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A Difference of (Drug) Opinion

Rodrigo Duterte president of the Philippines

Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines

Drugs, drug use, and drug laws are so complex, it seems as if people and governments have split personalities about those complexities. One of the latest complications is occurring in the Philippines.

In October, 2017, the House of Representatives in the Philippines approved a bill that would legalize and regulate medical marijuana in the country. The bill would enable pharmacists in special centers in hospitals to distribute marijuana to patients. Such proposed legislation is similar to the controlled medical use of the drug in other countries, such as Canada, and certain U.S. states.

While the proposed legalization of medical marijuana is not unusual when compared to other places, the fact that this proposal is in the Philippines is a little unexpected.

The president of the Philippines in 2017 is Rodrigo Duterte, who supports harsh punishment for drug dealers and even drug users. How harsh? Well, Duterte has allegedly encouraged the murder of people who sell and use drugs. He has even stated that he supports the killing of his own children if they become involved in the drug trade. Since Duterte became president in 2016, thousands of citizens of the Philippines with real or suspected ties to drugs have been murdered, allegedly because of Duterte’s strong antidrug stance.

Such wildly divergent opinions on drugs don’t just exist in the Philippines. They also exist in the United States. After all, the U.S. federal government still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, a category that also includes drugs such as heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.

According the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Schedule I drugs have “a high potential for abuse” but “no currently accepted medical use.” But you could argue that a growing number of U.S. state governments disagree with this assessment, since they have approved the legalization of marijuana for medical use.

These developments illustrate that there are often wildly divergent opinions about drugs, sometimes within just one country. Given these opinions, it would be surprising if people were able to reach any sort of consensus about such a complicated topic.