By / November 29, 2023

Ukraine Opposition Party Delays Legalization of Medical Cannabis

The project for legalizing medical cannabis in Ukraine, which was scheduled for a vote, met resistance from opposition parties. Despite support from President Volodymyr Zelensky and considerable public backing, the bill faced a significant hurdle in the form of hundreds of amendments filed, blocking its progress.

In the Ukrainian unicameral parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, a historic vote on the medical cannabis reform was planned. However, progress in the bill’s proceedings was halted by a flood of amendments aimed at “exhausting” the legislative process.

Members of the “Fatherland” party submitted over 800 amendments, aiming to prolong debates and prevent the bill’s passage. Deputy Olga Stefanyshina described these actions as an attempt to drag out time and prevent the legislation from being enacted.

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Criticism of Ukrainian Opposition Party Tactics

Stefanyshina criticized the situation’s absurdity, emphasizing that the proposed changes are nothing but “spam” with no substantive value. The bill aimed to create a national medical cannabis program to provide access for patients with diseases such as cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from war. This project becomes especially significant in light of the ongoing armed conflict in Ukraine, bolstering the argument for alternative treatment methods for those suffering from war traumas.

“Project of the medical cannabis law has been blocked in the Council 😏 These stacks of paper are 882 amendments from deputies, which we analyzed for over 3 months. We considered the most sensible ones, and I thank colleagues for their constructiveness. Hours of negotiations with farmers, police, society, and deputies. We did so that the law would work immediately after the government adopts all executive regulations, and so that patients could receive medicine and alleviate their pain next year. But 226 of these amendments are garbage. They are amendments from the ‘Fatherland’ party. […] It’s over 400 minutes of Council’s work time, effectively 2 days of a completely pointless spectacle: when amendments are voted on just to drag out time and not let the law pass through the hall. We are looking for a solution and ask for support! Let’s finish this 🙏🏻,” Olga Stefanyshina wrote on Facebook.

Presidential Support for Legalization in Ukraine

President Zelensky was a proponent of legalizing medical cannabis in Ukraine, emphasizing the need to adopt “the best global practices” and legalize cannabis-based medicines. In a speech to parliament in June, he pointed out the necessity of implementing these solutions in Ukraine, so citizens do not have to endure the pain, stress, and trauma of war.

Although the bill was passed in its first reading in July and approved by the Ukrainian National Health, Medical Care, and Health Insurance Committee in October, its final reading has been postponed indefinitely. Despite the president’s and public support, the opposition parties’ resistance, particularly the “Fatherland” party, hinders the project’s progress.

Opposition’s Legislative Tactics

The opposition party opponents of the bill employ time-consuming legislative tactics to delay its enactment. These actions include filing hundreds of amendments that are technical in nature and lack substantive value, amounting to nothing more than an attempt to drag out time and prevent the legislation from being passed in Ukraine.

Changes in Ukraine’s policy on medical cannabis could represent a clear contrast to Russia’s long-standing opposition to reforms in this area internationally, including at the United Nations.

(Featured image by Martin Schulz (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) via Flickr)

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