Russia May Begin Domestic Opium Production to Counter Economic Sanctions

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The Russian government's legislative commission has approved a draft law that would legalise licensed opium production in the country.

The purpose of the draft federal law, the government has said, is to establish a legal method for licensed groups to cultivate opium, so that “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances” can then be produced with said opium.

Russia currently manufactures some opioid drugs domestically, but the opium used in this production is imported. The state’s ability to continue this production is in jeopardy due to trade sanctions imposed by the US, EU, and several other countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. The sanctions target Russian authorities, businesspeople, and other individuals.

“The international market for pharmaceutical substances for the production of opium preparations is controlled by a group of ten companies, nine of which are under the jurisdiction of the states that have applied sanctions to Russia.” the government stated on October 22. “Thus, to ensure national security in the segment of anaesthetic drugs, import substitution is necessary. In this regard, it is necessary to organise a full cycle of production of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances from cultivated narcotic plants.”

Current Russian legislation stipulates that any cultivation of the opium plant is illegal, even if destined for the legal production of pharmaceuticals. The draft law - if passed - would end this ban, allowing the state to license unitary enterprises (government-run corporations) to produce the drug, if licensed. The government notes that two such enterprises have already been identified.

Russia continues to implement repressive policies towards people who possess or produce illegal drugs for their personal use. Surprisingly, Russian legislation states that personal drug possession is decriminalised, but the reality of implementation tells another story. The extremely low thresholds for what is considered “personal” make the system unworkable, and people caught in possession of very small quantities of drugs continue to be imprisoned, as TalkingDrugs has described.

The new draft law is set to be discussed at a government meeting.