Philippine bishops back medical marijuana for terminally-ill patients

(Photo: PIO /Matt Magno)Archbishop Socrates E. Villegas (right) officiates at the holy mass during the inaugurals of newly elected officials of Pangasinan province led by Governor Amado T. Espino, Jr. (C), Vice Gov. Jose Ferdinand Z. Calimlim, Jr. and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (not in photo) on June 28, 2013 at the Sison Auditorium in Lingayen.

MANILA - Philippine bishops say they approve the use of marijuana for medical purposes, noting that they support any move to allow the use of cannabis for terminally ill patients.

At a press briefing on Monday, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas explained that after a thorough discussion with lawyers about the issue, church leaders arrived at their resolution.

"[If] It's to manage pain especially, in the last stage of their ailment ... Catholic medical ethics allows it," said Villegas, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

"We can't issue a blanket rejection of the use of marijuana for medical purposes."

The bishops issued the statement as growing calls to legalize cannabis have mounted in the Philippines Congress, urging lawmakers to pass draft legislation on the matter.


A congressman authored the "Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act," a bill that seeks to regulate the use of prohibited drugs for medical patients.

In his exploratory note, Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, the bill's author, pointed out that cannabis had been used for medicinal purposes in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine.

"Modern research has confirmed the beneficial uses of cannabis in treating and alleviating the pain, nausea and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and HIV-AIDS as found by the National Institute of Medicine of the U.S. in March 1999," he wrote.

But for Villegas, he said there was no need to craft a new law relaxing the rules on medical cannabis because existing law allows the use of such drugs in exceptional cases.

"Our lawyers advised us that the present law allows the Dangerous Drugs Board to issue impending rules and regulations so that these prohibited drugs may be used in very extreme exceptional cases," the archbishop said. "All we need to do is to identify which of them may be used."

He maintained that the use of cannabis must only be allowed for patients suffering terminal illnesses to alleviate the pain.

"We are not advocating the use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

"We are only referring to terminally-ill patients who are in severe pain and the best assistance we could give to them is to minimize their pain, especially as they prepare for their death," Villegas said.

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