Medical marijuana is now legal in the Czech Republic. The medical cannabis program took effect Tuesday after being approved by parliament in January. Medical marijuana is available by prescription to those suffering from cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or psoriasis.

The country will import its medical pot from Israel or Holland for the first year. This allows the Czech Republic to implement its program while the State Institute for Drug Control determines crop areas and issues licenses to local growers.

The Czech Republic is considered liberal in its approach to pot – possession of half an ounce of marijuana is punishable by a small fine, as is cultivation of up to five plants. Patients will need a prescription from a doctor to get the drug at pharmacies, and treatment will not be covered by health insurance.

Medical marijuana use is legal in a number of European countries and parts of the United States.

So, is cannabis a medical miracle? ForUm has decided to asked doctors, sociologists and members of the parliament whether Ukraine should adopt similar practice and legalize medical cannabis.

Tetyana Bakhteyeva, MP (Party of Regions), head of the parliamentary committee on healthcare:

- I'm dead-set against legalization of cannabis, as the drug problem in Ukraine is serious enough. I believe it is unacceptable for our country to have cannabis as a painkiller. Such legalization will provoke illegal drug turnover and drug abuse.

People suffering grave diseases have a vast variety of painkilling medicines. There are also painkillers allowed for sale without prescription. 

Cannabis is a psychoactive substance and causes addiction after certain period of use. Being a doctor, I can state that use of cannabis can lead to malfunction of liver and other organs. Moreover, the fact that cannabis reduces pain has yet to be proved through clinical researches.
Olena Haustova, psychiatrist, chief of the neuropsychiatry and neurophysiology department of the Ukrainian scientific research institute:

- Every country has its standards on treatment of certain pathologies. If a European state, even close to Ukraine, changes its standards, it still has nothing to do with Ukraine. We have our own group of experts, who analyze the international experience and decide what medicines to use in the country.

Legalization of cannabis in Czech Republic means that having analyzed peculiarities of Czech population, experts have grounds to adopt this policy. However, do not forget that medicines in the EU can be bought by prescription only, and insurance companies control the process very closely. I wouldn't consider the legalization of medical cannabis as a simplification of access to drugs for Czech people.

As a doctor I can tell you that cannabinoids are the best painkillers. At least that is what international researches I've studied say. Yes, cannabinoids can be useful, but they do not outdo other substances. Our national protocols have a sufficient variety of painkilling medicines even without cannabis. According to the Ukrainian national standards, we use stepped dosing for treating pain, and opiates are the heaviest components prescribed for grave cases.

Yevhen Golovakha, sociologist, deputy director if the Sociology Institute of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine:

- There are two reasons such practice cannot be implemented in Ukraine for now. Firstly, Czech people are more law-obedient than Ukrainians. If we introduce this practice in our country, there will be abuses. Secondly, public opinion of Ukrainians differs from the public opinion in Western and Central Europe. Ukrainians are more conservative, and the majority of population stands against legalization of light drugs. 

Nevertheless, this issue deserves to be discussed, as well as the issue of euthanasia. Hopefully, public discussions will change the attitude to the problem. 

Olha Skorina, head of the legal department of the All-Ukrainian council on patients' rights and security:

- For the moment, there are no legal possibilities to adopt such practice in Ukraine. Cannabis is considered a drug substance and is prohibited by the legislation. Its medical use can be approved only after a series of researches and clinical tests. Moreover, our current legislation comes down rather to prohibitive measures rather than permissive. Before March, grave patients had problems with accessing even legally permitted heavy painkillers, like morphine for example. All measures had been taken to limit access to the drug because of widespread drug addiction in the country. That is why Ukraine does not have prerequisite for legalization of medical cannabis.

Yuri Gaydayev, former healthcare minister, MP of the fourth parliament (Communist faction):

- Let's be honest, cannabis is a drug and causes addiction. As a doctor I stand against such practice.
Natalia Kostenko, doctor of social sciences, professor of the Sociology Institute of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine:

- The issue is complicated. On one hand, it is good there is treatment, which can ease pain, but on the other hand, legalization of drugs opens different possibilities. In particular, many medicines often become a source of income for shadow business. In practice, it is very difficult to limit the use of cannabis only to seriously sick patients. 

Serhiy Sobolev, MP (Baatkivshchyna faction), member of the parliamentary committee on legal policy:

- I am totally against legalization of any types of drugs, even light ones. European standards we should follow are corruption free country and fair elections, not legalization of drugs.  


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