A bill to legalize medical marijuana in Ukraine that was supposed to be taken up for a final vote this week is being effectively blocked, with members of one party filing hundreds of so-called “spam” amendments to procedurally delay passage.
Ukraine’s unicameral legislature, the Verkhovna Rada, was scheduled to consider the reform measure on Wednesday. It advanced through committee last month, with the support of President Volodymyr Zelensky, and it was expected to easily pass in a final reading—but MP Olga Stefanyshina says opponents are using a time-consuming legislative tactic to keep it from enactment.
“The bill on medical cannabis is blocked in the Council,” she said in a Facebook post on Wednesday, according to a translation.
Despite “hours of negotiations” to pass and implement the reform so that “patients could get medication and pain relief as early as next year,” members of the Motherland party are forcing consideration of 226 new amendments that are meant to “exhaust” the process and “deprive the law of votes,” she wrote.
“It’s over 400 minutes of the Rada’s working time, and in fact, 2 days of a completely senseless spectacle: when amendments put on a vote just to prolong the time and prevent the law from passing the hall,” Stefanyshina said.
The lawmaker described the proposed revisions as “spam.” The amendments would largely make technical changes” and “have no substance, they just take up time,” she said.
While Wednesday’s vote didn’t happen as scheduled, Stefanyshina said supporters are exploring options to overcome the procedural hurdle by limiting the consideration of certain amendments.
The National Health, Medical Care and Health Insurance Committee had already analyzed more than 800 amendments that were filed by members of various parties before the bill was revised and approved by the panel last month.
The bill would create a national medical marijuana program to provide access to patients with conditions such as cancer or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from war—a proposed reform that comes as Ukraine continues to experience violent conflict after Russian invaded the country last year.
While the text of the legislation as introduced only explicitly lists cancer and war-borne PTSD as conditions for which medical cannabis could be dispensed to patients, the chair of the health committee said in July that lawmakers hear daily from patients with other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease and epilepsy.
Zelensky voiced support for medical marijuana legalization in June, stating in an address to the 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.”
“In particular, we must finally fairly legalize cannabis-based medicines for all those who need them, with appropriate scientific research and controlled Ukrainian production,” he said.
During his presidential campaign, Zelensky also voiced support for medical cannabis legalization, saying in 2019 that he feels it would be “normal” to allow people to access cannabis “droplets,” which is possibly a reference to marijuana tinctures.
The policy change would put Ukraine is stark contrast to its long-time aggressor Russia, which has 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. (Full Story)