“There is now a growing number of incontrovertible evidence that marijuana does provide medical relief to certain types of medical conditions”
Last week, Thailand became the first country in Asia to legalize the cultivation and possession of marijuana.
I would have thought that we will be the first but Thailand went ahead and did it.
But before marijuana recreational users there start celebrating, they must be cautious because the Thai parliament will still have to pass a law detailing the exact parameters of marijuana use.
There is however, a reason for some celebration. For one, those thousands languishing in jail for marijuana possession can now look forward to being released.
One of the main intentions of the Thai government is to use marijuana for medicinal purposes but, with that, recreational use will not be far behind.
Many issues will almost certainly have to be ironed out and a lot of countries in the region will be watching for developments.
Thailand, for instance, did not go as far as allowing recreational use openly.
This issue about allowing the use of marijuana on medical grounds was debated here but got nowhere.
Some sectors were strongly opposed to the idea of legalizing marijuana. One was, surprisingly, the Philippine National Police.
Instead of remaining silent and simply let the medical experts and lawmakers do the debating, the PNP came out not favoring marijuana legalization.
Why the PNP would not like to lessen its work load so that it can concentrate on hard core illegal drugs like heroin, methamphetamine and deadly prescription drugs like fentanyl is difficult to understand.
Marijuana enforcement, especially involving small quantities, involves a lot of police work.
It appears, however, that the PNP does not seem to mind the work load.
One interesting issue that came out during that debate was the fact that no one ever died of marijuana overdose.
Another was the experiences of many people who smoke marijuana to help alleviate their medical conditions.
There is now a growing number of incontrovertible evidence that marijuana does provide medical relief to certain types of medical conditions.
None of these, however, was enough to convince those opposing.
Perhaps, with what Thailand did, this issue will again be revisited by the 19th Congress.
Currently, due to our strict illegal drugs laws, there are thousands of people in jail because of marijuana possession.
People caught with two sticks of marijuana, for instance, could be kept in jail indefinitely because illegal drug offenses are unbailable.
Our jails could easily be decongested if marijuana possession is decriminalized.
Although there are more and more countries legalizing the possession of marijuana, many countries still consider marijuana possession illegal and we are one of these countries.
Let us hope that, like divorce, we will not be the only one left unwilling to allow it.
It would make sense to take the initial steps and view marijuana use from different angles like economic, medical, jail management and others.
Some of the varieties of cannabis produced in the country are high grade and much sought after.
Controlled cultivation of these for export can benefit the country economically.
If there are indeed medicinal benefits, the more that marijuana should be legalized to benefit those who need it.
It should not be that we are keeping thousands of people in jail for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
It is time law enforcement professionals and legislatures reconsidered their positions.
I do not think we should go the way other countries are doing like, for instance, the Netherlands where people can freely use heroin and other hard core addictive drugs that are illegal elsewhere.
The philosophy in that country is that people using these drugs openly can be monitored and violent crime is discouraged.
In this country, we can probably start by decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
This alone will release many people currently in jail.
It will also protect people from corrupt law enforcement personnel who have the propensity to plant evidence.
Then the legislature can tackle the medical use of the plant. How it can be dispensed and where it can be legally be bought.
Rules on cultivation and the marketing of the plant by authorized and licensed individuals or companies should also be prescribed by law.
What is important is that the government has full control and knows the exact quantity being produced and who are involved in the production, distribution and use of the plant.
Law enforcement can then concentrate its effort in preventing the trafficking of large quantities of marijuana and other destructive hard-core drugs.
The PNP is overloaded with work that are often not crime related like pandemics and natural disasters.
It would make sense for the PNP to keep finding ways of lessening its workload to be a more efficient police force.