Building a compassionate society Filipina mom spearheads advocacy for medical marijuana

In Photo: Prado

MOST testimonials of people who experienced the healing powers of marijuana said they resorted to using or administering cannabis because despite the developments in medicine and technology, these seem to be useless.

Marijuana has been around the Philippines and the country even has a marijuana culture, especially in the northern part of the Philippines where the herb is used for different purposes. However, marijuana is known for its recreational purposes and the notoriety of its side effects made it to the list of illegal substances or drugs.

Stipulated in the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act, marijuana is still classified as illegal. Possession of this illegal drug is punishable by six to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from P50,000 to P200,000. However, admittedly or not, in the past, marijuana users were not always the subject of scrutiny compared to other addictive substances such as shabu.

The use of marijuana for medical purposes came to light when netizens spread the word of people from around the globe attesting to the healing powers of cannabis. And this has been going on for several years now.

16th Congress, reading of HB4477

Wondering, wandering mind

A mother of two whose outlook in life differs from most women in many ways if we are to judge her based on what she is fighting for, Kimmi del Prado is a staunch advocate of cannabis, and she is leading an organization of men and women who have witnessed the wonders of cannabis and lobbying for the legalization of this medical wonder.

Del Prado has never been in the situation of parents, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters who are dealing with sicknesses, which can’t be cured by modern medicines. She is living a normal life with her two healthy and intelligent kids.

Have a Heart photo Exhibit 2015 and With Speaker Alvarez, lobbying of HB180

Her interest in medical cannabis started when she was scanning the Internet and came across a site that which brings together people from all walks of life from around the world who openly talk about marijuana from recreational use to growing hybrid species, and to the amazing things it can do to help patients of different debilitating diseases ease their pains and even restored their health.

For her it was amazing to find these kinds of people and to learn so much about a single herb. Her interest grew and she did more research until she found Moms for Marijuana International, a group of women advocating the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Del Prado asked for the group’s permission if she can create a Facebook page carrying the same name, thus, became the Philippine chapter—Philippine Moms for Marijuana.

Del Prado, while on one community page, met a father desperately looking for a miracle to happen to his sick daughter asked where he could get cannabis.

“I was moved by Jun and Myca Yutuc, the parents of Moon Jaden who was suffering from Dravet Syndrome. I talked to Jun and asked if I could post his story on our Facebook page with hopes that we can find help for them,” del Prado said.

Committee Hearing under House Committee on Health, HB180 2017 and 3rd Founding Anniversary celebration 2016

According to dravetfoundation.org, Dravet syndrome is a rare, catastrophic, lifelong form of epilepsy that begins in the first year of life with frequent and/or prolonged seizures. Previously known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy [SMEI], it affects 1:15,700 individuals. While seizures persist, other comorbidities, such as developmental delay and abnormal EEGs, are often not evident until the second or third year of life. Common issues associated with Dravet syndrome include prolonged seizures, frequent seizures, behavioral and developmental delays, movement and balance issues, orthopedic conditions, delayed language and speech issues, growth and nutrition issues, sleeping difficulties, chronic infections, sensory integration disorders, and disruptions of the autonomic nervous system [which regulates things such as body temperature and sweating]. Current treatment options are limited, and the constant care required for someone suffering from Dravet syndrome can severely impact the patient’s and the family’s quality of life. Patients with Dravet syndrome face a 15 percent  to 20-percent mortality rate due to Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy, prolonged seizures, seizure-related accidents such as drowning, and infections.

The Yutucs resorted to black market just to get hold of some marijuana, unfortunately, Moon Jaden passed on before receiving cannabis.

“Though we lost Moon Jaden, her death brought together so many parents and individuals from all walks of life who are going through the same ordeal or were just touched by her story. Advocates were borne and the stigma attached to cannabis lessened. The people slowly understood what cannabis is and what our group is fighting for,” del Prado added.

Compassionate Society

With the overflowing support of many people from all over the country, del Prado established the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society, a group that not only involve moms but all individuals who advocates for cannabis.

It could be recalled that President Duterte, in an interview, admitted that he is also for the legalization of cannabis, saying, “It’s effective. I will not deprive Filipinos of the benefits of medicinal marijuana.”

The battle for legalization of cannabis had already reached the pillars of the 16th Congress under former President Corazon C. Aquino as House Bill (HB) 4477, known as the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act. The bill, with 70 coauthors signed on, only made it as far as the House Committee on Health.

Right now HB 180, or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, by original author, Rep. Rodito Albano III of the First District of Isabela was refiled in April under Duterte’s administration. However, the bill is still with the Committee on Health awaiting consideration and debate.

HB 180 proposed to establish a system of compassionate centers to distribute up to a one-month supply to registered medical cannabis patients. The bill also says the patients will have the same protection as those who are using prescribed medicines. 

And if this bill is passed, the National Institutes of Health will be authorized to conduct medical research on the uses and benefits of cannabis. It would also establish an oversight committee to help implement the new program, and a new branch of the government to help enforce regulations

Del Prado, together with her members, is hopeful that the present administration will make the dreams and wishes of everyone who puts their trust on the healing wonders of marijuana come true.

“Our group is a nonprofit organization, everything we do is out of concern, love and support for the patients who can benefit from cannabis. I believe that eyes were opened and minds were awakened, and we just hope that with President Duterte, together with the lawmakers who are standing by his side, HB 180 will become another milestone of his presidency.”

To know more about the Philippine Cannabis Compassion Society, visit its Facebook page.