War is no fun, that’s for sure. And one of the only inarguable facts is that it can cause a lot of damage to folks on both sides. Right now, Russia and Ukraine are embroiled in an escalating conflict that could cause damage to Ukraine’s cannabis industry. But even as this goes on, Ukraine continues work to legalize medical cannabis.
Ukraine is certainly under some stress right now, but its still on the trajectory to legalize medical cannabis soon. We cover everything important going on in this world; subscribe to the THC Weekly Newsletter for more stories like this, and get direct and exclusive access to deals on cannabis products like flowers, vapes, edibles, and more! Also check out our offers on cannabinoid compounds, like HHC-O, Delta 8, Delta 9 THC, Delta-10 THC, THCO, THCV, THCP & HHC, which we have great discounts for. You can find them in our “Best-of” lists, so go ahead, and remember to enjoy responsibly!
What’s going on right now?
This is not a political publication, and war is a complicated subject, as it can cause hateful feelings toward entire countries while forgetting about individual pain and struggles. For these reasons, we pass no judgement on what is going on, except to say that we sympathize with all parties being hurt in any way, and hope for a peaceful resolution soon.
Having said that, and without trying to establish why this is happening, or whether reasons given have any relevance, Russia waged an attack on Ukraine starting on February 24th, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin had previously downplayed any physical attacks happening, but in a statement about being fearful for his own country’s safety on the 24th, began attacks in the North, East, and South of Ukraine, by land, sea, and air. This has included bombing city centers, and has led to a number of refugees fleeing the country.
War can cause all kinds of damage to economies, as well as causing major issues in certain sectors by destroying land, supply lines, and by requiring workers to go to war. Ukraine is now experiencing many of these issues. However, even as this war wages on, Ukraine continues to look to expand its laws, and is working to pass a bill to legalize medical cannabis in the country. Ultimately, how much the war will stymie progress on this matter is hard to say at the moment.
Current cannabis laws in Ukraine
War is war, but life still goes on around it, even if in a more complicated way. So, regardless of current actions, or what might come in the future, this is where Ukraine currently stands when it comes to cannabis. Cannabis is considered a narcotic substance, and THC is considered psychoactive, both of which designations make for a strict control of cannabis by the government.
Drugs are governed by two laws in Ukraine, Law Of Ukraine ‘On narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors’, and the Law Of Ukraine ‘On the measures of counteraction to the illegal circulation of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and precursors and to their abuse’. The first is administrative, and the second penal. Drugs are not differentiated by ‘soft’ and ‘hard’, so cannabis is treated the same as heroin in terms of punishments.
Drug use in private is not a criminal act, which means Ukraine has a certain level of decriminalization, even if its not called that. Using in public, however, can garner up to three years in prison according to Article 316 of the Criminal Code. Possession without intent to sell is only an administrative offense if the amount is small, with amounts larger than this incurring up to three years in prison as per Article 309.
Illegally producing, possessing, or selling can incur 3-12 years in prison depending on specifics of the crime according to Article 307. This can be abated for possession charges as per Article 309 if the offender chooses to go into a treatment program instead. Articles 307 and 311 also stipulate that for some crimes, if the offender willingly gives over the drugs, explains where they came from, and helps law enforcement, they can also get out of criminal sanctions.
Medical cannabis in Ukraine
Currently, there is no comprehensive medical cannabis program in Ukraine, although in April of 2021, pharma cannabis medicines dronabinol and nabiximols, as well as certain other synthetic THC and CBD medications, were approved for use. This is for very limited use, with very strict rules set out for any doctor who wishes to prescribe them. It does not in any way allow for medical use using the plant directly.
As far as CBD, Ukraine originally made no specific mention of the compound, but did bar taking extracts out of the plant, which made extracting CBD illegal. There is no actual prohibition on importing CBD products, but the absence of understandable regulation had essentially nixed the industry for fear of breaking laws. This changed in 2021 when an update to bylaws confirmed CBD isolates to be non-controlled substances, which opened the door for the commercialization of CBD isolate products.
The idea of reforming the laws around medical cannabis started in earnest in 2019 with a January 30th petition by the Ukrainian Association of Medical Cannabis. This petition was backed by 16 public organizations, and was created on the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) site. It called for legalizing medical cannabis to help with medical ailments like cancer, PTSD, and epilepsy, and was supported by the acting Health Minister of the time, Ulana Suprun.
By March of that year, 25,000 signatures had been collected, which is the required amount to be taken up by a Parliamentary Committee. It was unanimously supported by the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Interethnic Relations, which allowed it to be registered in the Ukrainian Parliament in May of that year.
Will Ukraine legalize medical cannabis?
To give an idea of what the public thinks of this, a 2020 poll that asked the question: “Do you support the legalization of cannabis for medical purposes – to reduce pain in critically ill patients?” received a response of 64.88% in favor, and 29.53% against.
Where does progress stand now? The publication ukrinform stated on March 4th, 2022, via Mykhailo Radutskyi, that “The government bill on the legalization of medical cannabis has already been published for discussion… This document will be registered. It will come to our committee. I hope that the committee’s members will support it.”
Radutskyi is MP from the Servant of the People parliamentary faction, as well as a member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Public Health, Medical Assistance and Medical Insurance. He went on to say how an update to medical cannabis law would allow more than two million residents access to cannabis medicine. The Verkhovna Rada must adopt this bill in order for this to go through.
The current bill is slightly different from one proposed by committee members. It allows for stronger controls by Ukrainian police, while less clearly defining the importance of medical cannabis, and how it would work with imports, according to Radutskyi.
Legalizing medical cannabis is also supported by President Zelenskyy, who outwardly stated his opinion during an interview to RBC-Ukraine. He went on to create the previously mentioned poll to assess how the Ukrainian public feels about legalization. It stands to reason that with the president behind the initiative, and much of the government agreeing, that Ukraine will likely legalize medical cannabis soon enough.
The war and how it effects the cannabis trade
Apart from Ukraine working to legalize medical cannabis, the country, as well as the rest of Europe, is watching what happens to see if the current issues with Russia effect the overall industry in Europe. Luckily, so far, supply chains seem to be intact since Germany is the main supplier in the EU, with other so-far-unaffected countries also making exports including Denmark, Portugal, Spain, Holland, Greece, Columbia, Uruguay, Australia, Lesotho, Uganda, and Israel.
What could cause more of an issue, is simply rising energy costs due to the war, since EU-GMP certification requires all cannabis to be grown indoors. Stated Lio Pharmaceuticals CEO Alain Menghé à Menghé, “Unfortunately, the situation is already causing higher energy prices which will impact anyone in the industry who needs to transport, store, or manufacture the plant or drugs made from it.” How badly this will actually cause problems, remains to be seen.
On the other hand, according to locals in the industry, the war will undoubtedly negatively affect Ukraine’s own cannabis industry. They cite the bolstering of a black market, along with the unavailability of medicines, as the reasons. The second point seems way more important here, as a black market exists everywhere already. However, all issues are compounded by the idea that the current situation will slow down the ability for change, by lowering the priority of getting through a legalization at a time like this.
Ukraine certainly has a lot on its plate right now, and it wouldn’t be a shock if legalizing medical cannabis is put on the back burner. Hopefully, the current situation will be resolved soon, and life can get back on track. If this is the case, we might well see Ukraine legalize medical cannabis by year’s end.
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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 advice, 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.