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Medical marijuana as COVID-19 cure?

May 26, 2020 - Tuesday 4:05 AM by Jimmy Laking

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My friend Ferdy Bayasen, a barangay official in Baguio City, sent me a copy of an Israel magazine story that revolved around the plan of an Israeli hospital to test COVID-19 patients with medicinal cannabis, which is known to have antiviral properties.

The article seems to indicate that the Israelis are determined, and probably convinced, that marijuana can be an antidote to the virus.

Ferdy said if successful, the Israeli experiment should be good news to the Philippines where marijuana plants are burned to the ground once discovered.

Marijuana has been grown as a cash crop along the tri-boundary provinces of the Cordillera region for decades now, with Baguio City as a transshipment point and with Metro Manila as the market. Illegally, that is.

The plant grows robustly in Mindanao and occasionally we come across reports of captured cannabis contraband in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur.

One village in Benguet where the plant was planted illegally virtually “lost” half of its males to prison after they were caught with the contraband.

The magazine article said Israeli researchers are focused on investigating cannabidiol, “the non-psychoactive component of cannabis also known as CBD, (that) can slow down the spread of the virus and stop moderate patients from turning critical.”

The article revealed that dozens of COVID-19 patients in moderate condition at the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv are expected to be treated.

The article quoted senior anesthesiologist Barak Cohen as saying the treatment would alleviate symptoms by using a component of the plant that is considered safe and non-addictive.

The article revealed that researchers at Tel Aviv University have begun developing a CBD-based drug that has been shown to be effective against inflammation for coronavirus-infected lung cells.

Not only that. The Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa is also working to develop two complementary drugs based on cannabis to fight the virus.

It seems the Israelis are not doing it alone. At the University of Miami, a study is under way on the use of cannabis as a COVID-19 treatment. One of its studies is focused on how the virus is impacting American cannabis users during the peak of the outbreak.

The source of this material said a partnership involving the University of Lethbridge in Canada revealed that cannabis extracts could be used in treatments to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. But the study is still subject to review.

What all these indicate is that world-wide, laboratories are working on an antidote. Mayor Digong said it is just a matter of time before a vaccine is discovered.

All these must be good news to my classmate in college, the current Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao.

Chungalao is the same legislator who first proposed in 2009 the legalization of marijuana production for medical purposes when Prospero Nograles was House Speaker.

In February this year, the Ifugao legislator got the first piece of good news when the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) approved in principle a resolution that would allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for alleviating severe forms of epilepsy.

Now CBD is considered one of two components of marijuana known not to produce psychoactive effects. The other is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

The DDB, the government’s policy-making body on the prevention and control of drug abuse, apparently is influenced by a World Health Organization (WHO) report backing the use of CBD.

The WHO report said: “In humans, CBD exhibits no effects indicative of any abuse or dependence potential … To date, there is no evidence of public health-related problems associated with the use of pure CBD.”

The report added that scientific proof showed that CBD alleviates seizures in people with epilepsy.

In sponsoring the bill then, Chungalao also advocated for safeguards to prevent use of “medical marijuana” from getting out of hand.