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Philippines - Farmers Say Marijuana Won't Improve Lives


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BAGUIO CITY, Benguet, -- A long-time marijuana farmer in Benguet said congressional measures to legitimize the cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes would not help farmers uplift their economic status.

"I have spent 10 years planting marijuana and the only thing it gave me is (three square meals) for my family. I have not been able to send them to school because I did not really earn from (marijuana). Now I am concerned because I believe marijuana has also destroyed the ecology of Benguet," the farmer said.

Limited use

Ifugao Rep. Solomon Chungalao proposed the legalization of marijuana "on a limited aspect for use of laboratories to produce medicines." He said marijuana has always been a high-profit crop for the region.

Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, who sponsored the proposed 2005 budget of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, said he was willing to co-sponsor Chungalao's bill provided the bill and its impact are studied well.

"Kawawa kami (We are to be pitied)," the Inquirer source said, when asked how they could be benefited by a legitimate marijuana trade.

He said many of their farms could no longer grow good vegetables, after they were sprinkled with marijuana seeds that were supplied by marijuana contractors.

"I don't know why this is happening, but if all farmers are allowed to grow marijuana, I don't think we can go back to vegetables anymore," he said.

No study

Although no scientific report backs these fears, Mayor Rogelio Leon of Kapangan, Benguet, said a deeper study should be conducted to determine how Benguet lands could accommodate commercial marijuana farming.

Kapangan is known in the Cordillera for its illegal marijuana plantations.

Leon said it is important for Congress to develop marijuana farming zones to restrict it to a few farmers.

He said marijuana farmers used to cultivate vegetables but their town's economy could not absorb their produce.

Most farmers in Benguet and Mt. Province have been fighting to keep their vegetables in Metro Manila markets when they were displaced by smuggled Chinese vegetables and imported European vegetables in the supermarkets.

By Vincent Cabreza
Inquirer News Service
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