So Russia huh. For seemingly as long as anyone can remember, Vladimir Putin has been President or Prime Minister and has ruled Russia entirely as he has seen fit. All the while remaining inconspicuously unchallenged for the most part. In just about every facet of day to day life, his state dictates a course of action. While the Russian Federation has flirted with decriminalization in the past, the legal status of weed in Russia shouldn’t come as a surprise.
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Weed Laws In Russia
The Russian Federation relies on two classifications, as far as personal possession is concerned. The first are administrative offenses. These work in a similar fashion to how decriminalized countries handle cannabis possession. The second are criminal offenses which are relatively self-explanatory. So what’s the difference?
Under the Russian Criminal Code possession of up 6 grams of cannabis is considered administrative. This can result in a 5000 rouble (roughly $70 USD) fine or 15 days imprisonment.
Criminal offenses are anything above that amount and carry more stringent punishments. The punishment comes in the form of one of the following:
- up to a 40,000 rouble ($550 USD) fine
- garnishing of income to that amount
- 480 hours of compulsory work
- corrective labor for a term of up to two years
- restriction of liberty for a term of up to three years
- deprivation of liberty for the same term
Medical Marijuana In Russia
If it wasn’t apparent, Russia is an anti-cannabis country. Nowhere is this made more obvious than in how it handles medicinal cannabis. This is to say it doesn’t. Russia does not have and does not plan to have a medical cannabis program. Any thought of the existing Russian government adopting an MMJ program was put to rest by the Russian Deputy Health Minister in 2017. He stated:
“On one hand, smoking marijuana is not so widespread in Russia as it is in the United States. On the other hand, the harm which this drug causes is evident. In spite of the fact that it’s presented as a ‘light’ drug, it proves to be the first step on the way to harder drugs, and nurtures and fuels the drug culture…”
His words have been treated as indicative of the Russian government’s stance, and used as justification against reform several times since. While this flies in the face of the evidence produced globally from countries with legal weed, it follows a consistent logic in how Russia views cannabis.
Russia’s Recent History With Cannabis
While in recent memory Russia has taken a hard-line stance against cannabis reform; this has not always been the case. In 2004 Russia liberalized their drug laws, lifting the initial administrative amount from 6 grams to a more respectable 20 grams. This sudden and abrupt change to the drug laws only stood for two years. In 2006, Russia once again revised its possession limits, returning to the pre-2004 reform amount of 6 grams. While still a disappointment, their revision down was not a total loss.
Before the 2004 reforms, Russia utilized the Academician Babayan’s Summary Table in discerning how to quantify possession limits. The summary table itself is supposedly flawed, and was developed by a consultancy body with questionable scientific credentials. Since the 2006 reforms, however, the Summary Table has been abandoned. While the new laws and measurements are still stringent, the changes have proven to be significantly less repressive.
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Even with a relatively more relaxed approach to cannabis laws (relative to Russia at least), Russia remains at odds with the tall green plant. From Russian Police catfishing users, the Russian Government criticizing countries that enact cannabis reform, to arresting a US teenager for possessing medical cannabis, all official channels are anti-cannabis. But where does the public stand?
Does Russia Want Legal Weed?
While Russia’s track record when it comes to voting and accurately reporting the outcome is spotty, there remains a need to examine public opinion. A poll published by the Anketolog Institute of Public Opinion, a Russian think tank, found that over half of Russia is not for cannabis reform. They’re against it.
59% of those surveyed said they strongly oppose cannabis reform, with 35% of respondents believing that cannabis reform is equivalent to cultural and spiritual decay. The demographic most likely to support reform are men aged between 18-30. They are still strongly outnumbered by their peers that are opposed to reform, however.
In the larger cities of Moscow and Saint Petersburg, support is higher, though still low compared to most cities of the same size.
Future Predictions For Weed In Russia
By and large, practically all parts of Russian society reject cannabis. Any attempts to legalize it seem doomed to fail. Be it government, doctors, or even the average person on the street, there appears to be little or no desire to move towards liberalization once again. Given Russia’s history towards near iron-fisted rule in the last 15 years, the chances of any reform movement gaining traction is minuscule. It likely won’t be until a change of government takes place that any hope can be found for legalized or decriminalized cannabis. Legal weed likely won’t be coming to Russia any time soon.
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