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Wartime Medical Cannabis Bill in Ukraine

medical cannabis Ukraine
Written by Sarah Friedman

Wartime isn’t always the best time to get things done, but that’s exactly what’s going on in former Soviet Bloc. While amid war with Russia, it looks like there may be a medical cannabis legalization in Ukraine. Beyond this as a large undertaking during such a time of upheaval, it also marks an increased loosening of regulation in that part of the world.

War is awful, but there might be a slight silver lining if a medical cannabis bill passes in Ukraine. It could certainly be useful to those suffering from the stress of the conflict. This news publication focuses on independent reporting of the cannabis and psychedelics landscapes. Be a part of it by subscribing to the THC Weekly Newsletter, and also get yourself some cool products like smoking paraphernalia, or cannabinoid compounds such as HHC-O, Delta 8Delta 9 THCDelta-10 HHCTHCOTHCVTHCP HHC. Please keep in mind we only encourage consumers purchase products they are happy with.

What’s the news?

Sometimes wars greatly slow things down. The military uses up resources, and the general atmosphere is panic among the people. However, it can be a time to push things through. Let’s be honest, when it comes to unpopular (or less popular) legislation, one of the best ways to pass it is when something else is going on. In the case of the medical cannabis bill in Ukraine, it might be less about wholly unpopular legislation, and more about pushing an idea through that is growing in popularity, but still technically needs more time.

Whereas the war could have slowed this progress, it actually looks to have sped it up. On June 7th, 2022, Health Minister Viktor Liashko put up a Facebook post relaying that Ukraine’s cabinet passed a bill “on regulating the circulation of cannabis plants for medical, industrial purposes, scientific and scientific-technical activities to create the conditions for expanding the access of patients to the necessary treatment of cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from war.”

So, not only is a medical cannabis legalization possibly on its way in Ukraine, but the war itself is now a reason to push it forward. Continued the Health Minister, “We understand the negative consequences of war on the state of mental health. We understand the number of people who will need medical treatment as a result of this impact. And we understand that there is no time to wait.”

cannabis in Ukraine

This is not the end of the story, however. The medical cannabis bill in Ukraine must pass the entire parliament with at least 226 votes. Nearly the same bill was up last summer, and failed to do so. The hope in government is that there’s more support for it this time around. Though last year’s bill didn’t pass for a full medical legalization, Ukraine did legalize the use of pharma cannabis medications like dronabinol, nabilone, and nabiximols.

What will the bill allow?

Every medical cannabis bill is a little different. Just because multiple countries pass these legalizations, doesn’t mean they all allow the same things. Ukraine has it’s own set of stipulations attached to its cannabis bill, though not everything has been made clear to the public yet.

Under the bill, the government would have strict control of everything from cultivation, to the sale of the product. This includes all licensing and authorizations for cultivation, product production, and sales. Patients would require a doctor’s prescription in order to receive medicine. Though the industry would start with imports, Ukraine would eventually step up its own production so as not to rely on other countries.

In terms of what is allowable in a product, especially in terms of THC limitations, that determination would be made by a central body. That body would also determine what kind of laboratory tests are necessary, and by whom. No further specifics were mentioned.

More than 50 conditions are given for treatment with medical cannabis under the bill. These include cancer, PTSD, neurological disorders, and neuropathic chronic pain. Prescriptions would be electronic for complete monitoring of patient treatment.

What do Ukrainians think?

In order for a bill to pass, it helps if both the government and the people are on board. How does a medical cannabis legalization go over with the people of Ukraine? Back in October 2020, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, at the time a candidate for president, conducted a national poll. According to this poll, 64.88% of respondents want medical cannabis, opposed to 29.53% who do not. Technically the question they responded to was whether they thought medical cannabis should be used to help treat pain in the terminally ill.

Ukraine war

In terms of the bill last year, the vote showed quite a bit of support, even if not enough to get it passed. It needed 226 votes in favor, and only received 184, (with 33 against, and 61 abstaining). The majority were in favor of it, it just wasn’t a wide-enough majority to get it through. If cannabis acceptance and legalization are on a trajectory, this year might be the year it happens.

The war now acts as an instigator for change, since cannabis has repeatedly shown useful for treating PTSD. Plenty of experts have made statements about Ukrainian exposure to psychological trauma because of the war, and realistically, we already know that war is capable of causing such issues due to its brutal nature. This is evidenced by countless stories of psychological damage to veterans and locals in war zones. It seems this notion is being promoted in order to build support to pass the bill.

This is opposite to the smear campaigns that Ukraine publicized to its people in the first place. Ukraine used to be one of the biggest global suppliers of hemp. Prior to the 1950’s, before the industry was wiped out, Ukraine had hundreds of thousands of hectares devoted to growing industrial hemp, which was used for things likes oil, cloth, food, and for export. No one had a problem with this until prohibitive propaganda gained traction the world over, infiltrating into Ukraine, and forcing the country to illegalize its production like nearly everywhere else.

Cannabis in Ukraine right now

As of right now, cannabis is illegal in Ukraine for all purposes, aside from the limited medical uses associated with the pharma medications that were legalized last year. Cannabis is considered a narcotic, and THC as psychoactive. These designations mean that cannabis is strictly controlled by the government.

Ukraine’s two regulatory drug laws are the 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 covers administrative issues, and the second covers punishments. There is no difference in Ukraine between softer and harder drugs.

Technically, Ukraine already has a level of decriminalization, as private drug use is not a crime. This is not actually referred to as a decriminalization in the country, but essentially acts in that way. Any public use can incur penalties of up to three years in prison. Possession with intent to sell small amounts is only considered an administrative offense, while intent to sell larger amounts can land a person in prison for up to three years.

medical cannabis field

Much like the rest of the world, illegal production, possession, and sale come with prison sentences. In Ukraine you can do 3-12 years for these crimes depending on particulars. Treatment options are also available in some scenarios as a way to abate jail time. Cooperating with the police is another way to reduce penalties.

All of the above would remain exactly the same if the medical cannabis legalization in Ukraine passes. The legalization would only cover medical and scientific use, and cannabis would remain illegal for recreational purposes.

Ukraine is not the only country in the former Soviet Bloc which has broken with the region to loosen regulation (or attempt to). Georgia became the third legalized recreational country in 2018, when a constitutional court ruled it was unconstitutional to limit cannabis possession and use if no 3rd party is hurt from it. Georgia hasn’t, however, set up a legalized sales market, or legalized cultivation, making for uneven laws which permit possession and use, but with no legal way to obtain it.

Conclusion

Wars certainly change things, sometimes fast, sometimes slow. In the case of Ukraine, while the war has caused untold damage, it also might result in a quicker medical cannabis legalization for the country. This certainly doesn’t make war a good thing, but it does provide a possible silver lining to an otherwise horrible situation.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.

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