Cannabis and all cannabis-related activities, including possession, sale, and production, are considered illegal in Russia. This applies for both medical and recreational cannabis.
However, the possession of up to two grams of hashish or up to 6 grams of cannabis is decriminalized, or is considered merely as an administrative infraction rather than a criminal violation of law. This means that offenders are only punished with a fine instead of a prison sentence.
Nevertheless, it would still cause you a lot of trouble if you get caught in real life. Depending on the police officer who caught you, your stash will just be confiscated and you get to go, or you get to experience worse. So, if you do not like the idea of spending some time inside a Russian cell, you should think twice about carrying or using cannabis, regardless of how little an amount it is.
Russia’s cannabis history
The country’s history with cannabis dates back to the time when the Scythians, which is a nomadic Indo-European tribe, introduced hemp to the southeast portion of Russia in 600 BCE. Russia, like other ancient cultures, used the hemp plant for its fibers. Hemp was cultivated in the greater part of the country and became one of the most important crops in certain provinces. In fact, by the end of the 19th century, hemp was the principal revenue source for peasants in provinces like Kursk, Chernigov, Orel, Kaluga, and Mogilev.
The Russians were also using cannabis as medicine when Asian immigrants moved to the Russian republics to look for the “exotic” herb. And at the start of the 20th century, use of hashish was mainly confined to Russia’s colonies in Central Asia.
However, in 1934, the Soviet Union started to ban cannabis, along with opium poppy. Even as hemp continued to be a significant agricultural produce, the government imposed a direct ban on the illegal cultivation of Indian hemp.
Until the 1970’s, cannabis was not used much in the country and average Russians considered smoking pot as something strange and alien. This situation somewhat changed when the hippie movement came to the USSR and the number of Asian immigrants increased. Cannabis became a popular drug among Russia’s “bohemian” population. And, for a long time, cannabis remained a “bohemian drug.”
In the last decade, however, the popularity of cannabis skyrocketed despite the government’s strong position against it. Most young Russians know what weed is and have smoked pot at least once in their lives. More and more people are also discarding alcohol – Russia’s national drug – in favor of cannabis, or, worse, combining both.
Russia’s current cannabis culture
Russia’s cannabis culture has specific features. For one, Russians rarely roll joints. Instead, they have papiroses, which are short, thick cigarettes with no filter. Papiroses are commonly filled with pure weed or weed mixed with tobacco. The ones with pure weed are called kosyak.
People usually smoke kosyak using a technique called paravoz, which means steam engine. It is a ritualized method of smoking pot, with two participants. One of them takes the burning end in his mouth and breathes out the paravoz, while the other draws a deep breath from the open end and receives the paravoz. Paravoz is a collective ritual that is popular in big gatherings.
Then there’s smoking with the use of a burbulyator, which is made of a plastic bottle with a bottleneck upper part that is cut off and positioned into the bottle. The bottleneck part can therefore be moved up and down. The burbulyator is filled with water, its upper part moved down, and its neck lined with aluminum foil, pierced, filled with weed, then covered by turning the bottle cap over. The smoker lights up the weed and slowly raises the bottle’s upper part. Smoke then appears inside the bottle, under the water. The smoker takes the cap off, moves the upper part of the bottle down, and inhales the chilled smoke that goes out from the bottle.
Russia also has many words and expressions associated with cannabis. The most common terms for cannabis include konoplya (hemp), anasha, plan, and ganjubas, among many others.
Russian doctors are against medical cannabis
In Russia, doctors do not believe that cannabis is harmless. As such, top medical officials in the country strongly oppose even the smallest possibility of legalizing cannabis for medical purposes.
According to Deputy Health Minister Dmitriy Kostennikov, they do not see an opportunity for Russia to legalize medical cannabis. He pointed out that the harm caused by cannabis is evident and that its presentation as a ‘light’ drug only paves the way for the use of harder drugs, nurturing and fueling the drug culture.
This means that Russian patients suffering from medical conditions that can otherwise be treated using medical cannabis are deprived of the opportunity to choose cannabis treatment.