Two members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday pushed for the passage of a bill legalizing marijuana or cannabis for medicinal purposes.

During a public hearing, Surigao Del Norte 2nd District Representative Robert “Ace” Barbers, House Committee on Dangerous Drugs chairperson, said that while cannabis may be legalized for medicinal use, House Bill (HB) 6783 does not allow its recreational use.

“Recently, more and more countries are easing regulations on the said drug for medicinal purposes. Other countries have already allowed its recreational use. For our purposes, we will limit it for medicinal purposes only,” Barbers said.

Former House Speaker and now Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez authored HB 6783 seeking to remove cannabis from the list of illegal drugs and substances.

Alvarez said the classification of cannabis and its derivatives, as a dangerous drug, “makes no sense at all.” “And we must correct this absurdity,” he said.

Barbers said there is evidence that cannabis oil and other derivatives are helping seriously ill patients.

“It is just a matter of time before we are deluged with calls to open our eyes and minds to the latest scientific developments now benefiting humanity,” he said. “If our chemical heavy pharma couldn’t find the cure to these illnesses, why would we stand in the way and deprive the afflicted of relief and enjoyment of their lives.”

He said it is about time that authorities should look at the positive side of the substance of cannabis.

“If there is a good side to it, then by all means we should consider it. Look at the substance amphetamine, a major component of shabu. It is a critical component or ingredient of many medicines now being consumed worldwide,” Barbers said.

In defending his bill, Alvarez pointed out that many acts of violence, crime and fatal accidents are attributable to the consumption of alcoholic beverages, lung cancer to cigarette smoking and diabetes to sweets and soft drinks consumption, and yet the government allows the production and sale of these products.

“Something is definitely not right,” Alvarez said.

Despite the injuries that alcohol, cigarettes and soft drinks bring, the government still allows their production and sale simply because of tax revenues, he said.

“If this is the ultimate saving grace that justifies allowing said products to be produced and sold to the public, then with more reason cannabis should be allowed. It is a potential source of billions worth of revenues. The experience of other countries and states that rolled back senseless prohibition against this substance is clear proof,” he added.

Alvarez cited the State of Colorado, which was able to collect over USD1 billion in cannabis tax revenues since legalizing it in 2014. In 2021, Colorado collected USD423 million from cannabis tax revenues, up almost 10 percent from the prior year.

According to a study by the RCG Economics and Marijuana Policy Group, should the State of Nevada legalize recreational cannabis, the move will support over 41,000 jobs by 2024 and generate over USD1.7 billion in labor income, he added.

“Let us give cannabis a second chance. Let us make this happen by giving our all-out support for HB 6783, otherwise known as An Act Removing Cannabis and any Form of Derivative Thereof from the List of Dangerous Drugs and Substances Under Existing Laws’,” he said. (PNA)