Ukraine Medical Marijuana Bill Is ‘Unblocked’ From Advancing To President’s Desk After Opponents’ Repeal Attempt Fails

A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Ukraine has now been “unblocked” from advancing to the president’s desk after an attempt to overturn the reform failed in the parliament.

Lawmakers approved the medical cannabis legislation last month, but the opposition Batkivshchyna party used a procedural tactic to block it by forcing consideration of a resolution to repeal the measure. That resolution failed this week, earning just 25 of the required 226 votes.

On Wednesday the bill was formally sent to the desk of President Volodymyr Zelensky, who supports the reform.

MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak of the Holos party announced the development on Telegram on Tuesday, Ukrinform reported.

Opponents previously tried to derail the marijuana bill by filing hundreds of what critics called “spam” amendments, but that attempt similarly failed, with the measure ultimately passing with 248 votes.

The bill that’s heading to the president 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.

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. 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.

Zelensky, for his part, voiced support for medical marijuana legalization last 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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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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