MPs have again begun to talk about the need to legalize medical cannabis, and it seems that this time, they are ready to move from words to deeds. The head of the parliamentary faction of the Servant of the People party, David Arakhamia, said at the end of last year that the decision to legalize cannabis in Ukraine for medical purposes was in its final stages.
Ukrinform found out what changes can be expected in the near future.
"Law for Sofiika!" or what is the effect of cannabis?
In fact, cannabis has accompanied mankind for almost its entire history - from the most important technical crop to physical evidence in cases of drug distribution and use. In fact, not everything is so simple.
Hemp (a variety of the Cannabis sativa plant species) contains two psychoactive components (called cannabinoids) - tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). Recreational cannabis has a higher content of THC, which has a psychotropic effect and stimulates the nervous system, causing euphoria. But in the medical "variant" there is more CBD, which does not create such an effect, but instead it has analgesic, sedative and anti-inflammatory properties. Because of this, its legalization in Ukraine is especially needed by severe patients: cancer patients (to alleviate suffering), epileptics (medical cannabis reduces the frequency of seizures), and patients with Alzheimer's disease (cannabis slows the progression of this disease).
TV presenter Yanina Sokolova openly said that it was medical cannabis that helped her fight cancer when the pain became unbearable. "There comes a stage when all your joints, all your limbs are twisted, you can't get to the toilet normally," Sokolova said, adding that she bought a cannabis e-cigarette in the United States for $25. One such cigarette was enough for her to undergo four chemotherapy phases, and she used only 40% of its contents, so she transferred the rest to other cancer patients.
Sofiika, a young patient from Kyiv who suffers from drug-resistant epilepsy, is also waiting for the legalization of medical marijuana. She undergoes treatment at the Department of Mobile Palliative Care for Children in Kyiv. The Holos (Voice) party decided to dedicate the bill on legalization of cannabis, which was registered in the Verkhovna Rada late in December, by giving it an alternative name "Law for Sofiika."
"She has severe and long attacks of extremely painful seizures, which are almost impossible to treat with traditional drugs. Her parents have been fighting for her life for three years. They bring the necessary medicine from abroad. Sofiika needs medicines based on medical cannabis, and she will become a symbol of the adoption of this law. Therefore, the alternative name of this law is 'Law for Sofiyka'," MP Olha Stefanyshyna said.
But in addition to the said conditions, medical cannabis is used for chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (50% of patients with Crohn's disease have fully recovered, and 90% have experienced significant improvement), multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, etc. In total, more than two million seriously ill patients in Ukraine are waiting for the adoption of this law. It should be noted that medical cannabis can have side effects - dizziness, memory impairment and addiction, effects on cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, so it is the doctor who must weigh all the risks and decide on the appointment of such drugs.
A few more words about the price. Here is just one figure. From the beginning of 2019, medical marijuana could be purchased on prescription in Poland. The price of the medicine is about 65 zlotys per gram or about 500 hryvnias. Meanwhile, German doctors have calculated that one person with a serious condition needs an average of 1.8 grams of cannabis per day. However, the disease in question is not reported. The duration of treatment is not reported too. In general, it seems that the treatment is not cheap, but you can't call it unaffordable either.
What does the government plan to change?
Currently, the use of medical cannabis is banned in Ukraine. However, in medicine, heavier drugs of the opium group - morphine, tramadol - have long been legalized. According to Servant of the People MP David Arakhamia, government officials are working to make decisions in favor of patients as soon as possible. First, they plan to allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes without a bill – through an act of the Cabinet of Ministers. This can be done quickly and will initially allow the use of imported drugs. According to Arakhamia, in this way, it will be possible to test the use of medical cannabis for three to four months.
The development and adoption of the law takes longer.
Dmytro Sherembey, chairman of the coordination council of the 100% Life charity organization, who initiated the petition to legalize medical cannabis in 2019, told Ukrinform that the relevant resolution had already been submitted to the Cabinet of Ministers.
"But the adoption of the resolution does not cancel the adoption of the law. The resolution makes it possible to obtain a corridor of time in which it becomes clear that the use of drugs works for the benefit of patients and doctors. But we need a broader normative document - the law of Ukraine, which will allow the industry to develop properly, as it happens in the civilized world," Sherembey said. He added that with the adoption of the law, pharmaceutical companies and farmers will get new markets - not only for Ukrainian consumers, but also for the EU, because the production of medical cannabis in Ukraine will be cheaper than abroad. "Ukraine will be able to offer its historical product - hemp, which it has always been grown. And the law solves this task," he said.
Stefanyshyna, one of the authors of bill No. 4553, said that it provides for strict regulation of the process of growing medical cannabis. "This area will be strictly regulated. We allow the cultivation of medical cannabis in Ukraine, but we introduce additional regulations – the licensing of the process, the creation of special premises and their control, the marking of batches that will be grown, and the tracking of electronic prescriptions," the MP said.
It seems that there has been no greater support than now in the initiative to legalize medical cannabis in Ukraine - deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, ministers and also the head of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Metropolitan Epiphanius, support this decision. The legalization of medical marijuana was one of the items in the "Zelensky poll" during the local elections, according to which more than 64% of Ukrainians supported such an initiative. According to Stefanyshyna, a significant role was played by the fact that explanatory work in this area lasted for many years, so it seems that responsible decisions will finally be made.
Yulia Horban, Kyiv
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