The possibility of the Philippines becoming a producer and exporter of high-quality marijuana was raised during a recent House committee hearing. Davao del Norte Representative Pantaleon Alvarez proposed the removal of marijuana from the list of dangerous drugs, and this prompted a question from Ako Bicol party-list Raul Angelo Bongalon about the quality of marijuana that the Philippines could produce. Dangerous Drugs Board legal consultant Atty. Ferdaussi Masnar said that the agency did not have data on this matter.
However, Representative Alvarez suggested that if marijuana was legalized, it could be an opportunity for the Philippines to produce a high-quality product for export. He also suggested that allowing farmers to plant marijuana could help combat rice smuggling. This statement elicited a smile from Surigao del Norte Representative Robert Ace Barbers, the chairperson of the committee. He joked that if marijuana cultivation was allowed, no one would plant rice anymore.
The discussion took place in the context of a proposal to amend the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act (RA 9165). Representative Barbers approved the motion to send Representative Alvarez’s proposal to a technical working group that would look into amendments to the law.
The possibility of the Philippines becoming a major player in the marijuana industry may seem far-fetched, but it is not entirely impossible. In fact, the Philippines was once known for producing high-quality marijuana. In the 1970s and 1980s, Filipino marijuana was considered one of the best in the world. It was even exported to the United States and Europe.
However, marijuana cultivation in the Philippines was later criminalized. The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, passed in 2002, classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug and makes it illegal to plant, cultivate, or sell it. Violators face severe penalties, including life imprisonment and a fine of up to ₱10 million.
Despite the risks, some farmers still cultivate marijuana in secret. In the northern Philippines, for example, a group of farmers in Kalinga province has been growing marijuana for decades. They sell their product to local dealers who, in turn, supply it to consumers in nearby cities.
Legalizing marijuana could provide economic benefits for the Philippines. It could create new jobs and generate revenue for the government. It could also reduce the number of Filipinos who are jailed for drug-related offenses. According to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, more than half of the inmates in the country’s jails are there for drug-related crimes.
However, legalizing marijuana is a controversial issue. Supporters argue that it is a natural plant with medicinal properties and that criminalizing it is unjust. They point out that other countries, including Canada, Uruguay, and some US states, have already legalized marijuana for recreational or medical use.
Opponents, on the other hand, argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug that can lead to addiction and other health problems. They also point out that it can be a gateway drug that leads to the use of more dangerous substances.
The issue of marijuana legalization in the Philippines is complex, and it will require careful consideration and debate. The House committee’s discussion is just the beginning of what could be a long and contentious process. Nevertheless, it is a positive sign that lawmakers are willing to engage in dialogue about this important issue.