Cannabis law and legislation in Russia

Medical use

The use of raw cannabis in Russia for medical purposes is not permitted. Cannabis is included in the List I of the narcotic and psychoactive substances. The circulation of substances included in the List I is under the strictest governmental control.

The law specifically allows the reprocessing of drugs included in List I (e.g. including cannabis) into principally different substances, namely: (i) narcotic and psychoactive substances used for medical or veterinary purposes; or (ii) non-narcotic substances. However, this opportunity is only available to governmental enterprises meeting certain requirements, and not to private companies. 

The duly licensed governmental enterprises can use cannabis as a “raw material” and reprocess it into another narcotic or psychoactive substance being under a less restrictive regime, but in any case it is not possible to use cannabis as a medicine itself.

In July 2019, a new law amending the current Law on Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances was enacted in Russia. It partially legalises the cultivating of plants containing drugs for the manufacturing of narcotic and psychoactive substances for medical or veterinary use. The list of such plants has been adopted by the Regulation of the Russian Government dated 6 February 2020 No. 101. Although it was expected that the said Regulation may partially allow the cultivating of cannabis for medical and veterinary use, that has not happened and such cultivating remains prohibited.

Taking the above into account, at present, patients cannot get access to cannabis for medical use.

Depending on particular circumstances, a violation of the rules on cannabis circulation may be punished under different articles of the Russian Criminal Code.

Non-authorised manufacturing, sale or delivery of narcotic or psychotropic substances, their analogues or plants containing narcotic or psychotropic substances (including cannabis) is punishable under Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code.
Depending on various factors (such as the volume or weight of the cannabis produced or sold unlawfully; whether the crime was committed by an individual or an organised criminal group, and so forth), the convicted person may be sentenced to eight to twenty years of imprisonment, or even to a life sentence if the crime is committed on an especially large scale (for cannabis this means more than 10kg).

If a person violates special rules of circulation of narcotic and psychotropic substances, they can be punished under Article 228.1 of the Russian Criminal Code. In the worst-case scenario (if such violation led to injury), a person may be sentenced to up to three years imprisonment and disqualification for the same term.

Recreational use

Circulation of cannabis for recreational purposes is prohibited.

Industrial use

According to the Regulation of the Russian Government dated 6 February 2020 No. 101, the use of cannabis for industrial purposes is permitted, provided that: (i) the particular kind of cannabis is included in the State Register of Plant Variety; (ii) the content of THC in the cannabis does not exceed 0.1%; and (iii) cannabis seeds of the above or following reproductions are banned from using for seeding.

Russian laws do not provide for special rules regarding CBD content and its legal status is not clear at this time. Even though it is not directly included in any lists of controlled drugs, it may be considered an isomer of THC. In turn, THC is also included in the List I and its circulation is strictly limited as described above.

Patentability

It is possible to patent a cannabis-based product, provided that the product itself is allowed in Russia (for example, cannabis oil produced from Cannabis sativa, fibre fetlock from Cannabis sativa seeds, etc.).

Latest developments

In December 2018, the Russian Ministry of Sports issued Order No. 53177 stating that cannabinoids are prohibited from being used by sportsmen.

In July 2019, the new law amending the current Law on Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances 
was enforced. In particular, it aims to support localisation of manufacturing of opioid-containing medicines. It should facilitate Russian patients’ access to such medicines.

However, these regulatory developments do not significantly change the regulatory regime for cannabis in Russia. The use of cannabis for medical or recreational purposes remains prohibited.

Legalisation of cannabis for medical use and liberalisation of criminal law regarding circulation and consumption of cannabis are regularly discussed in Russia. However, this has not resulted in significant changes in this field. 

Moreover, the new Russian counter-drugs strategy adopted by the President for the period up to 2030 stipulates that the use of cannabis for recreational purposes should be viewed as a treat to the Russian healthcare policy. 

Thus, at this stage, it seems unlikely that any steps in this direction will be taken soon

Portrait of Vsevolod Tyupa
Vsevolod Tyupa
Counsel
Moscow
Portrait of Alexey Shadrin
Alexey Shadrin