Ukraine’s acting Minister of Health has endorsed a petition calling on the government to legalize cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes.

Marijuana is currently illegal in all forms in the eastern European country, which has a population of 45 million and a GDP of $112 billion. A petition was submitted to the Ukrainian parliament, Verkhovna Rada, on Thursday, calling for legislators to amend the current law and permit medical cannabis use.
Ulana Suprun, the country’s top Ministry of Health official, then took to Facebook to go all out in favour of legalization.

“We are fully denied the use of medical smoking in treatment and scientific purposes, although applying such evaluations would help almost 2 million citizens who suffer from chronic pain and other disorders,” she said.

Suprun was born in Detroit and worked as a doctor in New York and Michigan before becoming director of humanitarian initiatives at Ukrainian World Congress. When Russia annexed Crimea, she launched an initiative called Patriot Defence, which provides medical training to thousands of soldiers. In July 2015 President Petro Poroshenko conferred citizenship to Suprun, stating that her efforts “saved thousands of lives”.

She has served as Ukrainian Minister of Health since 2016 and she is an influential figure in the country, so her endorsement of medical cannabis is seen as a significant milestone for activists. She noted that cannabis is legal in Australia, Canada, Israel, and many European countries, along with 25 states.

Suprun went on to list all the reasons why cannabis is an effective medicine, arguing that doctors across the world support it. She explained the difference between CBD and THC and mentioned its use in treating Alzheimer’s disease, the palliative pain of cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, anxiety, and other conditions.

Her post has received thousands of likes from Ukrainians, with many thanking Suprun for her boldness. The petition has received more than 5,000 signatures already and Suprun is urging all Ukrainians that support cannabis reform to back the bid. The country has previously seen protests and marches calling for marijuana to be legalized, but they have not gained much government support before, so supporters are hailing this news as a big step in the right direction.