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Mark Anthony Fernandez faces possible life imprisonment for marijuana possession

Actor Mark Anthony Fernandez was arrested for having with him a kilo of marijuana at a checkpoint in Angeles City, Pampanga late Monday night. For his part, Fernandez steadfastly denied the charge, saying that all he had are several ounces of marijuana and that the police planted the bulk of what was supposedly caught in his possession.

Hindi po akin ‘yun. Ang dala ko lang po, ounce. Tapos nung natigil po ako, may naglagay po sa kotse ko nung isang kilo [I just want to clarify, it’s not mine. I only had an ounce. But when I was intercepted at the checkpoint, somebody placed a kilo of marijuana],” he said. He also claimed that he is only using marijuana (scientific name: Cannabis sativa) to deal with cancer.

Under Section 11 of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, possessing 500 grams or more of marijuana is punishable by life imprisonment and a fine ranging from P500,000 up to P10,000,000. If Fernandez’ camp can eventually prove that possesses less than 300 grams of marijuana when he was arrested, he will still deal with a prison term ranging from 12 to 20 years and a fine of P300,000 to P400,000.

mark anthony fernandez arrested

Actor Mark Anthony Fernandez was arrested for suspected possession of one kilo of marijuana (Credits: www.psr.ph)

This is not the first time that Fernandez, son of the late action star Rudy Fernandez and actress-turned-politician Alma Moreno, have been tagged in a drug-related controversy. His former girlfriend, actress Claudine Barretto, famously split with him during the 1990s over his drug use. Here’s how Barretto described it in a 2002 interview with The Philippine Star entertainment columnist Ricky Lo:

Lo: Was your relationship with Mark Anthony really turbulent? One time daw, you had a verbally violent fight at the lobby of the condo you’re staying in. Nagsigawan daw kayo.
Barretto: “It happened only once. Yung talagang gulo, na buong Platinum ay nabulabog. That was the fight that led to our break-up, after three years of on-and-off relationship. It happened at the time Mark was really into drugs na.(He has since been rehabilitated. – Lo) At the same time naman, I was having problems with my own family. My brother was also into drugs. Kaya I was really, really mad atthat drug.”

Lo: Shabu?
Barretto: “Yes. So I told Mark, ‘Pag yan, pinatulan mo, wala na tayo.’ It was as simple as that.”

What about medical marijuana?

Some groups and individuals in the scientific community have long argued in favor of easing restrictions in marijuana use. For example, former Health Secretary Jaime Galvez-Tan emphasized that one of the derivatives of marijuana,the cannabis oil or cannabidiol, can alleviate the pain caused by cancer and are also effective in treating some neurological conditions such as epilepsy.

A cause for optimism among advocates is President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement shortly after his election that he is open to the legalization of marijuana use for medicinal purposes. “There are medicines right now being developed or already in the market that contains marijuana as a component,” he said.

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