Health dept. unmoved by Mark Fernandez’s claim of cancer alleviation for possession

DOH Sec. Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial (Photo:

By William Casis | FilAm Star Correspondent

Department of Health (DoH) Secretary Dr. Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial said they do not subscribe to the idea of legalizing marijuana amid the claim of actor Mark Anthony Fernandez, who was arrested for possession, that he is using marijuana to help alleviate cancer.

The actor’s late father, action star Rudy Fernandez, succumbed to cancer sometime in June 2008. The actor’s mother is actress Alma Moreno.

“We, in the medical community, believe that legalizing a product (like marijuana) is not the way to go,” Ubial said.

However, Ubial said they leave the context of legalizing marijuana or not, to the country’s lawmakers. “On (legalizing it), that matter is up (to) Congress to decide,” she said.

House Bill No. 180 or the Philippine Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act has already been refiled by Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano.

But the health chief believes there is no need to legalize marijuana or cannabis because those needing it for medical purposes can simply get a permit from the Food and Drug Administration.

She said the FDA Law right now provides access to drugs and medicines that are not registered in the Philippines for compassionate use. She said FDA Circular No. 2014-009 allows the agency to provide Compassionate Special Permit to patients needing to use drug products that are not legalized in the country.

She said that the physician of a patient needing marijuana for treatment is the one required to apply for a permit with the FDA.

To note, Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, includes marijuana resin, marijuana resin oil, and marijuana as among those considered as illegal substances.

There have been several reports which indicate that marijuana is capable of alleviating cancer, multiple sclerosis, pain, glaucoma, and epilepsy.

Meanwhile, Ubial clarified that using marijuana for medical purposes does not include its raw form. She said the forms of marijuana used for medicinal purposes are those that have undergone scientific processing.

“It has its medicinal uses but not in its raw form. The ones actually allowed are those that have (their) medicinal component extracted,” she added.

Using marijuana in its raw form, according to the DoH head, carries more danger of developing cancer and other illnesses.

Ubial noted that there are 400 different chemicals in the raw form of marijuana and only one of them, cannabidiol (CBD), has health benefits.

In other countries, she said they are able to separate the substances and produce marijuana leaves that have higher CBD content.

Marijuana use has been de-criminalized in some countries like Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico, albeit restrictions still come with possession and sale.

Colombia, for example, sets the limit at 22 grams for personal use and 20 plants for cultivation. Certain states in the US also recently approved the medical use of marijuana.

Ubial likewise admitted she is aware that some doctors might be recommending marijuana to their patients, but the FDA has not received applications for a special permit.

“I’ve heard of that but there is a process that an exemption must be secured from the FDA,” she said.

Fernandez was apprehended in Pampanga after the police found one kilogram of marijuana in his car last October 3.