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14 Mar, 2019 11:41

Opium poppy growth to become legal in Russia to counter possible Western sanctions

Opium poppy growth to become legal in Russia to counter possible Western sanctions

The Russian parliament has furthered a bill, which seeks to legalize growth of plants that can be used to produce opioids. The measure is meant to ensure that Russia has a steady supply of raw materials for producing painkillers.

At the moment growth of opium poppies is completely illegal in Russia, which means that Russian medicine producers have to import materials to produce opioid painkillers. The bill, which passed its first reading in the Russian parliament on Thursday, wants to cover this potential vulnerability by making poppy growth a state monopoly.

According to the sponsors of the bill, there are 13 opioid drugs produced domestically in Russia. Each year when they import some 400kg of precursors for production, they have to turn to one of ten large foreign firms – nine of which are based in countries that have a record of supporting anti-Russian economic sanctions. The country needs to insulate its producer from a possible cut-off from suppliers by creating a domestic source of opioid precursors, the justification states.

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After the bill, which was penned by the government, is signed into law, Russia would create a secure chain of supply of opioid plants needed for pharmaceutics and research purposes, with production amounts determined by domestic demand, officials say.

Russia has strict laws against recreational drugs, which some people say are unnecessarily restrictive on legal use of substances that can be also abused. There have been quite a few high-profile stories about patients with terminal cancer or similarly painful diseases being unable to get effective painkillers because of the rules. A new law on palliative medicine, which is aimed at changing the situation with painkillers for the better, came into force in Russia last week.

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