Ukrainian lawmakers have given final approval to a bill legalizing medical marijuana nationally, sending it to be signed into law by President Volodymyr Zelensky, who supports the reform.
The country’s unicameral legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, passed the legislation on Thursday with 248 votes—overcoming opponents who attempted to block the proposal with a deluge of hundreds of what critics called “spam” amendments last month.
The bill would legalize medical cannabis for patients with severe illnesses and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from the nation’s ongoing conflict with Russia, which launched an invasion of Ukraine nearly two years ago.
To secure the final vote, lawmakers circulated a petition for a special procedure that required 150 members to sign on. They ultimately collected 164 signatures, MP Olga Stefanyshina said earlier this month, clearing the path for passage.
While the text of the legislation as introduced only explicitly lists cancer and war-borne PTSD as conditions for which medical cannabis could be dispensed to patients, the chair of the health committee said in July that lawmakers hear daily from patients with other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.
The bill moves marijuana from strictly prohibited under List I to available for medical use with a prescription under List II of the country’s drug code.
The Agrarian Policy Ministry will hold regulatory responsibilities over cannabis cultivation and processing operations, Kyiv Post reported. The National Police and State Agency on Medicines will also hold oversight and enforcement authorities related to the distribution of the medicine.
In order to ensure patient access, the measure additionally allows raw cannabis materials to be imported from other countries.
— Kira Rudik (@kiraincongress) December 21, 2023
“We have taken into account many of the fundamental points emphasized by our colleagues. But now it is very important not to trust the fakes that are spreading on social media,” MP Maria Mezentseva said, according to a translation.
“The draft law on medical cannabis is aimed exclusively at treating Ukrainians who really need it,” she said. “Medicines only by prescription, only medicinal products and modern production in Ukraine to avoid all possible corruption risks.”
Zelensky, for his part, voiced support for medical marijuana legalization in June, stating in an address to the parliament that “all the world’s best practices, all the most effective policies, all the solutions, no matter how difficult or unusual they may seem to us, must be applied in Ukraine so that Ukrainians, all our citizens, do not have to endure the pain, stress and trauma of war.”
“In particular, we must finally fairly legalize cannabis-based medicines for all those who need them, with appropriate scientific research and controlled Ukrainian production,” he said.
The law will become effective six months after Zelensky signs the legislation.
During his presidential campaign, Zelensky also voiced support for medical cannabis legalization, saying in 2019 that he feels it would be “normal” to allow people to access cannabis “droplets,” which is possibly a reference to marijuana tinctures.
The policy change would put Ukraine is stark contrast to its long-time aggressor Russia, which has taken a particularly strong stance against reforming cannabis policy at the international level through the United Nations. The country has condemned Canada for legalizing marijuana nationwide.
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