The issue of medical marijuana legalization has distracted the attention of the Ukrainian mainstream society preoccupied with revealing pre-election sympathies today. Representatives of Kiev’s top governmental circles are among the lobbyists. The recently dismissed health minister Ulyana Suprun, who has been nicknamed “Doctor Death” by the Ukrainians for her addiction to pseudoscientific ‘medical’ recommendations, has broadly promoted the idea.
Today, the use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal in 25 states in the US, as well as in Australia, Canada, Thailand, Uruguay, and certain European countries. Long story short, a legalization wave has swept the world as big companies are looking for opportunities to reduce the cost of cannabis production. Cannabis, or hemp, is an annual plant. In 1961, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs added cannabis to the list of drug containing plants, and all countries were obliged to put its cultivation under stringent control. Hemp contains psychoactive substances – cannabinoids that have become primary products for psychotropics, such as marijuana and hashish. Experts expect the global marijuana market to surge to $62.9 bln by 2024.
“We know from years of experience that drug abuse always results from something,” President of the National Anti-Drug Union Nikita Lushnikov said in an interview with correspondent of the portal Inforos. “Soft drugs, particularly marijuana, which unfortunately is consumed for the first time at a fairly young age, is the first step towards that result. The addiction to any hard drug starts from soft drugs.
Today Ukraine is seeking to follow the example of the European community where the majority of states have legalized marijuana. But, first, as a community promoting a healthy lifestyle, we have never supported legalization of any types of drugs at all, no matter how they are dished up. Second, the Ukrainian mentality differs from that of western citizens living in countries where marijuana is legalized. In Ukraine, that will be purely drug legalization. Whereas the fact that the initiative is backed by top authorities stems from lots of money being at stake. If following the US lead, the top-grossing business for the past several years there rests on production and sale of medical marijuana,” he explained.
No secret many Ukrainian politicians approach problems pursuing their self-interest. Specifically, Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Zubko has recently mentioned the industrial hemp production. Large-scale hemp growing will yield big gains to Ukraine, he said. “We should now return particularly to that issue: how much linen should be grown, how much hemp, to boost gross product… And return to making sure that we have stunning gains and hardly think about alternative methods of treatment,” Zubko said.
The main takeaway of those advocating medical marijuana legalization is as follows: hemp-based pharmaceutical drugs are necessary for treatment of such diseases as epilepsy, jitteriness, multi-ocular sclerosis, cancer, arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, posttraumatic syndrome and more. They suggest that in Ukraine two million people suffer from pain that cannot be eased with medications legalized in the country, though most experts consider that an overestimated figure.
Back in 2016, a group of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada’s deputies headed by the former health minister Oleg Musiy registered a bill on adding cannabis to the list of drugs with turnover allowed for scientific research and medical purposes. The support of ‘progressive society’ also came into the picture, running a number of visible campaigns. For example, a ‘hemp march of freedom’ for legalization of cannabis was held in Kiev last year.
It is worth pointing out that elements of legalization already exist. Last November the State Service of Ukraine on Medicines and Drugs Control issued the first license to import and re-export primary produce and hemp products. It went to C21 Investments Inc., one of leaders of the US cannabis industry.
Stanislav Smagin, an expert on the Russian-Ukrainian relationship, believe that marijuana legalization for medical and scientific research purposes will spearhead cannabis legalization overall, which will turn Ukraine into an export platform to supply cannabis to Europe, equating the country with Afghanistan, the world’s key heroine exporter. “Amid feudalization of the Ukrainian state, degraded and disrupted legal and supervisory mechanisms, the remark about cannabis legalization only for medical and scientific purposes is fairly insignificant,” the political analyst said, adding that “as long as there is a document confirming that hemp is legalized in principle, further formal and virtual targets and its production criteria may be defined using quite a voluntary approach.” Meanwhile, Smagin believes that international law enforcement officials sitting in top posts globally may look at that game of disappearing inverted commas through fingers, same as they look at the Afghan heroine for instance.
Whether Ukraine is ready for such decisions remains to be seen. There is a good chance that the support of the hemp business is another show distracting Ukrainians from the presidential election. However, experts know without doubt that industrial drug production in poor countries will inevitably lead them to social degradation. A reliable law enforcement system is required for controlling partial legalization. Considering that the police in Ukraine still ‘shelter’ the criminal business, legalization will contribute to flourishing drug abuse and drug trade.