THE TROUBLE WITH MARIJUANA

By: Nestle L. Semilla July 21,2018 - 10:09 PM

Until a law regulating its use in the country is passed, marijuana or cannabis remains illegal in the Philippines.

The trouble is, despite the clear and present danger of being caught by authorities using or selling the drug, the plant remains popular among hundreds of Filipinos apparently willing to take the risk of incarceration just to have a “good time” with a substance they deem helpful and never harmful.

For Mark James Almog, 29, marijuana helped him every time he suffered from an asthma attack.

“Gamiton ra na nako sa akong hubak (I only use marjuana for my asthma),” said Almog from his detention cell at the Talisay City Police Station.

Almog was arrested last July after a tipster called the police to report that the young man was seen cultivating the plant.

But Almog told police that he did not grow the prohibited plant to sell to others; but only to use it as medicine for his asthma.

He planted marijuana only in small pots, he said.

For 28-year-old “Nicole,” who spoke on condition of anonymity, marijuana was also good for her health.

As a virtual assistant, Nicole said that it helped her to sleep when she found it hard to rest due to tension headaches.

She said that she first started using marijuana in 2013, after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Central Visayas.

“I couldn’t sleep because of the aftershocks,” said Nicole explaining that the frequent temblors made her very dizzy.

“I heard that marijuana can help me sleep. So mao to siya, gipa-try ko sa akong friends para makatug og tarong (My friends made me try it so that I could sleep well and that was it),” revealed Nicole.

The second time Nicole used marijuana was when she was diagnosed with tension headaches.

She said the doctor prescribed pills to regulate her sleep.

“The pills didn’t help,” said Nicole but with marijuana, it felt like sleeping on the clouds, she added.

Although there is yet no scientific study to back claims that marijuana can cure asthma or sleeping disorders, the plant has been found to be effective in alleviating symptoms of chronic diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis.

MEDICAL STUDIES

A doctor from the Department of Health in Central Visayas (DOH-7) said that although marijuana can be used for medical purposes such as to control seizures, she would not recommend it.

Dr. Genevieve Dahay, coordinator of the Non-Communicable Disease Section of DOH-7, feared that the plant could be wrongfully used as medication and abused.

“We are not ready yet (to make this legal). Marijuana could be wrongly used by sellers,” said Dahay.

But for marijuana seller, Mark (not his real name), marijuana was simply a “happy drug.”

“Pangpa-happy ra man g’yud ni. Mura ra kag nanigarilyo unya ang epekto gaan imong feelings (It’s just like smoking, only you feel lighter),” said Mark.

Mark, who lives in downtown Cebu City, has been selling marijuana to his neighbors for as long as he could remember.

He said that he preferred selling it over shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride).

“Makaboang ang shabu. Ang marijuana dili (Shabu makes you crazy while marijuana does not),” added Mark.

Mark sells a roll of marijuana for P50 pesos. He refused to disclose his source.

Last year, a panel of the House of Representatives approved a measure that seeks to allow patients with debilitating conditions to use cannabis or marijuana.

In Sept. 2017, the House committee on health also approved House Bill No. 180 or the proposed Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which proposes the legalization and regulation of the use of medical marijuana.

The bill, authored by Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano, seeks to establish Medical Cannabis Compassionate Centers (MCCC) licensed by the Department of Health (DOH) in state-accredited hospitals, specialty hospitals and private tertiary hospitals which can sell, supply, and dispense cannabis to qualified patients or caregivers.

Republic Act 9165, or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, classifies marijuana or cannabis as a dangerous drug.

MARIJUANA PROLIFERATION IN CEBU

Despite RA 9165, police authorities admit to a proliferation of the plant in the province of Cebu.

According to data from the Cebu City Police Office (CCPO) and the Cebu Provincial Police Office (CPPO), marijuana plantations in both Cebu City and province are located in mountainous villages.

“’Yung malayo sa kalsada. Susuong kapa ng kagubatan at you need to cross a river (They’re far from the main road. You need to go through forests and you need to cross a river),” said Supt. Christopher Navida, chief of CCPO’s City Intelligence Branch (CIB).

Navida however said that the marijuana problem was not yet alarming in Cebu City.

For CCPO director, Senior Supt. Manuel Abrugena, while the problem of marijuana may not be as much as shabu in Cebu — it is considered second.

“Our problem with marijuana here in Cebu may not be the same as shabu may malaking gap. Pero hindi nagpapahuli ang marijuana (There is a big gap but marijuana is catching up),” said Abrugena.

According to Abrugena, the current victims of marijuana are impressionable teenagers who experiment with their friends.

“’Yung nage-experimento pa lang sa illegal drugs. Mga age 14 pataas (Those who experiment in illegal drugs. Aged 14 and up),” said Abrugena.

He also slammed claims that no person under the influence of marijuana ever committed crimes.

In his experience as cop, he said, some arrested criminals turned out to be marijuana users.

“Hindi siya katulad ng shabu pero may epekto din yan sa pagiisip (It may not be as bad as marijuana but it still has an effect on the mind),” said Abrugena.

“Madaling maka-impluwensiya ang marijuana kung magiging laganap. ‘Yun ang iniiwasan natin (Marijuana can influence easily if it proliferates and that’s what we are all trying to avoid,)” Navida, for his part, said.

Both the CCPO and CPPO continue to receive reports of marijuana plantations in the hinterlands from anonymous callers.

From the period of January to July 11 this year, 20 marijuana plantations were destroyed by operatives of CCPO and CPPO.

Police confiscated more than P20 million worth of marijuana, a Philippine National Police (PNP) report said.

 

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