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Ukraine’s Medical Cannabis Legalisation Delayed by Opponents

Ukraine’s bid to legalise medical cannabis appeared to be on the cusp of a significant breakthrough this week, but defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory and the bill has now been effectively ‘blocked’.

Despite widespread support throughout the country, including from President Zelenskyy, opponents of the bill have been accused of delaying the final vote by cluttering the process with ‘spam’ amendments.

While the next steps remain unclear, the bill’s proponents have committed to ‘finding a solution’ and ‘pushing this through’ for the sake of the millions of Ukrainian citizens who potentially stand to benefit from medical cannabis.

What happened?

Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, the country’s unicameral parliament and supreme legislative body, was poised to pass a bill legalising medical cannabis this week.

After the bill passed its first reading in July, on October 10 the proposed legislation was finalised and approved by the National Health, Medical Care and Health Insurance Committee, enabling the bill to progress to a second and final reading in the Verkhovna Rada.

Prior to the draft laws’ passage in October, the government reports that ‘more than 800 amendments’ were put forward.

Further proposals are understood to have arrived from the Health Ministry and members of the committee following this, which were considered on November 04, before the committee submitted the new Draft Bill #7457 to parliament.

A second reading was scheduled to take place on Wednesday November 22, and the bill was widely expected to sail through.

According to a Kyiv Post report from earlier this month, chairman of the Standing Committee on National Health, Medical Aid and Medical Insurance, Mykhailo Radutsky, believed an ‘overwhelming majority’ of lawmakers from his faction were supportive of the bill.

“We have done explanatory work with them and made amendments and corrections to the draft bill for the second reading, so now I think the majority of lawmakers will support it.”


Despite this, the second reading did not take place as scheduled this week, and it is reportedly being ‘blocked’ by a single opposition party.

MP of the Spravedlyvist party and member of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on National Health, Olga Stefanyshina, took to social media to voice her frustrations.

Pictured with a stack of 882 amendments put forward by MPs, which the committee has reportedly been ‘analysing for over three months taking into account the most sensible ones’, she suggested that 226 of these amendments were ‘a coffin’, designed specifically to stop the bill in its tracks.

She told local media, that the bulk of the amendments were submitted by MPs from the All-Ukrainian Union ‘Fatherland’ party, referred to as Batkivshchyna, led by former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko who opposes the bill.

“From what we can see now, Batkivshchyna said at the conciliation board that they would take all their amendments into account. This usually happens when a faction wants to block a law,” Ms Stefanyshyna explained.

She added that a large number of MPs submitted ‘spam’ amendments, in which ‘one amendment is split into three, then half of the sentence is moved… in order to simply submit a large number of amendments.

“They have no substance, they just take time.”

Whilst she emphasised that the bill is all but ready to be implemented once it passes through parliament, the number of spam amendments mean MPs must devote extra and increasingly precious time to them.

This was done to ‘exhaust the hall and deprive the law of votes’, she suggested, adding: “This is more than 400 minutes of the Rada’s time, and in fact two days of a completely meaningless performance: when amendments are put to a vote simply to stall and prevent the law from passing the parliament.”

According to Ms Stefanyshyna, a special procedure is now being discussed to limit the number of amendments that can be raised in parliament, or to force the Verkhovna Rada to sit and listen to the ‘spam’ amendments which ‘make no sense’.

What will the bill do?

This bill will mark the third attempt by campaigners in Ukraine to have medical cannabis legalised, and has been publicly supported by both the Health Minister, Viktor Liashko, and President Zelenskyy, who have urged MPs to legalise medical cannabis to help the country recover from the ‘trauma of war’.

If passed, the bill will 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.

It will see doctors permitted to prescribe cannabis-based medicines for conditions including cancer, PTSD and ‘many other diseases’.

According to the draft law, cannabis-based drugs will be subject to the same ‘strict controls as other narcotic and psychotropic drugs’. Products must be made from cannabis grown for medicinal purposes in Ukraine, or from imported cannabis plant substance, and may only be prescribed by a doctor, in accordance with ‘medical indications’.

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