How Catriona Gray could help medical marijuana advocacy in the Philippines

December 18, 2018 - 2:27 PM
Miss Universe Philippines Catriona Gray Interaksyon
Miss Philippines Catriona Gray in her evening gown during the Miss Universe 2018 preliminary round in Bangkok, Thailand, December 13, 2018. (REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha)

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray’s stance on medical marijuana could have a profound effect on the advocacy surrounding its legalization in the Philippines.

Gray said during the Q&A portion of the pageant that she supported marijuana’s use for medical purposes but did not extend the same support for recreational purposes.

“I’m for the use (of marijuana) in medical use but not so for recreational use because I think if people were to argue about “what about alcohol and cigarettes?”, well everything is good but in moderation,” the 24-year-old whose mother hails from Oas, Albay said.

Her answer was warmly received by some advocates of medical marijuana in the Philippines.

The Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society, a group advocating the use of medical marijuana in the Philippines, thanked Gray for her statement and congratulated her for her win.

Her statement was also reported on by a western cannabis advocacy group.

House Deputy Majority Leader Rep. Ron Salo (Kabayan Party-list), one of those who voted to approve House Bill 6517 at the committee level, said that the new Miss Universe’s stance could help the bill’s passage.

“We are certain her statement during the pageant will convince Congress to expedite passage of HB 6517 into law,” he said according to a report by ABS-CBN news.

Gray further discussed her stance in a press conference, explaining that she had already read up on the issue before.

“The question about medical marijuana was definitely relevant in my country because it is an active topic. But as I said, I’ve seen studies about medicinal marijuana [which] needs to be researched further,” Gray said.

“But in terms of recreational marijuana, perhaps we could learn more and then put in place certain regulations before pursuing it,” she clarified.

Chief presidential counsel and palace spokesperson Salvador Panelo suggested that the new Miss Universe could have been influenced by President Rodrigo Duterte’s openness to medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana in the Philippines?

HB 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act is currently up for approval by the plenary. Its principal author, Rep. Rodolfo Albano III (Isabela), said that its passage could benefit the thousands of Filipinos suffering from debilitating diseases.

HB 6517 provides for the creation of policy centers for research into the medical use of the cannabis plant or marijuana as well as its regulation by the Department of Health and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

PDEA already said it did not oppose legislation conducive to the plant’s medical use but the Philippine National Police, the agency that leads the administration’s war on drugs, has asked for further research into its supposed medical properties.

Extract from the plant known as cannabidiol is believed to have medicinal properties. The strains used for medical purposes have higher levels of cannabidol as opposed to tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the component which causes the psychoactive effects.

Some medical practitioners in the United States, where both medical and recreational cannabis use are legal in some jurisdictions, said that use of medical marijuana has been effective in treating ailments such as tumors, arthritis, osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy as well as mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder and degenerative neurological disorders.

Before research was expanded, it was reportedly administered through inhalation to reduce the chronic pain caused by some diseases such as cancer.

Some however continue to be wary of the plant’s mainstream use, citing its harmful side effects, which are believed to include lower cognitive function which affects school and work performance, high risk of anxiety and depression and long-term addiction.