Can marijuana really treat cancer?

The arrest of actor and former matinee idol Mark Anthony Fernandez after he reportedly transported a kilo of marijuana using his car has sparked a debate regarding the legalization of the illegal drug in the country.

Is it time to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the Philippines?
Is it time to legalize the use of medical marijuana in the Philippines?
Fernandez, following his arrest, explained that he was taking marijuana in order prevent cancer, a disease that has taken the life of his actor father, Rudy Fernandez. According to Fernandez, a certain doctor told him that he could use the substance when he was 19.

READ: 10 Pinoy celebrities allegedly involved in illegal drugs

Marijuana, which is classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the country’s Dangerous Drug Board (DDB) as a dangerous drug, is believed to have medical benefits that could help patients suffering from debilitating disease, intense seizures, severe pain as well as persistent muscle spasms.

Medical marijuana is legal in 23 states in the US but the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in Colorado in 2014 has made it a topic of discussion among Filipino lawmakers. That same year, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III filed a bill known as “Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act”, which allows the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Former Health Secretary Janette Garin previously said that the Department of Health (DOH) has long been supportive of the use of marijuana for patients who really need it. Garin revealed that the DOH supported the bill’s proposals under certain conditions and stressed that maximum effort should be exercised since the implementation of it can be subject to abuse.

Several sectors as well as some groups representing doctors have opposed the legalization of marijuana citing the possible negative effects on public safety. A number of doctors also emphasized that there is no assurance that marijuana is effective in treating diseases.

Can It Really Treat Cancer?

With Fernandez’ controversial statement about his motive behind the use of the illegal substance, Filipinos are now curious whether marijuana can really treat cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, a study has found that components of marijuana namely cannabinoids and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) slow down certain types of cancer cells in laboratory dishes. Cannabinoids, in several animal studies, have been shown to reduce spread and slows growth of some forms of cancer.

However, the American Cancer Society emphasized that relying on marijuana alone as cancer treatment may cause serious health consequences.

“While the studies so far have shown that cannabinoids can be safe in treating cancer, they do not show that they help control or cure the disease.”

Duterte Will Not Oppose

Despite his campaign against illegal drugs, President Rodrigo Duterte, in his interview with the media in May 2016, said he will not oppose the legalization of medical marijuana.

"Medical marijuana, yes, because it is really an ingredient of modern medicine now,” Duterte told reporters.

The President, however, warned that he will not allow the use of the prohibited substance for recreational use.

--Mini, The Summit Express

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