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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Cannabis

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

February 16, 2024 01:55 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 2 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky Signs Bill Legalizing Medical Cannabis

A new bill legalizing medicinal cannabis in Ukraine has been signed one month after it advanced to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s desk. The country’s parliament initially tried to block the legislation, but fortunately for Ukrainian citizens, this measure was able to successfully go forward anyway.

This move comes two years after Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which is the primary driver of the bill. Zelensky and his officials stated that the medicinal marijuana bill is designed to help citizens with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other physical and mental issues that have arisen as a result of the conflict.

For now, cancer and PTSD are the only official diagnoses in the country approved for medical cannabis use. However, lawmakers are considering expanding access to people with Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and more. The measure could directly benefit as many as 6 million Ukrainians, who will be able to get cannabis prescriptions at 200 pharmacies around the country.

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Ukrainian advocate Iryna Rachynska told Forbes, “This number is constantly increasing because Russia continues to attack Ukraine every day; the number of victims increases, and every day without medicine, these people experience unbearable pain, both physical and psychological. The need for such drugs continues to grow.”

The law will go into effect in the next six months, likely in early August. In the meantime, the Ukraine Ministry of Health and a panel of legislators will work on creating the program’s rules and regulations. Cannabis will have to be moved from List I to List II of the country’s drug code before dispensing is allowed to begin. Under the current listing, it’s strictly prohibited. Moving it to List II will allow for marijuana prescriptions. Cannabis will be imported to the country sometime before dispensing starts.

Last June, Zelensky expressed support for legalizing marijuana. In a statement to parliament, he said, “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.”

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