GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 28 July) – Authorities stepped up their anti-drug efforts amid a seemingly growing preference for vaping cannabis with the seizure on Wednesday of a package of marijuana oil and cannabis kush worth over one million pesos from a government health worker in Kidapawan City.
The seizure came after the controversial vape bill lapsed into law on Monday, July 25, making it already legal for people as young as 18 years old to smoke e-cigarettes and use other vaping products.
Kat Abad, spokesperson of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Region 12, said they arrested Jude Paolo Javier, an employee of the Kidapawan City Health Office and consignee of the package that contained the contraband items at the post office in Kidapawan.
While it was not mentioned how the lawmen got wind of the package, Abad said it was a “controlled delivery operation” where authorities consisting of agents from PDEA, the Bureau of Customs and the police, were waiting at the post office in Kidapawan for the claimant of the package.
Regulation No. 2 Series of 2002 of the Dangerous Drugs Board defines controlled delivery as “The investigative technique of allowing an unlawful or suspect consignment of any dangerous drug and/or controlled precursor and essential chemical, equipment or paraphernalia, or property believed to be derived directly or indirectly from any offense, to pass into, through or out of the country under supervision of an authorized officer, with a view to gathering evidence to identify any person involved in a dangerous drug-related offense or to facilitate prosecution of that offense.”
Upon inspection the package yielded 927 grams of marijuana kush and 21 vape cartridges containing marijuana oil. The items were valued to be worth 1,303,050 pesos.
The parcel, declared to contain kitchen utensils, came from the United States.
Javier, who was detained, denied that the contents of the package belonged to him.
Abad said Javier will have his day in court as he will be charged for violating Sections 5 and 11 of Article II of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act Of 2002.
A PDEA agent said the contraband items have high market demand, especially the cannabis oil which has become increasingly popular among local marijuana users for its fast and potent effects.
The bill on Vaporized Nicotine and Non-Nicotine Products Regulation Act, which was passed in the previous Congress, lapsed into law after President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not act on it within the prescribed period.
Legislative measures lapse into law if the President does not act on them after 30 days of receipt.
The law regulates the sale, promotion and packaging of vaping products and lowers the minimum age of individuals who may buy or use them from 21 years old to 18.
Its passage created a controversy with critics saying that vape products are harmful and should not be marketed as alternatives to conventional cigarettes.
The Department of Health has expressed concern on the serious consequences of the new Vape Law in a country where close to 17 million adult Filipinos are tobacco users.
During the school year 2020-2021, the Department of Education (DepEd) listed 1.1 million students in the 18-to-20 age bracket. DepEd had expressed opposition to the measure.
In 2019, 14.1 percent of Filipino students aged 13-15 were using electronic cigarettes, said the Global Youth Tobacco Survey.
The new law is seen to boost the vape market among the young people.
Lightshade.com, a website that deals on cannabis, said oil is not the only option as there are different forms of marijuana concentrates that can be vaped, like wax, a concentrate called shatter, the “live resin” for its glass-like consistency, which is something between waxy and liquid that gives a highly sensory and indulgent vaping experience.
The website also mentions hash oil, known as honey oil or cannabis oil. It is often vaped in liquid form.
Kush is a popular marijuana strain originally grown in the Kush mountains in India and brought to the United States in the 1970s.
Over the years, marijuana growers have developed new strains with specific characteristics by crossbreeding the cannabis plants.
Authorities believe there are now at least 700 strains of marijuana in the world. (Rommel G. Rebollido/MindaNews)