote or legalize the recreational or non-medical use of the cannabis plant.

He noted that another active component of the cannabis plant— tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—is the kind that produces the “high” or its psychoactive effects for marijuana users.

Villafuerte disclosed that the US FDA has already approved the first and only prescription medicine using 100% CBD called Epidiolex, which is used to treat seizures. 

At the earlier health committee hearing, Villafuerte pointed out that other countries  with zero tolerance for drug trafficking like Singapore and China are either already producing medical cannabis or considering the legalization of the drug for medicinal purposes.

Thailand’s military government also unanimously approved medical marijuana use, despite the country’s strict narcotics laws, which imposes the penalty of death on drug users, he said. 

Medical cannabis is now legal and used for health, scientific and research reasons in 60 countries across the globe, he said. 

Citing published data, Villafuerte noted that the global legal medical cannabis market is expected to reach $55.8 billion by the end of 2025.

“Cannabis needs to be legalized in the Philippines for medical,  scientific, and research purposes,” said Villafuerte. “The Cannabis plants and its medical-grade products have high demand and economic value for export. Hence, Philippine laws should be passed that will see medical cannabis become a fully commercialized crop within the next five  years.” 

“It is very important for the Philippines to catch up with their western and Asian counterparts in legalizing,  under prescribed conditions,  the cannabis for medical and scientific/research purposes, while at the same time cashing in on its commercial opportunities, economic value and market potential.  It is truly a market investing proposition,” said Villafuerte. 


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