Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is known around the world for his hard, relentless stance against drugs. That is why it came as a shock to many when he admitted to using marijuana to stay awake for strenuous activities and to keep up with his grueling schedule.
Duterte made the remark during the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) National Organizing Committee’s conferment of awards in Malacañang Palace. In the first part of his speech, he complained about his schedule when attending the annual ASEAN summits. This year, the Philippines is the one hosting the event.
In last year’s summit in Singapore, Duterte reportedly missed five major events in order to take “power naps.”
The president later dismissed his remarks on cannabis as a joke.
Duterte’s marijuana comment was expected to spark controversy after the president’s war on drugs had already killed nearly 5,000 people since he took office two years ago.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said a day after Duterte’s remarks that people “have to respect the joke,” adding that one “cannot deprive any person his right to crack jokes.”
This is not the first time that Duterte and his administration have passed off statements as being said in jest. The president, who became notorious for cursing in public speeches, explained that joking is part of his style.
Aside from saying that he takes pot, Duterte has also previously said that he used fentanyl patches to manage pain from past injuries.
Cannabis remains to be an illegal substance in the Philippines. While there is a pending bill to legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, Duterte has vowed that he will never sign it into law.
However, now, it seems that the president has changed his mind.
Panelo said that while Duterte has never smoked weed in his life, he is amenable to legalizing and regulating medical cannabis.