Advocates: Cannabis law too harsh even for Remulla

The law is too harsh and unfair to people caught with a natural substance that does no harm to users, and which, in fact, provides medical benefits.

That’s what cannabis (marijuana) advocates raised in a statement on 19 October that makes a stand on the Juanito Remulla III drug case and the current drug policy in the Philippines.

The statement, signed by 19 individuals composed of professionals in various fields, including doctors, called on the public and the government to listen to its arguments.

“As long-time advocates for legal access to cannabis, we have fought for reforms in drug policy based on compassion, science, and human rights. We ask you to think again about the following points:

•The law regulating cannabis in the Philippines has a fundamental flaw: the penalty is far more devastating than the worst effect of cannabis use. Under RA 9165 (The Comprehensive Drugs Act of 2002), possession of cannabis — depending on quantity — can be punished by fines ranging from P500,000 to P10 million, plus life imprisonment, and the death penalty (should it ever be reinstated).
But there is no death recorded anywhere in the world for cannabis use.

•People possessing or cultivating tiny amounts of marijuana can be punished under these harsh provisions. This applies to cases of non-violent drug users. It is especially tragic when people who illegally acquire it for medical use are punished for seeking relief from disease.

•The poor are the main victims of the war on drugs. Thousands have died in the tokhang operations of the past regime. The wanton disrespect for human rights and due process by the war on drugs stands in stark contrast to how Juanito Remulla was treated by law enforcers. The impunity in drug-related killings has made us strangers to due process and constitutionally protected rights.

•The amount of marijuana in question — 893.1 grams — in the case of Remulla could be tantamount to life imprisonment and a fine of up to P10M. We do not wish for Juanito Remulla the barbarity of the drug war. We pray that all drug suspects be treated with justice and respect for their rights.

•Many countries have taken a more enlightened policy on drug use. Uruguay, states in the USA, other European countries, and now Thailand have allowed the medical and even the adult or “recreational” use of cannabis. US President Joe Biden recently declared a general pardon for all those convicted of the federal crime of simple marijuana possession. He also called for a review of marijuana scheduling under federal law.

•There is no more debate on whether cannabis has medical use. The United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs now fully recognizes the medical value of cannabis. In December 2020, they deleted cannabis and cannabis resin from Schedule IV of the 1961 Convention. There are bills allowing medical access to cannabis in the current 19th Congress of the Philippines: six in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate. The shift toward legalization has slowly been underway.

“Nations are waking up. Philippine legislators have joined the crusade. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, artists and mass media people are now among our fellow advocates. It is high time we all join hands and have one voice in saying: end cannabis prohibition. If it is legal to consume cigarettes and alcohol — highly addictive and extremely toxic substances — the prohibition on cannabis is plain legal hypocrisy.”

“How far longer will we leave patients seeking marijuana for medical use at the mercy of the illegal market with all the possible punishment it will bring about? Isn’t it time to provide a regulated and safe environment to help legitimate patients have access to effective and affordable cannabis medicine? Are we not blessed enough as a nation to enjoy a government pursuing enlightened policies on drug use?

“Our call: End the war on cannabis.”

“Our hope: The legalization of cannabis.”

“Be one with us.”

The plant has been legalized for medical use in 47 countries, as recreational use in some 10 countries, and 19 states in America.

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