Ukraine Introduces Medical Pot To Aid in Healing Trauma of Conflict with Russia


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has formally enacted legislation to legalize medical marijuana in a move that he and other leaders believe will assist soldiers in healing from both physical and psychological injuries suffered in the country’s ongoing conflict with Russia.

As of January 2, 2024, per Russia Matters, a project launched by Harvard University, Ukraine’s military has seen over 130,000 individuals killed, severely wounded, or missing. The number of civilian deaths totals 10,058. And this doesn’t count for the trauma endured. 

As many readers with trauma from other sources likely know, cannabis has demonstrated its therapeutic properties for folks experiencing PTSD. It can lower anxiety, improve sleep, decrease the frequency of PTSD nightmares, and also help with chronic pain management. Cannabis can also regulate mood and lift depression symptoms that frequently accompany traumatic experiences. There’s also research that cannabis also affects memory processing, which can ease the suffering surrounding recalling traumatic memories and flashbacks. 

In December, Ukrainian legislators initially passed the medical cannabis bill, but the Batkivshchyna party, in opposition, stalled its progress by insisting on a vote on a resolution to annul the measure. They apparently view the bill as a threat to the integrity of the country’s future. But in a win for survivors of the war, this resolution was defeated in January, effectively removing any obstacles to the bill’s enactment.

Critics attempted to thwart the legislation by submitting hundreds of amendments, which were called out as “spam” by detractors. However, this effort also proved unsuccessful. The bill passed with 248 votes in its favor.

Approximately one month after the legislative progress was freed up, on Wednesday, President Zelensky granted his final endorsement to the bill after the failed attempt to overturn the reform. The legislation is slated to become effective within six months from its official publication date. During this interim period, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, along with the Ministry of Health, is responsible for formulating the regulations for the program.

As Reuters notes, over 6 million people, including soldiers, civilians with PTSD, and healing soldiers, require cannabis. Although the initial version of the bill specifically mentions only cancer and PTSD resulting from the nation’s ongoing war with Russia, which began when Russia invaded Ukraine two years ago, as qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use, the chair of the health committee noted that legislators regularly receive feedback from patients suffering from other conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy, indicating a broader demand for access to medical cannabis.

Ukraine might begin the importation of marijuana products earlier than the aforementioned six months, following the reclassification of cannabis from being completely banned under List I to being permissible for medical purposes with a prescription under List II in the nation’s drug code.

Zelensky expressed his approval for the medical marijuana legalization back in June, telling parliament that, “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.” He further noted the steps required to make this happen, stating: “In particular, we must finally fairly legalize cannabis-based medicines for all those who need them, with appropriate scientific research and controlled Ukrainian production.”

The bill outlines the requirement for specific licenses to grow and sell cannabis, including a mandate for round-the-clock video monitoring of production sites, which will be accessible to law enforcement. Oversight of cannabis cultivation and processing will fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Agrarian Policy. Furthermore, the National Police and the State Agency on Medicines will have supervisory and enforcement powers concerning the distribution of the medicinal product.

In December, the Defense Department unveiled a security assistance package worth up to $250 million for Ukraine. This package includes anti tank weaponry, air defense systems, artillery, and additional equipment designed to support Ukraine’s ongoing efforts to fight back against the unprovoked aggression. And cannabis companies stepped up as well.

During the initial month of Russia’s invasion last year, several American cannabis firms offered financial aid to Ukraine. Misha Breyburg, CEO of MediThrive, contributed a portion of the proceeds from cannabis sales to a charity assisting Ukrainians. Additionally, Breyburg had the MediThrive dispensary located in San Francisco’s Mission District decorated in Ukraine’s national blue and yellow colors.



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