Robin: Medical Marijuana Can Fund Major Government Programs

Senator Robinhood Padilla expressed his support for the legalization of medical cannabis (marijuana) in the Philippines. In his privilege speech, Senator Padilla sponsored Senate Bill 230, also known as the Medical Marijuana Compassionate Access Bill, which aims to grant access to medical marijuana as an alternative means of medical treatment. He also recommended that the Philippines should invest in growing its own cannabis plants as medical marijuana can play a key role in funding major government programs that would benefit all Filipinos. Citing Thailand as an example, which started the legal use of medical cannabis four years ago, and has earned around $79 Million in 2021.

Medical marijuana can play a key role in funding major government programs that would benefit all Filipinos.

Sen. Robinhood "Robin" C. Padilla stressed this Monday, as the Senate prepares to tackle the proposed national budget for 2023.

Padilla also said it is necessary to find other sources of revenue, especially since many government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) depend on the government for their yearly budget. He said it is time to stop this "milking cow phenomenon."

"Habang tayo po ay nagpaplano ng gastusin ng gobyerno gamit ang kaban ng bayan, huwag naman po sana nating kalimutan ang ating tungkulin na tumbasan --at higitan pa --ang pinaghirapang kontribusyon ng ating mga kababayan. Kailangan po nating palaguin ang ating ekonomiya at sa puntong ito, malaki po ang maiaambag ng industriya ng medical cannabis na tuloy-tuloy po ang pag-usbong sa iba't ibang dako ng mundo (As we plan how to spend our limited funds wisely, let us not forget the hard-earned contributions of our taxpayers. In this light, we must boost the economy and this is where medical cannabis can play a major role)," Padilla said in his privilege speech.

"Panahon na po para tayo naman ang magpunla ng sariling atin. Tandaan po: kapag may itinanim, may aanihin (It is time for us to maximize our own. What we sow, we reap)," he added.

For the 2023 national budget, Padilla noted that while the government has drawn up various programs to create jobs, invest in infrastructure and digitalization, and set up other projects in line with its eight-point socioeconomic agenda, all these programs need P5.268 trillion in funding - with only P3.632 trillion from revenues and P2.207 trillion from borrowings.

"Kung kumporme tayo na mangutang para mapunan ang ating mga plano, hindi po ba nararapat lamang na maging masigasig rin tayo na maghanap ng mapagkukunan natin ng kita? At kung hahanap tayo ng pandagdag pondo, huwag naman po sana at naniniwala po ako na hindi papayag ang Senado na muli na naman tayong magdagdag ng buwis para pasanin ng ating mga kababayan na ngayon ay naghihirap. Ang sa atin lamang po, hindi naman tayo dapat mangamba. Ika nga, 'Don't panic, it's organic,' (If we have to borrow to fund our programs, should we not look for other sources of funds - other than adding taxes? With medical marijuana, 'Don't panic, it's organic')," said Padilla.

Padilla noted the economy is one of the main reasons he is pushing for the passage of his Senate Bill 230 that will allow legal access to medical cannabis - aside from its benefits to health.

Because of this, he proposed that his speech be referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to explore the economic viability, feasibility and benefits of medical cannabis to the Philippines.

On the other hand, Padilla noted many GOCCs have lost money - in 2021, subsidies to 80 GOCCs reached P212 billion, but these GOCCs generated only P38 billion or 18% in dividends. He lamented the GOCCs had net losses of some P33 billion.

Among the highly subsidized GOCCs with little dividends are the National Food Authority, Philippine Coconut Authority, National Electrification Authority, NAPOCOR, Philippine Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp., Philippine Tax Academy, Southern PH Development Authority, and Tourism Promotions Board, he said.

"Batid po natin na ang mga korporasyon ay may mahalagang mandato para sa serbisyo publiko at hindi nila pangunahing tungkulin ang kumita o tumubo. Nguni't umaasa tayo na magpursigi ang mga GOCCs na magkaroon ng disiplina sa pinansyal na pamamahala, maging transparent at tumugon sa kanilang pananagutan sa kaban ng bayan. Kailangan pong matigil ang milking cow phenomenon kung saan aasa at aasa na lamang ang mga GOCCs sa national government para sa taunang paggastos (We realize these corporations have a mandate toward public service and they are not expected to prioritize making money. But we expect them to at least have fiscal discipline and transparency. We need to stop this milking cow phenomenon where they just depend on the government for their budget)," said Padilla.

"Masakit po ang reyalidad na panay ang hugot natin sa kaban ng bayan. Bilang halimbawa, nalulugi tayo mula sa maraming government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) na taun-taon ay umaasa sa suporta ng gobyerno sa pamamagitan ng subsidya, equity at net lending, na halos wala namang naibabalik na dibidendo para makadagdag sa pondo ng bayan. Sa susunod na taon po, maglalabas na naman tayo ng P195.8 bilyon para sa mga korporasyon na ito na wala namang pangako ng balik-kita para sa ating mga kababayan (It is a painful reality that we always draw funds from our coffers. Many of our government owned and controlled corporations depend on government funds for subsidies, equity and net lending but give little if any in return. In 2023, we will fork out P195.8 billion for these GOCCs without the promise of a return of investment that will benefit our people)," he said.

"Panahon na po para ikonsidera natin ang iba pang pamamaraan para mag-ambag naman ng pagkukunan ng kita (It is time that we consider other ways to raise needed revenues)," he added.

The lawmaker pointed out that in Asia alone - with 4.5 billion people - the Philippines can have an advantage since the cannabidiol content of cannabis grown here is higher compared to neighboring countries.

He noted that in 2021, medical cannabis accounted for some $37.4 billion worldwide - and in Asia which is starting to open its doors to the cannabis industry, $158.9 million or P8.7 billion is spent for medical cannabis in Israel in 2020 alone.

In Thailand alone where the use of medical marijuana was legalized just four years ago, the market for medical cannabis is estimated at $79 million for 2021 alone.

"Napakarami pong posibilidad para makatulong sa ating pamumuhunan -- lalong lalo na para sa ating bansa na nangangailangan ng pagkukunan ng pondo (There are so many possibilities for medical marijuana to contribute to our economy - especially for the Philippines that needs much funding)," said Padilla.

Meanwhile, Padilla pointed out the health benefits of medical cannabis, based on 29,802 publications on the matter since 1829 - including US studies from 2016 to 2019, showing cannabis has "moderate to high quality of evidence of efficacy, effectiveness, and safety" in medical conditions where its use is allowed.

He pointed out as well that the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs removed cannabis from the list of dangerous drugs in December 2020, even as cannabis has been used as medicine for more than 3,000 years.

Also, he said the medical use of cannabis has been legal in 70 countries, with 4.4 million patients with access to legal cannabis products - yet these do not include Filipinos.

Link: http://legacy.senate.gov.ph/press_release/2022/0912_padilla2.asp

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dcbN6-G3aQ

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