In a landmark move, Ukraine has legalized medical marijuana to help war veterans cope with physical and mental trauma resulting from the ongoing conflict with Russia. The bill allowing marijuana for medical use sailed through its first reading in parliament with 268 out of 344 lawmakers supporting the legislation.
This move marks a significant turnaround in attitudes towards the drug since Russia invaded Ukraine. In 2021, the same bill was easily defeated. But now, medical cannabis is seen as an effective alternative to other prescription drugs to treat the thousands of soldiers and civilians.
The Need for Medical Marijuana in Ukraine
According to a report by the World Health Organization (WHO). A quarter of the Ukrainian population and 60% of its soldiers are estimated to be suffering from depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of the war. Mental health services are prioritizing increasing trauma unit capacities. Veterans and wounded soldiers use marijuana, and the legislature wants its use legalized, said Tymofiy Mylovanov. The head of the Kyiv School of Economics and an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukraine doesn’t publish its casualty figures. However they are thought to be lower than the 200,000 Russian soldiers estimated to have been killed or injured. In April, leaked US intelligence documents estimated that Ukraine had suffered 124,500 to 131,000 casualties by February, with up to 17,500 killed in action. Supporters of legalizing marijuana for medical use have said that it can alleviate pain and PTSD. As well as, being often safer than prescription opioids, which can be highly addictive.
President Zelensky’s Support for Medical Marijuana
President Zelensky has been vocal about his support for medical marijuana legalization in Ukraine. In an address to the Ukrainian Parliament on June 28, he stressed that providing access to medical cannabis could be a therapeutic option for citizens who have endured over a year of intense conflict after Russia invaded the country in February 2022.
During his 2019 presidential campaign, Zelensky also voiced support for medical cannabis legalization. He felt it would be “normal” to allow people to access cannabis “droplets.” Which, is possibly a reference to marijuana tinctures. Zelensky’s cabinet has taken steps to legalize medical cannabis, approving draft reform legislation last year that must still be passed by parliament.
Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Ukraine
The bill to allow marijuana for medical use has passed its first reading in parliament and needs to pass a second reading before being sent to President Zelensky to sign into law. The overwhelming support for cannabis for medical use marks a significant shift in attitudes towards the drug in Ukraine.
If the bill passes the second reading, Ukraine will join the growing list of countries legalizing medical marijuana. Medical cannabis has been steadily legalized across the world, with Britain doing so in 2018 on the prescription of a doctor.
The policy change would put Ukraine in stark contrast to its long-time aggressor Russia. They have 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. The deputy of Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said last year that legalization efforts in the United States and Canada are matters “of serious concern for us.”
Benefits of Medical Marijuana for War Veterans
Medical marijuana is known to have several benefits for war veterans suffering from physical and mental trauma. It can alleviate symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, which are common among war veterans. It is often safer than prescription opioids, which can be highly addictive and lead to fatal overdoses.
A report by the American Legion, a US veterans organization, found that 92% of veterans support research into medical cannabis, and 82% support its legalization for medical purposes. Medical cannabis can reduce opioid use and decrease the number of drug-related deaths legal states.
Legalization Efforts in Other Countries
Luxembourg’s parliament recently voted to legalize possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults. Thus, making it the second country in the European Union to end prohibition. Several US states have also legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, including California, Colorado, and Washington.
In the United States, congressional lawmakers are stepping up pressure on the Biden administration to take steps to secure the release of an American citizen. Marc Fogel, who is facing a 14-year sentence in a Russian prison over possession of medical cannabis as a registered patient in Pennsylvania. Fogel “is serving a 14-year hard-labor sentence for possession of medical marijuana used to treat his severe back injury. Likewise, a charge very similar to that of WNBA player Brittney Griner,” said Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA).
In conclusion, Ukraine will join the growing list of countries legalizing medical marijuana. Suffering from physical and mental trauma. Medical cannabis can alleviate symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Which, is common among war veterans. Ukraine’s move towards legalization puts it in stark contrast to its long-time aggressor Russa. Thus, has taken a strong stance against reforming cannabis policy. The overwhelming support for cannabis for medical use marks a significant shift in attitudes towards the drug in Ukraine.