After hitting a brief snag late last year, a bill approved by Ukraine’s unicameral legislature in December to legalize medical cannabis in the country appears to be back on track.
The delay occurred when the opposing Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party and its leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, announced the party’s intention to appeal to the Constitutional Court to cancel the legislative vote, citing that “the amendments to the bill were considered in a half-empty chamber.”
Tymoshenko, who has been vocally opposed to the reform measure, also said that the bill would legalize “drug trafficking and the drug mafia” in Ukraine, while European Solidarity co-chair Irina Herashchenko argued that the bill’s text focused on industrial production and lacked clear rules around state regulation.
This week, the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, unblocked the bill after the resolution failed, earning only 25 of the required 226 votes to repeal the parliament’s adoption of the law. The bill was then formally sent to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s desk on Wednesday, who has publicly voiced his support.
Overcoming the Efforts of Opposing Parties
According to a Ukrinform report, the announcement was first made on Tuesday by MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak from the Holos party on Telegram. Zhelezniak announced the status of the bill alongside a number of other recent legislative updates.
The Verkhovna Rada adopted the law on Dec. 21, regarding regulation of “the circulation of cannabis plants for medical, industrial purposes, research, and scientific and technical activities to create conditions for expanding patient access to the necessary treatment of oncological diseases and post-traumatic stress disorders obtained due to war.”
The next day, the Batkivshchyna registered a draft resolution with the parliament to cancel the decision, though registering a draft resolution of that nature doesn’t allow the Verkhovna Rada chair and the president to sign the adopted legislative act. Rather, the document’s signing was able to be unblocked after the draft resolution was rejected.
Opponents previously tried to block the bill’s progress after introducing almost 900 amendments to the bill, dubbed “spam” amendments by critics, in November.
Ukraine’s Pending Medical Cannabis Legislation
The measure to legalize medicinal cannabis looks to license the economic activity for hemp cultivation for medical, industrial and scientific purposes. Additionally, the law aims to help Ukrainian war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), along with providing relief to those with cancer and other serious illnesses. The legislation only explicitly references that it will “create conditions for expanding the access of patients to the necessary treatment of oncological diseases and post-traumatic stress disorders obtained as a result of war,” with no mention of other qualifying conditions.
The bill would also move cannabis from strictly prohibited in the current List I to availability for medical use with prescription under List II of Ukraine’s drug code.
According to lawmaker Yaroslav Zhelezniak, the distribution of cannabis for recreational use will still be a crime, and the production of cannabis medicines will be “strictly controlled” at all stages. Only those with an electronic medical cannabis prescription would be allowed to obtain cannabis-based medicines.
The measure received support from Ukraine’s Health Ministry, which called the move a “historic decision.”
“Thank you on behalf of the medical community for the decision made, because medical cannabis is a medicine for millions of people: cancer patients, people with multiple sclerosis, patients receiving palliative care, etc.,” the Health Ministry’s translated statement reads.
In June 2023, Zelenskyy emphasized the need for the reform specifically highlighting the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war and, more broadly, those Ukrainians who may benefit from cannabis-based medicines.
“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,” Zelenskyy said in a statement. “We must finally honestly legalize cannabis-based medicines, relevant scientific research, and controlled Ukrainian production for everyone who needs it.”