By: Marie Scarci | February 22, 2023
The Marcos administration has taken a historic step towards the progressive alteration of drug policy in the Philippines. For the first time, the 19th Congress is discussing legislation that would decriminalize cannabis-related activities such as production, sale, and use within its borders – signaling an important shift away from criminalization.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez's proposed bill to address drug-related issues has received support from the Dangerous Drugs Committee chaired by Robert Ace Barbers. The lower chamber is forming a Technical Working Group with the Health committee to lay out the groundwork and further develop this important initiative.
Former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez has challenged the traditional view on cannabis, claiming its legalization would prove to be a major revenue generator for the government. His bold statement comes as he condemned classifying it as an illicit drug and used profanity to make his point clear.
Alvarez said, “The classification of cannabis and its derivatives, as a dangerous drug, is bullsh*t. It makes no sense at all. And we must correct this absurdity.”
He went on to express, “If the government allows harmful products like alcoholic beverages, cancer-causing cigarettes, and diabetes-bringing sugary drinks, why can’t we decriminalize the production and sale of a substance that is less harmful, has many benefits and can be a source of government revenue?”
Alvarez proposes that the legalization of marijuana would spark an economic boom for the Philippines, generating new wealth to fund critical government initiatives.
By decriminalizing cannabis and its derivatives, Senator Alvarez believes they can tap into a powerful resource to improve their economy. House Bill 6783, proposes additional taxation on the production and sales of cannabis, billions in funds could be generated for essential public services such as roadways, schools & hospitals. These newfound resources would also go towards reducing debt accrued during pandemic-induced hardship.
The Marcos administration is currently considering a new proposal, but it remains in its infancy and has not yet been identified as one of the government's priority initiatives. In an effort to better understand the implications of cannabis use, the Dangerous Drugs Committee has decided to review the matter further before coming to a decision.
With the intention to make cannabis available for sale, delisting from the list of dangerous drugs is necessary. This process will require extensive discussions and deliberations as leaders need convincing that cannabis would help more than it would cause harm to the country's citizens. As more countries legalize cannabis and the stigma begins to fade away others are beginning to see the benefits cannabis can have for its citizens and for generating additional revenue for the country.