SENATOR Vicente Sotto III on Wednesday warned groups pushing to legalize sale of marijuana in country to stop "playing with fire."
The renewed push for marijuana legalization was driven by reports that the state of Colorado in the United States on January 1 began allowing the sale of recreational cannabis to anyone age 21 and older.
Colorado residents can now legally buy marijuana like alcohol but limited to an ounce.
Colorado became the first state in the US to legalize recreational marijuana. Legalization is reported to save taxpayers $10 billion yearly on enforcing the prohibition.
Sotto, the former Dangerous Drugs Board chair, refuted claims that marijuana has medicinal or therapeutic benefits.
"We cannot trifle with something that we might regret later on. Toying with the idea of legalizing marijuana use is like playing with fire," he cautioned.
The senator reminded that the country is a signatory to the 1961 United Nation's Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, as amended by the 1972 Protocol, which bans the production and supply of narcotic drugs and drugs with similar effects except for medical and research purposes.
"In its Preamble, the Convention recognizes addiction to narcotic drugs as a serious evil to an individual and its social and economic danger to mankind was recognized," Sotto said.
Sotto warned that marijuana legalization could be a violation of the said treaty.
Moreover, Sotto said that the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs specifically limits the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution, use and possession of drugs to medical and scientific use and never for recreational use.
"Be that as it may, any proposal for marijuana's legalization even for medicinal purposes in our country should be backed up by relevant medical and scientific data and represented before the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs," he stressed.
At present, Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, with its sale, trade or use punishable as criminal act.
"Any proposal to amend the law, by deleting marijuana or cannabis as dangerous drug is exclusively within the province of the legislative department," Sotto said.
As such, the Department of Health, the Dangerous Drugs Board, the Philippine Medical Association, or any other agency for that matter may not encroach on this prerogative of Congress, he added.
Sotto challenged pro marijuana advocates to bring their case before the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs and prove that marijuana can cure anything or something.
"Up to now, there is no empirical and scientific data that proves marijuana can cure," he pointed out.
He said that the state of Colorado has yet to determine whether allowing legal pot has any effect on crime rates and cannabis addiction and use among teenagers. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)