So maybe the president of the Philippines wasn’t joking after all when he said he smokes cannabis to stay awake at meetings.
Earlier this month, Rodrigo Duterte shocked reporters when he told a press conference that marijuana helped him maintain alertness during marathon political conferences, like the recent annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations consortium. Though Duterte later walked back the statement, on Tuesday presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the politician who powered a bloody drug war in the archipelago nation will sign “any bill that would be consistent with his stand,” of pro-medicinal cannabis legalization.
Panelo told the press that “the president already made a statement that he’s in favor of limited use of marijuana… logically, then he will support… and sign any bill that would be consistent with his stand,” reported ABS-CBN News.
There is in fact, medical marijuana legislation that has been proposed to the country’s House of Representatives. House Bill 6517 aka the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act would make cannabis available to patients in the country. The bill passed committee hearings late last year, would not allow for smokable forms of cannabis, and would set up a system in which marijuana was available through government-operated medical facilities.
Earlier this week, the presidential palace told reporters that Philippines Miss Universe winner Catriona Gray’s recent pro-medical marijuana comments could have been influenced by Duterte’s current stance on the drug.
“Catriona’s Gray position on the legalization of marijuana for healing purposes could have been influenced by PRRD’s stand on the matter or she she could have come up with that conclusion after considering the pros and cons of the issue,” Panelo wrote in a text message to ABS-CBN News. “She is the only one who can answer whether or not she was influenced by PRRD,” he continued. “I suggest you ask her after her triumphant return.”
In Sunday’s Q&A section of the pageant she went on to win, Gray was asked whether she was in favor of legalizing cannabis. “I’m for it being used in a medical use,” she replied. “But not so for recreational use, because I think if people were to argue, ‘What about alcohol and cigarettes?’ Well, everything is good but in moderation.” Her quote was perceived as a win for advocates of the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act.
The cannabis industry has proven to be quite lucrative in many of the governments that have recently legalized the drug. In Canada, it is estimated that the first three months of legal cannabis sales will bring in $1 billion, and the industry created 10,400 jobs in its first month of operation.
Still, there is call to be surprised at Duterte’s turnaround on the cannabis issue. When the president first took office in 2016, he was convinced that drug users were a scourge to be wiped off the face of the Philippines. Such was his conviction that police launched deadly waves of anti-drug operations and encouraged guerrilla fighters to aid in the extermination of “drug” users (the term encompassed methamphetamines to cannabis in Détente’s lexicon.)