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DUBLIN–( BUSINESS WIRE )–The “Regulatory Report: Philippines CBD” report has been added to’s offering.

Hemp is considered to be the equivalent of cannabis in the Philippines and is, therefore, a prohibited drug, carrying severe penalties for its cultivation, manufacture, sale, importation, possession and use under Republic Act No. 9165, known as the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

Although there are some exceptions regarding hemp imports (i.e. for medical use and in some processed forms), its sale is minimal, according to a report issued by the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service.

A debate on regulating cannabis for medicinal use is on the table in the Philippines, and several bills are currently being discussed. This report provides an overview of the current regulatory regime for CBD and cannabis in the country.

By way of background, the Philippines is a country with a population of approximately 107 million, roughly 1/3 that of the United States population and only 20 million fewer people than Mexico’s 126 million. It is a highly religious country, with approximately 92% adhering to some form of Christianity and 6% adhering to Islam. Approximately 64% of the country speaks English, and approximately 10 million Filipinos live and work overseas, making it one of the largest diaspora populations in the world. Due to its high English speaking population, its significant diaspora in the United States, and its strong pharmaceutical industry that is already tied to the United States, the Philippines is an attractive cannabis participant, both as part of the supply chain and as a potential sales market.

Cannabis has been in serious discussion in the Philippines congress since 2014. Duterte became president in 2016, but that did not stop Filipino legislators from proposing several versions of the Philippines Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act since 2016, which would legalize a medical-only cannabis marketplace.

Philippines legislators who are cannabis advocates include Luis Ray Villafuerte from Camarines Sur, the most vocal advocate currently, who proposed HB 3961, said the legislature should act in, “creating a state agency [proposed as the Philippine Cannabis Development Authority] to oversee the development of what could be a legitimate multi-billion-dollar export industry.” Other legislators such as Panfilo Lacson and Aquilino Pimentel III have also weighed into the discussion regarding whether a medical cannabis act is necessary or the most beneficial way for the Filipino people to access cannabis and cannabis-derived medical products.

In terms of takeaways, it is clear that the Philippines is paying close attention to the U.S. FDA and DEA. Filipino legislators and regulators are both aware of the nuances in cannabis as hemp, cannabis as marijuana, and cannabinoids derived from cannabis. And Filipino legislators and economists are also acutely aware of Thailand’s head start in the region and the overall economic benefits that could come to the Philippines as a result of establishing a medical marijuana market at home and participating in the global cannabis supply chain.

For those of you familiar with the Philippines, you know that “President Rodrigo Duterte” and “war on drugs” are two parts of the same phrase. In the first two years of his presidency, Duterte sanctioned the killing of over 10,000 Filipinos who were connected in any way to the drug trade. But you might be surprised at the trending undercurrents within the Philippines regarding cannabis, even in light of Duterte’s strong stance against drugs.

Editha R HechanovaPresident, Hechanova & CoE: [email protected]

Sec. 3 (v) of RA 9165 defines cannabis, or commonly known as ‘marijuana’, ‘Indian hemp’ or by any other names, as “embraces every kind, class, genus, or specie of the plant Cannabis sativa L. including, but not limited to, Cannabis americana, hashish, bhang, guaza, churrus and ganjab, and embraces every kind, class and character of marijuana, whether dried or fresh and flowering, flowering or fruiting tops, or any part or portion of the plant and seeds thereof, and all its geographic varieties, whether as a reefer, resin, extract, tincture or in any form whatsoever”.

The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) is opposing the measure and proposes instead to pass a law that would strengthen the government’s community rehabilitation programmes for drug dependents. The DDB is the policy-making and coordinating agency as well as the national clearing house on all matters pertaining to law enforcement and control of dangerous drugs as well as treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents.

Both are before the house committee on health for approval. HB 3961, introduced in 2020 by Congressman Luis Raymund Villafuerte, aims at legalising the local production and export of medical marijuana to make it more accessible and cheaper for Filipinos. It also hopes to take advantage of the growing multi-billion dollar industry citing that Singapore, China and Thailand – which already have very strict narcotics law – as producers of medical cannabis or are about to do it, particularly, in the light of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs decision in late 2020 to remove from its list of most dangerous drugs, cannabidiol (CBD), a non-addictive and non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

Since 2014, lawmakers from the Philippines have been trying to get legislation on medical cannabis passed in Congress and have re-introduced it in the current 18th Congress, with little success so far. The main roadblock is President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial anti-drug policy – popularly called the ‘war on drugs’ – which has attracted criticism from human rights advocates because of the rising number of extra-judicial killings.

Two house bills pending in Congress on cannabis are HB 6517, re-introduced as HB 279, and HB 3961 (An Act to Establish the Philippines Cannabis Development Authority…).

So far, the DDB and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of CBD for patients afflicted with epilepsy, such as the oral solution Epidiolex for treatment of seizures associated with severe forms of epilepsy. The DDB, however, also admits that parents have complained that medicine containing the cannabis product costs around $25,000 to $30,000 for a one-year prescription, which is quite burdensome.