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Cannabis laws in Russia

Cannabis laws in Russia

Table of contents

Medical: illegal 
Recreational: illegal (possession of up to 6 grams was decriminalized in 2004) 

The Russian Federation is far from a marijuana free-for-all, and both medical and recreational cannabis are illegal in the country. 

In 2004, Russia revised its drug laws to make possession of up to 20 grams of cannabis an administrative offense, and not subject to incarceration. The country took a step back in February 2006, when the government cancelled RF Government Decree No. 231 of May, 2004, thus scaling the amount back down to 6 grams.  

Since then, 6 grams or more of cannabis is considered a “large amount,” and more than 100 grams is considered an “exceptionally large amount.” Both can result in a years-long prison sentence. Anything less than 6 grams of cannabis can result in a fine or “corrective labor.” 

As of June, 2019, The Moscow Times reported that Russia has the highest per capita number of people imprisoned for drug crimes in Europe. 

In November, 2019, the Russian news agency Interfax quoted Yevgeny Bryun of the Russian Health Ministry as saying that “medical marijuana uses are being researched in Russia,” but that cannabis will not be legalized “unless a variety that does not cause psychosis is found.”

Bryun also stated that 1-3% of people smoking cannabis develop severe psychosis, including schizophrenia (an assertion not supported by science) and thus “legalization is out of the question in this case.” 

Two years earlier, the head of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ anti-drug administration stated that the ministry does not support marijuana legalization, including for medical purposes. 

How do Russians generally view marijuana?

Not only the government, but a vast majority of citizens also oppose cannabis legalization (The Cannigma)

A 2003 country profile by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime found that cannabis “remains the most abused drug,” and that Russian authorities estimate that cannabis grows wild in the country over a million hectares. 

In 2018, a telephone survey of around 1,600 people found that 89% of Russians are opposed to the legalization of soft drugs like cannabis and only 8% are in favor. The survey also found that only 17% of 18-24 year olds and 13% of 25-34 year olds support legalization. 

Official Russian perceptions of cannabis are quite conservative, as can be seen in statements by Russian political leaders, such as those mentioned above. In addition, when Canada legalized recreational marijuana in 2018, the Russian Foreign Ministry criticized the move, calling it a breach of Canada’s “international legal obligations.” 

The conservative approach to cannabis can also be seen in highly-publicized cases of draconian measures taken against people arrested for cannabis use. These include a story reported in the Moscow Times in 2019, which detailed how police used Tinder to lure a 19-year-old man into an arrest for less than 7 grams of marijuana. 

Rallies for cannabis legalization have been the subject of police repression, including a 2004 march in Moscow, in which police detained 65 out of 200 participants.

What Russian law permits medical patients?

The country does not allow medical marijuana and it is unlikely that this will change anytime soon. A 2017 article reported that Russia’s Deputy Health Minister Dmitry Kostennikov has stated that cannabis is a highly dangerous drug and that “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.”

Visiting Russia – can you buy or bring marijuana products?

While Russia’s criminal code has technically decriminalized the possession of up to 6 grams of cannabis, tourists would probably be ill-advised to put too much trust in the letter of the law. Anyone detained by police with cannabis – including less than 6 grams – could face abuse, a demand for a bribe, and all types of other legal hassles until they are released. There’s also no assurance that the police won’t say that the amount is more than 6 grams if they are so inclined. 

In addition, consuming cannabis or trying to purchase it in public could be a risky endeavor that may not only draw the ire of the police, but also everyday Russian civilians. 

Interestingly enough though, when Russia hosted the FIFA World Cup in 2018, the country allowed World Cup fans to bring medicinal marijuana (and medicinal cocaine and heroin) into the country as long as they had a prescription. 

In addition, Russia’s Federal Customs Service – in keeping with a decision made by the Eurasian Economic Commission – allows the entrance of “narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, except limited amounts of narcotics  and  psychotropic substances  in the form of medical agents for personal administration on medical indications in case of presence of the supporting medical documents with specification and amount of the product.”

However, it would be extremely unwise to attempt to bring cannabis in any form into Russia.

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