In December 2023, Ukrainian Parliament officially approved a bill originally drafted in Feb 2022 legalising the medicinal use of cannabis. 248 MPs voted in favour of the bill, a result that was expected given the early approval of the first reading back in July 2023.
Despite the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the bill by most, the oppositional Batkivshchyna party attempted to block passage of the bill by requesting hundreds of amendments to the bill, a move which ultimately failed to succeed.
This bill currently approves the research and consumption of medicinal cannabis for treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and cancer. However, lawmakers in Ukraine have previously heard from sufferers of epilepsy and Alzheimer’s who hope this bill can be expanded to include these conditions. The Ministry of Health will be responsible for approving which conditions medicinal cannabis is prescribable for over the next few months.
Medicinal cannabis is set to become available to prescription holders six months after it has been signed by the President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, which is set to occur this month. However, producer Cannexpor Pharma indicated to Business of Cannabis that product registrations could begin as soon as two months after the bill has been signed into law. This is due to the Ukrainian Health Ministry previously expressing the level of urgency appropriate for supporting its veterans as the war against Russia rages on.
This bill will not regulate the recreational use of cannabis, and will only be available to Ukrainian citizens with electronic prescriptions after undertaking assessments. Health officials also indicated that every aspect of the supply chain will be monitored diligently by Ukrainian National police.
When speaking of the benefits that medicinal cannabis could bring to Ukranians, head of the healthcare committee Mykhailo Radutskiy explained that up to 2 million Ukrainians could be eligible to receive medicinal cannabis to remedy some of the devastating mental health impact caused by the war.
However, it is likely that far more may be eligible. At a press conference a day before the vote on this bill, lawmaker Mariia Mezentseva stated that around 6 million people suffering with PTSD, cancer, or wounds from war could receive prescriptions from this historic decision.
This bill also reschedules cannabis from a List 1 to List 2 substance, meaning that cannabis is now recognised in Ukraine as possessing medicinal qualities and as such can now be researched for its utility in a clinical setting.
One significant amendment which was made to this bill concerned the importation regulations of medicinal cannabis materials. Upon the first hearing, the importation of raw materials for cannabis products were prohibited, however this change means that businesses will now be able import these materials. This change is fundamental to the rapid implementation of this bill, as officials have previously stated that the domestic production of medicinal cannabis still has some way to go before it can meet expected demand.
This makes Ukraine the 27th country to permit the use of medicinal cannabis, a trend which is incrementally demonstrating Europe’s recognition of medicinal cannabis’ potential for treating a wide range of conditions.The widespread use of cannabis to treat PTSD for Ukraine’s veterans could be fundamental in shifting the perception of opponents to cannabis reform in Europe.
Early movements such as the formation of Veterans Cannabis Group in the US were pivotal in opening many people’s eyes to the tremendous benefits of medicinal cannabis. Veterans who had suffered serving their country and testified to the impact cannabis had on their quality of life not only provided bipartisan support for cannabis legalisation but also dispelled long standing stereotypes associated with cannabis use and its therapeutic potential. It is great to see a movement in Europe toward accepting medical cannabis use for the treatment of PTSD. It will be interesting to observe what impact Ukraine’s policies will have on improving patient outcomes and the normalisation of cannabis as a mainstream medicine.