In the Philippines, Cannabis (a.k.a. Marijuana) Is Apparently King


Sorry, shabu. This is cannabis country now.

While the distribution of crystal meth or “shabu" in the Philippines is still rampant, marijuana has overtaken it as the preferred drug for Filipino users, according to a report by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

In a statement last March, PDEA Director General Undersecretary Wilkins Villanueva said that the demand and supply for locally grown cannabis or marijuana is on high demand and has gotten to a point that it has beaten shabu.

In 2021, there were massive volume seizures of marijuana in the country, clocking in at 83 percent of reported total bulk weight of drug seizures at 11 tons. It's followed by shabu at a distant second at just 17 percent.

In a survey by the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) in 2019, data showed that marijuana is the most commonly abused dangerous drug at 57 percent. Shabu, on the other hand, sits at the second spot at 35 percent.

Nevertheless, the agency also said that these indicated that “interception and enforcement efforts are efficient." However, this also entails that cannabis cultivators and distributors are stepping up their activities to meet the soaring demand.

Under Republic Act 9165 or the "Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act," the use of medical marijuana for compassionate use for people who have terminal illnesses are allowed. The DDB and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have also approved the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for patients with epilepsy.

Among this year's presidential candidates, Sen. Ping Lacson has expressed that he is open to the proposed use of medical marijuana. "Bukas ang aking isipan. Katunayan, supportive ako rito. Kung isasabatas ito, maganda ang maitulong nito sa kalusugan ng ating mamamayan," he once said in an interview on Bombo Radyo.

As late as 2014, lawmakers have been pushing for legislation in Congress for the passing of a medical cannabis bill. It was even reintroduced in the 18th Congress. The two pending bills in the Lower House are House Bill 6517, re-introduced as House Bill 279 ("Philippine Medical Cannabis Compassionate Act"), and House Bill 3961 ("An Act to Establish the Philippines Cannabis Development Authority:).

Unfortunately, these efforts have been made in vain so far.

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About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is a Filipino cultural critic, editor, and essayist. He writes about art, books, travel, people, current events, and all the magic in between. His past work in film and media can be found on PeopleAsia Magazine, The Philippine Star, MANILA BULLETIN, and IMDB.
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