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Cannabis in a positive light

Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified substance derived from cannabis. It is also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome.

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The recent drug raid at a private birthday party in a beach resort in the south reflects one hard truth: People will keep indulging on substances, no matter if they’re prohibited.

I won’t harp on the alleged special treatment the narcs gave to one of the partygoers, an officer of city hall of a southern province, whom witnesses said was allowed to escape after name-dropping the city mayor’s name.

Instead, I hope the national government realizes it’s time for certain drug laws to be scrapped. Or at least be modified — in light of evidence that there are substances which actually have medicinal benefits.

I hope the national government realizes it’s time for certain drug laws to be scrapped. / Photograph courtesy of unsplash/kimzy nanney

Among all prohibited drugs in the Philippines, cannabis, infamously known as marijuana, is now recognized worldwide for its healing properties.

Let me quote from my own report published in another broadsheet in February 2020:
“The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) recently approved ‘in principle’ a resolution to allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for alleviating severe forms of epilepsy.

“The DDB is the government’s policy-making and strategy-formulating body on the prevention and control of drug abuse.”

In that report, I noted that among hundreds of components in cannabis, CBD, a pain reliever, is one of the two most active, the other being tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which produces the “high” or its psychoactive effects.

CBD, a pain reliever, has one of the two most active components of cannabis. / Photograph courtesy of unsplash/sohini

As proof, I quoted a document from the World Health Organization (WHO) that said: “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential … To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

On the contrary, there is scientific proof that CBD — which is derived from the hemp plant, a “cousin” of cannabis — alleviates seizures in people with epilepsy.

And dig this: Undersecretary Benjie Reyes, a DDB permanent member, informed me that the WHO has recommended to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) — the DDB’s counterpart in the United Nations — to allow CBD with 0.2 percent THC to be reclassified in the 1971 United Nations Convention on Psychotropic Substances as Schedule 4, or substance with currently accepted medical use in treatment and has a low potential for abuse.

The Philippines is a signatory to the UN Convention on Psychotropic Drugs.

In my report, I pointed out that in 2018, the United States Drug Enforcement Agency approved the legal use of CBD with 0.1 percent THC.

There is scientific proof that CBD — which is derived from the hemp plant, a ‘cousin’ of cannabis — alleviates seizures in people with epilepsy. / photograph courtesy of assets.livecivilized.com

In the same year, “the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the legal use of Epidiolex, a CBD oral solution manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare and severe forms of epilepsy — Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome — in patients 2 years of age and older.

Epidiolex is the first FDA-approved drug that contains a purified substance derived from cannabis. It is also the first FDA approval of a drug for the treatment of patients with Dravet syndrome.

As of 2014, an estimated 250,000 children in the Philippines were suffering from epileptic seizure disorder, said Dr. Donnabel Cunanan, a dentist and founding member and spokesperson of the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society (PCCS), the lead advocate of House Bill 279.

The bill seeks to legalize and regulate the medical use of cannabis found to have beneficial and therapeutic uses in treating chronic or debilitating medical conditions.

It will also establish Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers (MCCC), which will be authorized to sell, supply and dispense medical cannabis to qualified patients or their caregivers through S3-licensed pharmacists.

But for DDB’s Reyes, there is no need for a bill: “It can hasten (the process), if the legislature will pass the bill. We don’t have to wait for the CND decision because our local laws will take precedence.

“But even without the law, as long as it’s in medicine form, it (CBD) can be registered,” he said. “Just like opiates, morphine, those are dangerous drugs, but in medicine form, it can be used. Cocaine is used for anesthesia.”

My report quoted Reyes, who recalled the DDB conducted public hearings with PCCS on the following points:
1) The reclassification of medicines containing CBD with no more than 0.1 percent THC from Schedule 1 (no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the Philippines) and Schedule 2 (has currently accepted medical use) to Schedule 4 (has currently accepted medical use in the Philippines and has low potential for abuse);
2) Creation of guidelines for the DDB board resolution titled “Requirements for the Issuance of a License to Acquire, Possess and Use Unregistered Drug Products Containing Dangerous Drugs for Personal Use.”

Reyes said the DDB adopted the resolution in December 2019. “If Epidiolex is a recognized medication by the US FDA, why deprive Filipinos of the same medication?” he noted.

The problem is, Epidiolex costs $32,500 (a whopping P1,625,000) per patient, good for one year’s use.

But guess who’s working to have a budget allocation for Epidiolex: Sen. Bong Go, who’s the chair of the Senate Health and Sports Committee.

The plan, said Reyes, is “to authorize the University of the Philippines College of Medicine to import Epidiolex, create a registry for patients who really need it, for them to have the drug for free.”

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