The Russian government’s legislative commission has approved a draft bill that would allow the state-controlled cultivation of medical opium in the country.

A statement, released by the Russian government on 22 October, states that the law would create a legal mechanism to begin the full-cycle production of “narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances.”

Of the 10 multinational companies which produce opium, nine belong to countries which have imposed economic sanctions on Russia. While the country currently produces some opium-based drugs, the drug itself must be imported from abroad.

Under a federal Russian law dating back to 1987, the cultivation of narcotic plants to produce and manufacture drugs is prohibited. The new draft bill hopes to allow limited cultivation for medicinal and veterinary use, as well as making it possible to explore the drugs’ industrial applications.

Russia’s Ministry of Industry and Trade first submitted the draft bill following a presidential decree dated 7 May 2012, aimed at “improving the state policy in the field of health.”

The decree specifically states that, by 2018, Russia hopes to bring the volume of domestic drug production of “vital and essential drugs up to 90 percent.” This amendment also falls under Russia’s “Pharma 2030”strategy for the development of the pharmaceutical industry in the country over the next decade, which lists supporting local manufacturers as one of its major goals.

Speaking to PLN, Alimirzoev & Trofimov Lawyers (A&T Lawyers) highlighted the fact that the bill sets out “the limited types of entities that are allowed to grow opium plants.”

“These are state companies, state institutions and state-controlled business entities formed as a result of the privatisation of state companies in which 100% of shares and stakes belong to the state,” they said. “Hence, the production of opium for whatever purposes in Russia is and will be fully controlled by the government and there is and still will be a complex state monopoly.”

A&T Lawyers also noted that amendments would need to be made to article 228.2 of Russia’s Criminal Code, concerned with drug trafficking, and article 231, which prohibits growing opium plants, to comply with the bill. Nevertheless, they noted that the bill won’t clear the way for personal use of opiates, strictly limiting production to “medical and scientific purposes”.

The bill is now set to be discussed at a government meeting and will need to be passed to the State Duma (Russia’s legislative body) before it is enacted.