Date: 23 December 2023 Author: Szymon Polewka

Ukraine Legalizes Medical Marijuana to Address Mental Health Crisis

In late December, Ukraine’s parliament approved the legalization of medical cannabis as the nation responds to the growing ranks of war veterans requiring treatment for injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.

SOURCE: HTTPS://WWW.ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/PL/ZDJ%C4%99CIE/MEDICAL-CANNABIS-GM160086948-11009457

The legislation to regulate medical, scientific, and industrial use of cannabis passed with a majority of 248 in the 450-seat assembly in Kyiv. A total of 16 deputies voted against the bill.

As the full-scale Russian invasion entered its second year, support for the legalization of medical marijuana gained momentum in the country. Discussions focused on the potential benefits of using the drug to alleviate severe pain and address mental health issues. It is anticipated that President Volodymyr Zelensky will sign the bill, potentially paving the way for its implementation in the second half of 2024.

WHO Country Office in Ukraine and the Ministry of Health of Ukraine predict between 10 and more than 15 million Ukrainians will need professional psychological assistance as a result of hostilities. Healthcare professionals have been also experiencing mental health problems. According to an analysis Mental health of helpline staff in Ukraine during the 2022 Russian invasion, as of March 2022, some 40 percent of the “Stop Panic” hotline service staff, who were a key source of psychological support for the population in the first months of the war, had symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Now the Ukrainian mental health care system lacks financial resources, workforce capacity, and accessibility of services. While insufficient funding for mental health services is common, in Ukraine this situation is dramatically worsened by the war and relics from the Soviet era including excessive focus on inpatient care, high out-of-pocket payments, and low staff wages leading to workforce shortages.

Advocates for permitting medical cannabis emphasize its potential health benefits for individuals exhausted by the ravages of war, while opponents raise concerns about the risk of escalating drug addiction. Amid a myriad of issues in the healthcare sector and a mounting mental health crisis, Ukraine

is compelled to seek innovative and unconventional remedies. This includes exploring the possibility of legalizing and marketing medical marijuana.
 
References:

Oleksandr Shumilin, Ukraine legalises medical cannabis, Ukrainska Pravda, December 21, 2023.

https://www.pravda.com.ua/eng/news/2023/12/21/7434017/

Violetta Seleznova, Irina Pinchuk, Inna Feldman, Volodymyr Virchenko, Bo Wang, Norbert Skokauskas, The battle for mental well-being in Ukraine: mental health crisis and economic aspects of mental health services in wartime, International Journal of Mental Health Systems volume 17, Article number: 28 (2023), September 25, 2023.

https://ijmhs.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13033-023-00598-3

Volodymyr Verbianyi, Aliaksandr Kudrytski, Ukraine Moves to Legalize Medical Marijuana to Treat Veterans, December 21, 2023.

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