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President Zelenskyy calls for legalisation of medical cannabis in Ukraine

The President said all Ukrainians should be able to access cannabis-based medicines to help deal with the ‘trauma of war’.



Ukraine's battle for medical cannabis - campaigners on the frontline
Ukraine has endured more than a year of conflict. Photo: Brandon Morales/Unsplasgh

Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is calling for the legalisation of medical cannabis to help his country deal with the ‘trauma of war’. 

During an address to the Ukrainian parliament on Constitution Day, Wednesday 28 June, the President called on members to legalise cannabis for medical purposes, to help those who have been impacted by the war.

The country has endured more than a year of conflict since Russia invaded in February 2022. 

“We must finally fairly legalise cannabis-based medicines for all those who need them, with appropriate scientific research and controlled Ukrainian production,” Zelenskyy said, local media reported.

“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 to Ukraine so that Ukrainians, all our citizens, do not have to endure the pain, stress and trauma of war.”

‘No time to wait’

The Ministry of Health has previously estimated that up to 30% of the population will experience not only PTSD, but other mental health issues, brought on by trauma caused by the war.

PTSD is one of the most common conditions for which cannabis-based medicines are prescribed, with early research studies suggesting it has potential for symptom management.

Early last year the Ukrainian government advanced a bill for approval to see the regulation of cannabis for ‘medical, industrial purposes, scientific and scientific-technical activities’.

It came following a number of similar bills which previously failed to make it through parliament.

In a Facebook post on 7 June, 2022, Health Minister Viktor 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’.

Liashko wrote: “We understand the negative effects of war on mental health. We understand the number of people who will need medical treatment as a result of this exposure.

“And we understand that there is no time to wait.

“Therefore, we have already prepared a legislative basis to ensure the full cycle of production of cannabis-based drugs in Ukraine, from cultivation and processing to full-fledged production.”

Freedom March – the campaigners on the frontline

Last year, Cannabis Health spoke to members of the campaign group Freedom March, which has advocated for the legalisation of cannabis in Ukraine since 2005.

The movement launched the crowdfunding campaign, Cannabis Stands with Ukraine to help fund medical, psychological and financial support for wounded veterans, patients who are unable to access medical treatment and children whose parents have been killed in the conflict.

“For some time our campaign has been dedicated to the topic of medical cannabis,” said Nazariy Sovsun.

“We understood following the war of 2014 that we would have problems with people experiencing PTSD. We expect to see even bigger problems now. For a large number of people in Ukraine they are still in the midst of a very traumatic situation, so the biggest challenge is yet to come.”

Freedom March have been campaigning for the legalisation of cannabis in Ukraine since 2005.

Nazariy also told us how many soldiers were turning to cannabis to help them switch off from the horrors of the frontline. 

“It’s impossible to count how many people are using medical cannabis right now in Ukraine,” he said.

“A lot of our activists are fighting and we have meetings with them, so we get information. Soldiers are consuming it, not on the battlefield, but when they are on rotation, for example, to fight the tremors and to help them sleep or just relax. We know that it’s not only veterans but also cancer patients and those with conditions such as multiple sclerosis.”

Both were optimistic about the bill, but expected strong opposition from police and some politicians.

“There is a good chance that the bill will be successful, but we also need to work with the media, because for many politicians this is a tricky issue and they just don’t want to do it,” Nazariy said.

“The police are also strongly against it and have put forward changes that go against the logic of the law.”

Zelenskyy has been a supporter of access to medicinal cannabis since his 2019 presidential campaign when he reportedly said it would be ‘normal’ to allow people to access cannabis ‘droplets’.

A poll conducted during the election found that 65% of the population were in favour of legalising cannabis for medicinal use. 

Read the full interview: ‘Ukraine’s battle for medical cannabis – the campaigners of the frontline’ 

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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