Ukrainian MPs have voted to legalise cannabis to help war veterans cope with their physical and mental trauma.
A bill to allow weed for medical use sailed through its first reading on Thursday with the support of 268 out of 344 lawmakers. It now needs to pass a second reading in parliament before President Volodymyr Zelensky can sign it into law.
Supporters claim the drug can be used to treat pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and is often safer than prescription opioids.
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Tymofiy Mylovanov, the head of the Kyiv School of Economics and an adviser to Mr Zelensky, said: “Veterans and wounded use marijuana and the legislature wants its use legalised.”
The overwhelming backing for medical cannabis shows a major change in attitudes since Russia invaded Ukraine last February.
A similar bill was rejected in July 2021, despite widespread public support.
This time Ukrainian celebrities like television presenter Yanina Soklova have joined the campaign to push through the new law.
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Ms Sokolova shared a photo online of a Ukrainian soldier lying in a hospital bed after being injured by a Russian landmine in June.
His left leg was partially blown off by the blast and he had to have the rest of it amputated.
She said: “He is in pain 24/7. Terrible pain. I can name you dozens of groups of patients with various painful symptoms. They all need medical cannabis now.”
While Ukraine does not publish its casualty figures, up to 131,000 citizens are thought to have been wounded in the first year of the invasion.
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Around 17,500 are believed to have been killed in action, according to leaked US intelligence documents.
Meanwhile an estimated 200,000 Russian soldiers are said to have been injured or killed in the conflict so far.
A quarter of Ukraine’s population and 60% of its soldiers may be suffering from depression or PTSD because of the war, according to the World Health Organisation.
But mental health services in the country have been sidelined to prioritise trauma care.
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