No, they are not having pot sessions in the Lower House. But for our congressmen to even consider a bill legalizing marijuana for medicinal use is giving rise to suspicion some of them could be sniffing it in closed-door sessions.
Going against the tide, Buhay Party-List Rep. Lito Atienza raised his vocal opposition to the proposal to legalize the use of marijuana as medicine. So far, 80 House members signed up as co-sponsors of the Medical Marijuana Bill authored by Isabela Rep. Rodito Albano. The bill is now up for deliberations for approval on second reading.
Atienza aired his concern that when people want to try smoking something other than a cigarette, marijuana seem to them like an attractive forbidden fruit. From cigarettes to marijuana , their addiction takes them to the next higher level and the dark world of dangerous drugs like shabu and cocaine. Legalizing marijuana, Atienza pointed out, is a contradiction to President Rodrigo Duterte’s all out war on illegal drugs.
“There is no conclusive study that marijuana or cannabis really has medicinal benefits. If the misconception is that marijuana can be used as a pain-killer, there are already medicines with proven efficacy in the market for this purpose,” said Atienza. Results of medical study in fact showed that marijuana has adverse effects. The brain of a heavy marijuana user becomes addled making him or her hallucinate and become violent.
Marijuana is more addictive than cigarettes which the government is strongly waging a campaign to discourage smoking which is often the cause of lung cancer, emphysema and cardiac attacks. “Mary Jane” as teenagers call the weed, is already widely sniffed at disco bars and other private gatherings. While there is a ban against smoking in public places, one can get high by just being inside some disco bars where the air is heavy with the sharp smell of marijuana. The pervasive smoking of marijuana somehow goes on with the complicity of bar owners and security guards who are told to look the other way because unrestricted environments draws the young crowd in which is good for business.
Planting marijuana instead of rice and other agricultural food for the masses is counterproductive to increasing the country’s agriculture output which is a big factor in the GNP percentage.
Atienza warned that legalizing marijuana as medicine could grow into a cottage industry that might give the country the tag “marijuana capital of the world.” The cannabis plant can be grown in the family backyard or even in pots placed on the terraces of condominium apartments or rooftops of houses. This is being done by “potheads” in the United States on the pretext they need to smoke marijuana for health benefits. Only two or three states so far have passed laws making the use of marijuana legal. While some state may legalize marijuana, the prospect of a federal law for a US-wide decriminalizing its use is still remote in America.
Atienza is the last few minority opposition in the House. Against the supermajority in the lower chamber, he may be waging another lonely fight on the issue of “medical” marijuana. He vowed to his constituency , however, that as Buhay Party List representative, he will oppose the measure on the House floor. A staunch pro-life advocate, Atienza also opposed the passage of the controversial Reproductive Health bill. The RH law, as it is turning out, is not proving effective because of the shortage of contraceptives or condoms doled by government to the low income class. This sector of society which includes those unable to even finish secondary education are the most vulnerable and prolific in contributing to the burgeoning 100.2-million population.
The bright side to Atienza’s crusade if one call it that is the Catholic Church supports his advocacies. Second, newly reappointed Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has not given his unequivocal support for the medicinal marijuana measure. He is most probably weighing his stand carefully lest he offend some congressmen who are also members of the bicameral Commission on Appointments who will vet and approve his nomination by the President.
More importantly, President Duterte who has his hands full attending the Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Da Nang, Vietnam and will also host the Asean and Dialogue Partners Summit in Manila/Clark this week has not given his official stand on the marijuana bill. It would be incongruous that Duterte who is anti-illegal drugs would support the use of marijuana. But then, who knows?
Who then is /are behind the group pushing for the marijuana bill in the House? Don’t look at me for answers; look at the usual suspects who might have a hidden history of substance abuse. There are speculations smugglers want to export (not import) marijuana to other countries in Asia, the US and Europe. Indeed the planting of marijuana as an alternative crop to the decline of tobacco growing could be lucrative to hacenderos who own vast tracts of idle land.