A spokesperson for the President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has said that the dictator is in favor of medical marijuana and will sign any law legalizing it in his country.
"He (The President) is in favor of limited use of marijuana," Salvador Panelo told reporters in Malacañang. "Logically then he will support and sign any bill that would be consistent with his stand."
A bill legalizing medical marijuana is currently wending its way through the Filipino legislature. Last September that country’s House of Representatives signed House Bill No. 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. The bill is now in its second reading in the House.
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"(House Bill 6517) adopts a very strict regulatory framework while at the same time promoting the people's right to health by ensuring affordable and safe access to quality medical cannabis," Representative Rodolfo Albano III, the principal sponsor of the bill, wrote in his statement.
"(It) does not decriminalize the use of cannabis or marijuana. This is not about the recreational use of marijuana. What it does is to create a limited and narrow exception to the country's criminal and civil laws to allow a physician to recommend medical cannabis to patients with serious and debilitating medical conditions," Albano said.
Duterte’s announcement comes after the reigning Miss Universe, Catronia Gray, who hails from the Philippines, said she was in favor of medical, but not recreational, marijuana during the question and answer section of the pageant, which was held in Thailand. "I'm for it being used in a medical use but not so for recreational use," Gray said. "Because I think if people were to argue 'What about alcohol and cigarettes?' Well, everything is good but in moderation.”
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On Tuesday, Panelo said that Gray’s statement could have served as an influence on Duterte or vice versa. He said it "could have been influenced by the President's decision on that matter." "Or I said, it could have been a conclusion reached by her because she listened to the pros and cons of the matter," he said.
This position on the part of Duterte isn’t exactly new, but the emphasis is. Duterte had said before his presidency that he was in favor of medical marijuana, considering it "an ingredient of modern medicine now." More recently he joked about his own marijuana use, in a statement that was quickly slammed by human rights groups for its hypocrisy considering the level to which marijuana users are prosecuted in that country. Currently, being convicted of possession or use can lead to a fine P10 Million and life imprisonment.
*Header Image: Duterte speaking at the World Economic Forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, May 11, 2017. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.