Zdravstvuyte and welcome to Moscow, the mysterious, majestic and imposing capital of Russia. Where Vodka is swigged to the cheers of nostravya and hot baths or banya’s are enjoyed by all. A Beautiful city with a wealth of history, but what is the Russian capital’s attitude to cannabis?
Would you be safe smoking a spliff in front of St Peter’s Basilica? In this edition of cannabis culture, we’re jetting off to Moskva to find out. Here at CBD testers, when we talk about cannabis culture we are discussing ‘the way that cannabis can be perceived and treated within a society, city or country.’ This means all aspects of cannabis not just smoking, but also the attitudes and use of cannabinoid oil products and the attitudes towards medical cannabis too. So, wrap up warm, drink down your borscht and welcome to Moscow.
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Moscow is the capital of Russia, located in the far western side of the giant country. First mentioned in 1147, it has grown from a small city located on the river Moskva into the largest city in Europe, by population. Moscow was the capital of the USSR until it fell apart, when it then was declared the capital of the Russian Federation. Throughout history, Moscow has seen battles and sieges, from Napoleon to the Nazis, both falling at the walls of the Kremlin. It is a mega-city, the financial capital of Russia as well as its cultural capital with many theatres, writers and poets hailing from the city. The Bolshoy is one of the largest and most famous ballet theatres in the world and the Moscow Arts theatre was the original home of Checkov’s The Seagull and Uncle Vanya. Let’s take a closer look at some of the must see places to visit in the Russian capital.
Located in the centre of Moscow, Red Square is one of the most famous tourist sites in the whole of europe. An imposing public square just outside the dark red walls of the Kremlin, the red square would make any one feel tiny. The name actually comes from the Russian word Krasny, which used to mean beautiful, but later meant red in more modern Russian. The square is home to a whole host of famous sights, including: St Peter’s basilica the candy coloured church with beautiful spires, Lenin’s tomb, where you are still able to visit the preserved body of the founding father of the USSR, and the Russian State historical museum, a fantastic collection of artefacts about the Russian state.
The beautiful Pushkin museum is a must see in the city of Moscow. Home to over 700 000 individual pieces of art, there’s almost too much to see in one day. Hundreds of sculptures, beautiful paintings and from across the whole world, it’s one of the best art museums I’ve ever visited.
The Moscow Metro
I know, you’re probably wondering why I’d put a mode of public transport on the top things to see in Moscow, but the metro is in itself a work of art. Each station was individually built to be as grand as possible. Some have works of art, some are painted like the inside of a great ballroom… One thing’s for sure, each one is spectacularly individual.
Cannabis in Moscow
So what is the relationship between the muscovites and cannabis? Well it’s a little tricky, recently the government has been cracking down on drug control and convictions in the city. The laws have become tough, as described below, and it is very tricky to find cannabis in Russia and even dangerous to do so. This tricky relationship with cannabis started with the USSR, who cracked down on cannabis and opium in the 60’s and 70’s to defeat what they called narcomania. These strict laws have lasted into modern Russia and Putin has vocally demonstrated his dislike of drugs and drug culture.
Is It Legal?
To be blunt, no. Russia has very strict drug laws and these extend to cannabis. Russia has one of the highest numbers of people per capita imprisoned for drug possession in europe and this is likely due to the rather draconian laws surrounding drugs, including cannabis. Cannabis is included on list 1 of narcotic and psychoactive substances, which means it is treated with the strictest level of control. Possession of cannabis in Russia and Moscow would lead to a fine of a few thousand dollars and this is only if you’re caught with an amount of less than 6 grams. A law passed in 2006 meant that any amount below 6 grams was classed as an administrative issue, so dealt with fines, anything above was considered a large amount and could lead to a prison sentence or a large fine of up to 40,000 rubles.
However, if the person caught, willingly hands in the cannabis and then gives up any information that may lead to more drug related arrests, then they may avoid penalties. It is particularly risky for a foreigner to be in possession of cannabis in Russia. Polica may be more likely to ask for a bribe, which may be even higher than the fine. If you don’t pay this, they can threaten to take your passport or fine you. In fact, recently an American student was fined $230 for the possession of cannabis in St Petersburg. What’s more interesting is that the cannabis was medicinal. Medical cannabis as well as cannabinoid oils are illegal in Russia, although there is research going into the benefits of cannabis medically. Also, interestingly medical cannabis was briefly permitted for anyone arriving into Moscow for the 2018 world cup!
Picking up in Moscow
Despite the tough laws, people do still smoke cannabis in Moscow. In fact a recent survey suggested that there were around 8 million drug users in Russia. Picking up drugs in Moscow is not strictly advised, considering the illegality. However, if one was desperately in need of some cannabis, then there are methods. Many reddit groups discuss the best ways to pick up cannabis in Moscow and many advise visiting nightclubs and speaking to younger citizens. Drugs do exist in the city, however they have to be found. Locals will be better to ask than any drug sellers on the street. It is strongly advised not to accept any drugs from someone selling on the streets, firstly because it is impossible to know whether these sellers are police or not and secondly because the quality is likely to be horrendous.
Even when you do find a local to advise you on where to pick up cannabis, the results can be somewhat complicated. I stayed in Moscow for two months and a friend of mine was sent on a rather comical journey to pick up cannabis. A local had advised him to message on a particular facebook site, protected from police view. Someone from this site then messaged him a location (after he’d bank transferred some money). The location was an hour outside of Moscow, in a forest… He had to cycle out into the forest and follow the exact directions to a marker on his map. When there, he found a small baggy, hidden underneath some foliage. We tried it… it was terrible, but the journey, he says, was worth it for the story.
The Future of Drugs in Moscow
A reform in Russian drug policy doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. In a bleak survey, done in 2014, only 14% of Russians believed that drugs such as Cannabis should be legalised. With a proportion that low, it seems unlikely that the government will make any large scale changes. A quite famous case of an anti corruption journalist called Andrey Golunov, who was arrested for supposed trafficking of cannabis, has stirred some debate about the laws surrounding drugs in Russia.
The journalist claimed that the cannabis found on him had been planted and, indeed, the court agreed. The law, article 228, that allows for arrests to be made for people carrying over 6 grams, has been called under question and there are reports that the government is willing to discuss shortening the quite brutal sentences for non-trafficking related drug possession. Perhaps this, as well as a growing scepticism within youth groups in Russia, could be the start of a slow progression towards legalisation.
So, perhaps Moscow isn’t exactly the most cannabis friendly city in the world… in fact it may be one of the strictest in Europe, but there is still evidence of some cannabis culture. Within younger generations, in the reddit groups, in the surreptitious packages in forests, cannabis culture is still extant in the beautiful city of Moscow. However, we really don’t recommend actively seeking out cannabis in the Russian capital, at least not just yet, as the law is still very strict and unless you want to pay a hefty fine at least, it may be safer to enjoy the city without our wonderful plant… at least until the Russian’s come to their senses about cannabis.
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Disclaimer: Hi, I’m a researcher and writer. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or businessperson. All information in my articles is sourced and referenced, and all opinions stated are mine. I am not giving anyone advise, and though I am more than happy to discuss topics, should someone have a further question or concern, they should seek guidance from a relevant professional.