On May 20, the Ukrainian parliament agreed to consider a bill which would legalize medical cannabis. If the bill is passed, Ukraine would become only the second post-Soviet country to significantly reform its cannabis laws. (In 2017-18, the Constitutional Court of Georgia eliminated both criminal and administrative liability for private marijuana use, but left in place prohibitions on selling and public use).

The bill was the result of a campaign by Ukrainian NGOs and is supported by the Acting Minister of Health, Ulyana Suprun, a Ukrainian-American native of Detroit who received an MD from Michigan State. Upon introduction of the bill, Suprun tweeted that medical cannabis will help at least 2 million people suffering from chronic pain, and in particular, cancer patients. Even more significantly, though, the initiative appears to enjoy the support of Ukraine’s newly elected President, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. During the campaign, Zelenskiy said that he thinks that it would be “normal” to legalize medical marijuana “in droplets” but did not elaborate. Given that Zelenskiy has not spoken extensively on legalization, it remains to be seen if he will continue to take this position as President and, if so, what exactly he will do to support the bill. But if he does actively support it, given his popularity (he won 73% of the vote), plus Suprun’s support and the apparent support from society (a petition in support of the bill received over 25,000 signatures in two months), the bill may well pass. If so, it would be a dramatic development for the post-Soviet world and a demonstration of just how far the demand for reform has spread.

Author

Yuliya Kuchma is an associate in Baker McKenzie’s Compliance and Investigations Practice Group in Washington, DC, where she specializes in internal investigations and government enforcement actions.

Author

Tom Firestone is Co-Chair of the firm's North American Government Enforcement practice and is a member of the Firm's Global Compliance & Investigations Steering Committee. He represents clients in matters involving anti-corruption and the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), internal investigations and transactional due diligence. He is also a member of the firm's Cannabis Review Committee and has advised clients on compliance issues related to cannabis.