Opium poppies
© REUTERS / Carlos Jasso
Opium poppies in Mexico.
A government-sponsored bill that makes legal the growth of opioid plants for raw materials in pharmaceutical firms in Russia has been fully approved by legislators. It is meant to prevent possible cuts in supply due to sanctions.

The draft law was greenlit on Wednesday by the Russian senate. The State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, passed it in the third reading last week. Once signed into law by the president, it will allow the government to license larger-scale growth of plants like opium poppy, which would then be delivered to Russian drug producers. At the moment only small-scale growth is allowed for scientific research, teaching purposes or use by forensic experts in their work.

The government introduced the legislation in January, saying it was necessary to ensure that Russian drug producers won't find themselves short on supply if foreign nations producing precursors for opioid painkillers impose sanctions on Russia.

There are 13 domestically produced drugs, including nine listed as essential for the national healthcare system, that are at risk, according to the sponsors. The plan is to allow two state-owned companies, which are currently licensed to grow opium poppy, to prepare for a possible expansion of their fields, should a need arise. The government estimates that it would need to allocate about two square kilometers of land to poppy growth to cover all domestic demand.