Rather, the movement draws attention to the drug legislation in Ukraine, and promotes a tolerant attitude towards smokers, tokers, potheads, dopeheads, weedies, caners, stoners, and what they smoke – joints, spliffs, doobies, reefers, you get the drill. On the eve of the upcoming march, What’s On gathered a gaggle of midnight smokers. We strung together a few thoughts about future of weed smoking here in Ukraine. Then we went to McDonalds.
Living in the suburbs of Kyiv and passing the nearby forest each evening, I can often smell the weed fumes coming from behind thick bushes. The silhouettes of young guys and girls emerging from the forest in high spirits leaves no doubt – these teenagers have been puffing away on marijuana, hiding from the prying eyes of parents and militia.
Today, having even a small amount of marijuana in your pocket is punishable by law, while selling just one gram of weed can result in 6-10 years of imprisonment. I deliberately write “can”, because with our Ukrainian militia, most things can be evaded with a little ‘persuasion’. The organisation Objective Reality, which holds the Liberty March every year, makes a rough estimation of the bribe for drug cases as between 1000 to 4000 hryvnia. Other sources give figures from 300hrv for having 1 gram of weed in your pocket, and up to $10,000 – 20,000 if a sizeable stash is found.
However, in 2009, Ukrainian legislation made a step towards a tolerate attitude to partakers: planting more than 10 bushes of marijuana is a criminally liable offence, while the weed-grower who has up to 10 plants on his balcony with no intention of selling it, is charged only with administrative liability (meaning a fine and confiscation).
A Word on Weed
It would probably be fair to say marijuana is the most popular light drug in Ukraine. As the whole procedure of planting, producing and smoking is illegal, it is difficult to gauge the approximate amount in circulation within the country. Objective Reality states that each year, nearly 15,000 people are put in prison for having more than 5 grams of weed on them.
Recalling my own student years, many of my classmates did smoke hash from time to time, simply because it was interesting to try. A really cool party invariably entailed a puff or two. I doubt this situation has changed much today – the need for furtiveness and secrecy only adds thrill to the whole thing. For many people, marijuana smoking is stubbed out in their youth, for others it becomes a sort of lifestyle, where weed helps to overcome stress or distracts from problems.
For some though, the topic is a question of justice. They take part in public actions or, as a guy calling himself Indica (real name Ihor) did, start an informational website, where one can find detailed info on all sorts of drugs including cannabis. He and his colleagues created the website last year, as they were interested in the topic of drugs and the laws surrounding it, and yet could not find objective information. “There are many anti-drug sites that simply aim to frighten people. Others openly advocate being a stoner. Our site www.psyplants.org
publishes information ‘as it is’ – we give both the positive and the negative sides of the story and let the reader decide for themselves.”
Hope for Dope?
He himself first sparked up a joint as a school graduate and remembers even now those hours of laughter it provided. Later, Ihor quit smoking weed. For some years though now, living in India where cannabis smoking is a regular thing, he has enjoyed a relaxing spliff from time to time.
Another guy who agreed to share his marijuana memories, and wished to remain unnamed, also experimented for the first time as a teenager: “Funnily enough, I did not start smoking actual cigarettes until I was 18, so in that respect you can say that marijuana was a ‘gateway drug’.” Leaving weed as mainly a habit of youth, he does not smoke pot on a daily basis. He does, however, enjoy it from time to time, appreciating the specific mood it brings. “It is something that can help with creative thinking – your mind goes down unknown paths and can lead you to finding all sorts of inventive, sometimes even brilliant solutions,” says our unnamed smoker.
Now this sounds almost like pot-promotion, which we don’t mean at all, but both our guys do support the idea of marijuana legalisation in Ukraine. Leaving aside the moralising aspect about which is more harmful – smoking tobacco or pot, or even smoking pot or drinking horilka (which is legal and even considered a symbol of Ukrainian national pride), the bare logic says that if something is legal, it is easier to control. For instance, if Kyiv had certain clubs where marijuana smoking were permitted, its teenagers wouldn’t have to hide in the forest at night, like feral animals, to enjoy their pleasures. Nor would they have to seek out dodgy drug dealers.
At the same time, militia wouldn’t have to patrol dark backstreets and parks in search of young smokers to top up their salaries. It’s only the most primitive level of profiting from the illegal status of marijuana, and, as is commonly known in Ukraine, militia often become the main chain in the drug-dealing business.
Ihor also points out the economical and ideological aspects of the situation: “Marijuana is illegal in Ukraine because certain officials need to sell alcohol, which nets them fat profits. At the same time, state officials want to keep people addicted to alcohol as that guarantees they will just be drinking, watching TV, working in low-skilled jobs and have little desire to develop themselves further. It’s obvious that the legalisation of weed would distract young people from such dangerous drugs as alcohol and tobacco.” Ihor doubts though, that marijuana legalisation is a realistic short-term goal for Ukraine, while our other dude says Ukraine is a specific case: “The only way weed would be legalised here would be if someone in power found some personal profit from it!”
So, while marijuana legalisation seems unlikely to happen in the nearest future, the Liberty March in Kyiv will once more try to persuade conservative Ukrainian society to change its aggressive attitude to smokers of the substance. Marching with the traditional three-coloured Rasta flag and portraits of hero Bob Marley, these public actions are usually viewed by the majority of older Ukrainians as something alien and dangerous. Little they know what might have gone into that traditional, legendary, Ukrainian cossack’s pipe. Not so outlandish after all, perhaps...
Check out www.cannabis.wikia.com/wiki/2012 for more info on the World Wide March for Marijuana