In a Facebook post on June 7 2022, the Ukrainian Health Minister, Viktor Liashko, declared that his government had initiated draft law no 7457 that would legalise medical cannabis. The text of the bill can be seen on the Ukrainian parliament’s website.

Health Minister Viktor Liashko, who announced the bill. Photo: Суспільне. Тернопіль

The need for such a law, Liashko explained, was due to “the negative effects of [Russia’s invasion] on mental health.” The war began just over 100 days before. He added, “there is no time to wait.”

Over two million people will benefit from this law

Mykhailo Radutskyi, an MP for the Servant of the People party and a member of the parliamentary Committee on Public Health, Medical Assistance and Medical Insurance, disclosed that over two million people would benefit.

How things are with cannabis currently

Cannabis for recreational purposes would be as illegal as ever, so there would be “strict control over the cultivation, production, and sale of medical cannabis products.” People will get medical cannabis through a doctor’s prescription.

Possession of up to 5 grammes (0.18 oz) of dope for recreational purposes has been decriminalised in Ukraine. Before the war, visitors found it relatively easy to acquire, although the quality was questionable. It was not unusual to see people smoking it in public parks.

This has been tried before

The liberal Holos Party introduced a similar bill, no 5596, in June 2021, but the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, its parliament, rejected it. Only 184 lawmakers voted for it, 42 short of the requirement. There were 33 votes against and 61 abstentions. Two months prior to that, Ukraine’s government legalised the cannabinoids dronabinol, nabilone and nabiximols.

Most people support the bill

The Ukrainian daily newspaper Kyiv Post reported on a national poll carried out in October 2020. This was on behalf of Volodymyr Zelensky when he was a candidate for president. It found that most Ukrainians supported medical cannabis legalisation. 64% of respondents voted yes while 30% voted no.

Why there’s a need for medical cannabis

Experts will tell you that the war is giving rise to massive psychological distress, particularly for children, young adults and the elderly. Cannabis, Liashko noted, can deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Looking at PTSD specifically, there was a recent study in the United States of a small focus group comprised of veterans. 90 days spent taking cannabis alleviated the PTSD of 70% of them. There was another study, this time in Canada. This found that medical cannabis “significantly benefited” quality of life and symptoms of people suffering from PTSD and pain.

The bill specifies that cannabis will be a possible treatment for more than 50 conditions. These include not just PTSD but cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV, multiple sclerosis, neurological diseases, Parkinson’s disease, psoriasis and sleep disorder.

The cannabis will be home-grown

Liashko stressed that Ukraine would develop its own cannabis industry instead of relying on imports. In Soviet times, Ukraine was one of the world’s largest products of hemp – industrial cannabis that doesn’t get you high. There were hundreds of thousands of hectares of hemp fields. The hemp was used for cloth, food and oil.

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