Duterte says he'll never legalize medical marijuana

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte gave a resounding no to any moves to legalize medical marijuana, a position different from the one he took in his first year as Chief Executive.

"I do not intend to legalize it. Ayaw ko. Gawin mo lang excuse 'yan eh, tatanim ka ng iyo. Sasabihin mo medicinal man kaya ito," said Duterte on Friday, March 8. (I don't want to. You will just use that as an excuse to plant your own. You will just say, this is just for medicinal purposes.)

The President, who is waging a bloody campaign against illegal drugs, said he does not read research about the benefits of medical marijuana.

"Hindi ako pumayag (I did not allow it). Not in my time, not in my time. I disapprove. Some other president maybe. I am ignorant of that kind of research, I must admit I do not read it," he said.

Duterte's hardened stance against medical marijuana is at odds with his views on the matter back in 2016, the first year of his administration.

In October that year, he had expressed openness to the idea.

When asked by Al Jazeera about legalizing medical marijuana, Duterte said, "I'm not the authority for that. It’s the Food and Drug Administration. If it's certified by the government and it's good, fine, no problem."

In December 2018, Malacañang reiterated the President's 2016 position, saying, "He is in favor of limited use of marijuana.... Logically, then, he will support and sign any bill that would be consistent with his stand."

It was that month as well when Duterte said he uses marijuana to stay awake during strenuous activities –  a remark which the President eventually insisted was just a joke.

In 2017, the House of Representatives approved House Bill 6517 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, which seeks to legalize marijuana for medical purposes.  Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.