December 7, 2023

Davao del Norte 1st District Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez was once one of the staunchest allies of former President Rodrigo R. Duterte until he was unseated as a speaker in favor of Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in a coup that was purportedly orchestrated by then Davao City mayor Sarah Duterte.
As an ally, he was also an avid supporter of the drug war that was implemented by the past administration. Hence, Alvarez is the least expected legislator to legalize the use of marijuana in the country. But, in a surprising twist of fate, he filed a bill legalizing the use of marijuana.
Alvarez has filed House Bill 6783 legislating to remove marijuana or cannabis and all its derivatives from the list of prohibited drugs. His bill aims to amend Republic Act 9165 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 by delisting marijuana among those identified as dangerous drugs.
If House Bill 6783 passes the requisite number of readings and becomes a law, the cultivation, production, use, sale and processing of marijuana, for whatever purpose be it medical or recreational, shall no longer be illegal.
Alvarez justifies his move by asserting that the legalization of marijuana will have more advantages than disadvantages. For starters, he invokes the economics of it. Other countries that have legalized marijuana have doubled their gross revenues through the sale of the drug. If this same scenario will prevail in the country, the legalization of marijuana will address the tax deficit and therefore, more funds will accrue in the coffers of the government that can be spent for the needs of the people.
Regarding health issues, Alvarez dispels the ill-effects by pointing out that there are other more harmful vices which are legalized and are tolerated by society. For instance, cigarettes and liquor, which are both addictive and cancerous are legal. Vaping, a relatively new alternative to smoking, is also legal. He posits that if these harmful vices are legal, why not marijuana? After all, he concludes, more people have died smoking cigarettes and/or drinking intoxicating liquor than using cannabis.
Alvarez is, of course, treading on dangerous waters. Probably, if he limited the scope of House Bill 6783 for medical purposes, it would be palatable. But his bill is so generally worded that it encompasses the unlimited and unregulated cultivation, use, sale and processing of the prohibited drug. Contrary to his reasoning, not even the economic side of it justifies his sweeping permission to legalize marijuana. Legalizing marijuana will add another layer in our economic system that can be corrupted by the politicians. It can be the root of the so-called narco-politics.
Neither is the congressman’s justification that marijuana should be legalized in the same mold as cigarettes and liquor a sound reason. Unlike cigarettes and liquor, long term addiction to marijuana impels its users to graduate to higher kinds of addictive drugs like heroin, cocaine and shabu. It does not take a medical expert to tell us that users of heroin, cocaine and shabu have demonstrated violent tendencies which, in turn, promote crimes and criminality. These drugs, much like marijuana, are brain blockers that make its users live in a dream world. A world where there is no pain, no pressure, no accountability, no consequences and no responsibility. Surely, no one wants a society that is pervaded by addicts. This is precisely the reason why until now, long after Duterte stepped down as the president, the problem with drugs persists.
If it is any consolation, Alvarez is realistic about the situation. However, his realism is contrived by the fact that the evil that marijuana brings will always outweigh any benefits. As the saying goes, “The end does not justify the means.”