Kiev, December 31, 2020
A bill for the legalization of medical marijuana was recently submitted to the Ukrainian Parliament. Deputies of the submitting Golos (Voice) Party were inspired to do so after the primate of the schismatic “Orthodox Church of Ukraine” spoke positively about the possibility of legalizing the drug if it can be used for good purposes.
Of course, the issue is a divisive one for Ukrainian society and in Eastern Europe in general. In 2018, Georgia became the first post-Soviet nation to legalize medical marijuana, against the strong protests of the Georgian Orthodox Church.
Yesterday, one hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church commented on the situation, offering a point of view more in line with the Georgian Church than the schismatic Epiphany Dumenko.
Speaking with Pravblog, His Grace Bishop Sylvester of Belgorod, the rector of the Kiev Theological Seminary and Academy, warned that the legalization of medical marijuana could be end up being a cover for the trafficking of soft drugs.
“The main argument against the legalization of marijuana was and still is the fear of the uncontrolled use of narcotic drugs,” His Grace explained, while proponents of legalized marijuana have found a “loophole” in medical marijuana.
According to Deputy Kira Rudik of the Golos Party, medical marijuana could be used to treat cancer, epilepsy, diabetes, depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and many other ailments.
“Judging by this list, this revolutionary tool could basically replace the entire system of domestic medicine…” Bp. Sylvester commented.
The problem of drug addiction is no mere abstraction in Ukraine, he emphasizes: According to official data, there are more than 500,000 people suffering from drug addiction, and this figure is on the rise every year. And despite the strict control over narcotics and psychotropics used in medicine, they are still abused.
So, “Why should another group of narcotic drugs be introduced into circulation?” His Grace wonders. In any case, medicine is supposed to be introduced by medical professionals, but here we have political activists and party leaders involved, he said, which indicates that this is not strictly a medical issue.
Moreover, if its patients who need medical marijuana, why are they not the ones calling for it, His Grace asks. “Around the world, healthy people with flags and Bob Marley t-shirts and shirts with pictures of cannabis leaves come out to events supporting the legalization of marijuana,” the Ukrainian hierarch noted.
And it is difficult to understand how the state proposes to distinguish medical marijuana use from recreational use. “In fact, we could get a cover scheme for the trafficking of soft drugs, which are usually the starting point for drug addiction, which later develops into more severe forms,” His Grace warned.
Priests deal with drug addicts on a regular basis and see the wide damage it causes. “Is it really necessary to legalize soft drugs in Ukraine, where the population already has a serious problem with alcoholism, smoking, gambling?” His Grace asks rhetorically.
Legalizing medical marijuana would bring in tax revenue, Bp. Sylvester says, “But is it worth covering the budget deficit to rise the fate of our children, the future of our country? This question must be answered by the People’s Deputies who are taking the initiative to legalize marijuana.”
The Georgian Church took the same stance when fighting the legalization of medical marijuana in 2018. The Holy Synod stated at that time that “permission to produce cannabis really means the legalization of drug trafficking, which will bring severe consequences to the country.”