History of CBD and Cannabis: Russia
Covering more than an eighth of the world’s total land area, Russia had been a considerable influence in the global cannabis industry for over one hundred years. Although marijuana production peaked in the early twentieth century, there was a time that the country fulfilled the world’s demand for both hemp and cannabis.
Now, cannabis occupies a variegated, complex role in both Russian history and culture. Despite its current illegal status, cannabis used to represent an economic way of life for many serfs.
Cannabis, CBD, and Russia
Currently, cannabis is illegal for industrial, recreational, and medical use throughout Russia. In fact, possession of up to 6 grams is punishable by a hefty fine and fifteen days of mandated detention, while carrying larger amounts is considered a criminal offense.
Before the passage of restrictive cannabis policies, both hemp and cannabis production were popular in the country. At the end of the nineteenth century, hemp cultivation was one of the main sources of revenue for serfs in Mogilev, Orel, and Kursk regions.
Broad swathes of the country were dotted by small hemp plots run primarily by peasant families. It’s estimated the nearly 40 percent of Europe’s hemp supply came from Russia, which exported over 140 thousand tons of hemp annually at the end of the nineteenth century.
Of course, at the onset of Soviet rule, the country’s focus shifted largely away from hemp production. By the early thirties, large hemp farms were broken up into small plots to purely supply local needs. As with more agricultural commodities, both cannabis and hemp experienced shrinking acreage and low yield during this era.
Resurgence of Cannabis
Interestingly, both hemp and cannabis production experienced a strong resurgence in the forties due to wartime demand. Cannabis yield in Russia reached an all time high by 1941 and amounted to four-fifths of the world’s total area occupied by cannabis.
In the 1920s, the Soviet Union introduced early legislation to target the growing rates of narcotic use throughout Russia. Though it was initially focused on opium, the decree soon targeted cannabis cultivation.
Just forty years later, hemp cultivation was considered completely illicit for all purposes. Worldwide anti-cannabis propaganda went a long way towards cementing cannabis’ illegal status in Russia.
Now, cultivation has shifted away from Russia and nearly 93 percent of the nation’s marijuana comes from neighboring state Kazakhstan.
Hope For Cannabis Legalization
That said, there is some hope that Russia could one day open up the space for substantive legalization.
In 2004, Russian drug policy was liberalized in one massive movement. Drugs that used to net a criminal charge are now functionally decriminalized. More specifically, the possession limit for cannabis is now six grams, whereas trace amounts used to result in a criminal sentence.
It’s unclear whether the country will implement further legalization and cannabis reform policy in the near future. Since Russia is largely conservative and Orthodox, it could take years before legalization efforts make headway.