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Ukraine Approves First Reading of Bill to Legalise Medical Cannabis

As reported by Cannabis Health. 

Politicians in Ukraine have approved the first reading of a bill that will see the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use. 

Officials voted to adopt the bill on regulating cannabis for medical, scientific and industrial use, at its first reading in the Verkhovna Rada [parliament] of Ukraine on Thursday 13 July.

A total of 268 MPs voted in favour of the bill at the plenary session, with President Zelenskyy and Health Minister Viktor Liashko having publicly expressed their support.

The bill proposes to create regulatory conditions for the legal limited circulation of cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabis extracts and tinctures for their use in medical, industrial and scientific purposes.

Ukrainian MPs voted in favour of the bill. Photo courtesy of Iryna Rachynska.

It will see doctors permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicines for conditions including pain and PTSD.

The country has endured more than a year of conflict since Russia invaded in February 2022. The Ministry of Health has previously estimated that around four million people will experience not only PTSD, but other mental health issues, brought on by the trauma.

Just weeks ago Zelenskyy urged MPs to legalise medical cannabis to help the country recover from the ‘trauma of war’, while in a Facebook post on 7 June, 2022, Liashko, said there was ‘no time to wait’ to approve the bill that would allow more patients to access a ‘necessary treatment for cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the war’.

A national poll conducted during Zelenskyy’s election campaign also found that 65% of the population were in favour of legalising cannabis for medicinal use.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s battle for medical cannabis – the campaigners on the frontline

Millions of patients to benefit

Activists have been campaigning for the legalisation of medical cannabis in Ukraine for a number of years, believing it has the potential to help millions of veterans and patients in the country.

Two previous bills on regulation of medical cannabis have been unsuccessful in the Rada. Ahead of the vote on Thursday, global organisations including the International Alliance for Cannabinoid Medicines (IACM), the IACM Patient Council, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, and Drugs Peace Institute Netherlands, sent letters and videos of endorsement to support the medicinal use of cannabis.

Iryna Rachynska from Patients of Ukraine, told Cannabis Health: “For six long years we have struggled to persuade our officials to vote for these drugs to become available in our country. We have organised dozens of patient actions, press conferences, appeals from patients to the parliament, letters, interviews in mass media, but it has been too hard to make our parliamentarians vote for it. Now the public sector, patients, military, doctors and even celebrities are participating in activities in support of the law.”

Iryna Rachynska from Patients of Ukraine.

Rachynska says many patients were using medicinal cannabis illegally, with some having been able to access it legally after fleeing to other European countries with more liberal laws when the conflict broke out.

“In Ukraine there are millions of people who suffer from the consequences of the war,” she says.

“We already have hundreds of thousands of amputees. The number of people with PTSD is increasing and the Ministry of Health officially claims that four million people will be in need of medical treatment for their psychological conditions. These are people who lost their families and homes, who have witnessed terrible war events, who have war trauma themselves. War continues to kill us even when we return home.”

She adds: “In addition, in Ukraine there are two million patients with severe diseases who have been in need of medical cannabis before full-scale war. We now have six million people in urgent need of these drugs.”

A ‘victory’ for civil society of Ukraine

The bill will now undergo a series of amendments and proposals before a second vote is held.

Speaking to Cannabis Health immediately after the vote, Rachynska described the news as a ‘victory’ and said the bill has passed the ‘most difficult first stage’.

“We have opened up the opportunity to relieve pain and alleviate the psychological trauma of war for millions of wounded and terminally ill people,” she said.

“This is one more victory of the responsible civil society of Ukraine. This means that civil society has an influence on the parliament and the president and we have the ability to build a European path of development and respect for human rights.”

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