Medical cannabis in Greece: legalisation and regulation
The Greek Ministries of Development and Investments and Rural Development and Food tell MCN about the future of Greece’s medical cannabis industry.
In 2018, the government of Greece approved the legalisation of cannabis for medical use. Representatives of the Greek Ministry of Development and Investments and the Ministry of Rural Development and Food tell MCN about the decision to legalise, the complexities of implementing regulatory standards; and the future of Greece’s cannabis industry.
What decisions and policy developments led to the legalisation of medical cannabis in Greece in 2018?
The provisions of no. 1 of Law 4523/2018, which added Article 2A to Law 4139/2013, laid out exemptions for the production, possession, transportation, storage, supply; as well as the installation and operation of a plant for the processing and production of finished medicinal cannabis products, within a single and enclosed area. In accordance with this law, the relevant ministerial decisions were adopted which set out both the authorisation process for these processing plants and the terms and conditions for the production and marketing of fin
What criteria will companies have to meet in order to obtain a cultivation licence for medical cannabis in Greece?
In accordance with the legislation currently in force, companies may be exceptionally permitted to install and operate medical cannabis processing and production plants for the sole purpose of either supplying the state monopoly on the provision of cannabis for medical purposes, or for the export of these products. In order to receive these permits, companies must meet the following conditions:
- The area within which all the activities for which authorisation is granted must be a single space measuring at least four acres;
- The single area of activity and the area in which cultivation takes place must both be enclosed;
- Specific safety and security requirements must be observed for the protection of the perimeter;
- The Public Security Directorate of the Greek police (SDS/AEA) will supervise the operation to ensure its security provision is compliant with the above requirements. Further checks will also be conducted by the relevant police departments;
- In the event of a breach in safeguarding conditions, authorisation may be withdrawn at any time;
- Applicants will not be approved for a permit if they or any of their employees – including transport drivers – have been convicted or indicted of any felony. Applicants who have been convicted of certain misdemeanours, as well as those who have been placed under judicial support such as curatorship, will also not be eligible to receive a permit; and
- Approval will only be granted for single installations in designated areas and regions where cannabis and hemp processing and production are permitted under land use regulations.
Once an installation has been approved and a company has been granted the requisite operating permits for the units concerned, the company should apply to the Greek National Medicines Agency (EEA) for further authorisation to produce and market their product.
How will the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use aid the progress of Greek healthcare and what economic benefits can it have?
According to the European Parliament’s resolution 2018/2775, there is already convincing evidence that cannabinoid use has significant effects on treatment of a number of serious diseases. The potential use of medical cannabis will therefore be an additional and dynamic alternative treatment for people suffering from serious illnesses and in need of holistic healthcare. In addition, in line with its above-mentioned resolution, the European Parliament has urged Member States to study and promote the prescription of cannabis for medical purposes.
Regarding the consequences for the Greek economy of legalising medicinal cannabis cultivation and production, consideration of worldwide and pan-European data on the cannabis industry leads to the conclusion that our country can, indeed, act as an investment attraction for cannabis-related activities; and that this will undoubtedly have a positive impact on domestic financial figures. To date, analysing the investment proposals already submitted, it is estimated that there will be 8,716 employees in this productive sector and the estimated size of the investments is €1,681,068,794.
How can Greece’s embracing the medical cannabis industry stimulate its position in the global economy?
The legalisation of the production of cannabis-based medicinal products in Greece may boost the country’s position in the world economy, as the commissioning and operation of industry units will lead to increased exports. In particular, it is estimated that the world market for medicinal cannabis will continue to grow; while the German market – which is currently the largest cannabis market in the European Union – is estimated so see a commensurate increase. Therefore, to meet these needs, imports of medicinal cannabis products from countries which already have a defined and secure legislative framework in place will further increase.
Given this, and because:
- Greece is one of the first European countries to have a legislative framework already in place for the operation of processing plants for the production of medicinal cannabis products;
- The prevailing climate in our country favours this particular production process; and
- In Greece there is a skilled workforce and the cost of meeting the energy needs of cannabis production facilities in this sector is relatively low.
It is therefore estimated that our country offers positive investment prospects for the industrial production of medicinal cannabis products, which can contribute to a positive picture of the Greek economy through increased exports.
What specific benefits can Greece provide for companies hoping to cultivate cannabis in the country?
As we noted in the previous question, Greece is one of the first European countries to have a legislative framework in place which governs the operation of processing plants for the production of medicinal cannabis. In fact, as the current licensing framework is already being implemented by the relevant agency, there is relevant licensing experience; and the process required to obtain authorisation to build a medical cannabis processing unit is relatively fast: it is estimated that it only takes three months on average to obtain the relevant installation permit. As Greece also boasts a skilled workforce and favourable climate, it will form an appropriate base for the effective development of the medical cannabis industry.
What challenges has the Greek government faced in implementing policy on medical cannabis? Do you anticipate any future challenges stemming from the new and largely unregulated industry?
As the cannabis industry is a new and dynamic manufacturing sector, the challenges that Greece will face in implementing this legal framework will be significant and significant. On the one hand, Greece should maintain its comparative advantage over other countries which could potentially compete as host countries for investment in the cannabis industry – such as Cyprus, Malta and Portugal – and on the other hand, it must ensure that the legislative framework is complied with smoothly and effectively, so that all relevant security and control requirements enshrined in law can be met. In addition, the prospect of developing synergies between universities and the market in research and development is a critical factor in the future growth of the industry.
How can the government ensure that the medical cannabis products consumers are exposed to are safe and effective?
The current legal framework permits exclusively only the manufacturing of finished medical cannabis products. Therefore – in principle – the safety and efficacy of these products concerned are implied, due to the fact that they are considered medicinal products under Greek law and are therefore licensed and controlled by the competent Greek agency, the National Organisation for Medicines (EOF). In any case, as there is no legislative harmonisation between the EU Member States on the implementation of an institutional framework within this sector, Greece should contribute dynamically to the dialogue in order to ensure that EU-wide guidelines, such as those contained in European Parliament resolution 2018/2775, are followed. In particular, this resolution states that Member States must work together to ensure that cannabis-derived products used for medical purposes are safe, controlled and have undergone clinical trials in order to meet the standards for regulatory evaluation and approval.
How do you see the medical cannabis industry evolving in Greece in the future? How can the government aid its development?
The evolution of this sector in our country is undoubtedly linked to the overall trajectory of the global medical cannabis industry. Current projections indicate that the global medical cannabis market will grow from €7.2bn in 2017 to €55bn in 2024, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 36%; and corresponding estimates for the German medical cannabis market alone suggest a CAGR of 49.5% between 2017 and 2024 – if these predictions are correct, then the outlook for the investment framework is optimistic. Combined with the fact that Greece is a country with a clear legal licensing framework already in place, the market predictions suggest a favourable assessment.
Of course, there are still issues which must be regulated so that nationwide legislation can be made complete. These issues include establishing a clear definition of the type of greenhouses needed for a particular crop and the specific type of finished medicinal products that will eventually be allowed to circulate commercially.
Cannabis law in Greece
Medical use of cannabis is legal in Greece since a relevant law was passed in the Greek Parliament and published in the Government Gazette in 2018. The details of this law and its implementation law were determined by a joint Ministerial Decision, which also set the criteria that companies will have to meet in order to be authorised.
Under the new law, authorisation for the cultivation and processing of medical cannabis in Greece takes the form of a common licence on an integrated production system; meaning that authorisation is completed in two steps: one licence for the initial establishment of a facility; and another for its operation. Licences are issued by the General Secretariat of Industry within the Ministry of Development and Investments. Over 100 companies have applied for these licences, of which 57 have so far been authorised for installation only. Consequently, at present no cannabis strains with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content exceeding 0.2% are cultivated for medical use in Greece.
Medical cannabis cultivation is definitely a challenging field: presently there is no specific common European legal framework, and each Member State has to set its own. There has been increasing interest from 2018 up to today; the final medical cannabis products are strictly intended for pharmaceutical use, with the exclusive function of supplying the government’s monopoly or for international export. Consumer safety is protected by the relevant EU legislation on drugs.
You may find the relevant legal framework in English on the website of Ministry of Rural Development and Food, at the following link: www.minagric.gr/index.php/en/farmer-menu-2/medical-cannabis
Ministry of Rural Development and Food: www.minagric.gr/index.php/en/
Ministry of Development and Investment
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The Greek Ministries of Development and Investments and Rural Development and Food tell MCN about the future of Greece’s medical cannabis industry.
The Legal Situation of Cannabis in Greece
Greece is one of Europe’s favourite travel destinations, and there are good reasons for that. Greece offers stunning views, more history than you could take in on holiday, and plenty of opportunities to party or relax, depending on what you’re looking for. But what about cannabis in Greece?
As a tourist, you might be wondering if you would get in legal problems if you light up a spliff while admiring the sunset on a Greek island. Spoiler alert, you might even spend a night or two in jail if caught. Let’s take a look at the legal situation of cannabis in Greece.
Drug laws in Greece
Greece passed its main drug law in 1987 . And, even though it’s more than 30 years old, the law presented some points that were ahead of its time. Right from the start, the law referred to drug addicts as ‘patients’ instead of criminals, making a clear distinction between addicts and non-addicts.
According to the Greek system, addicts would receive a more lenient sentence when caught with drugs, and they would be encouraged to seek treatment instead of being sent to prison.
As you can imagine, the law was updated periodically. One of its most important updates was introduced in 2013 and stipulated that individuals who use or obtain drugs for personal use shouldn’t be sentenced to more than five months in prison. If the offender doesn’t have a criminal record and doesn’t commit another relevant offence within a five-year period, the drug offence can be expunged from the records.
The 2013 update also allows judges to suspend the penalties of drug users who admit themselves into special drug treatment units operating in prisons or join drug treatment programs operated by authorised drug agencies.
However, the 2013 update also removed the definitions of all quantities of drugs for personal use which were stipulated in the earlier versions of the law. This means that the judge presiding the case is now the one who decides if an individual was in possession of drugs for personal use or if there was intent to sell them.
The judges have to make this decision on a case-by-case basis, depending on the type of drug, its quantity, purity and the individual circumstances of the offender.
Individuals convicted of drug supply may be sentenced to three years of imprisonment if they’re addicted to drugs or sharing in a group (yes, passing a joint is considered supply) and at least eight years of imprisonment if they’re not. The Greek drug law makes life sentences for drug trafficking possible, albeit in special cases.
If medical professionals and drug therapists supply drugs to their patients or teachers supply their pupils, they risk getting the life sentence.
The drug law also states that those convicted for drug trafficking may receive a fine of 50,000 to 1 million euros, depending on their individual circumstances. Drug-dependent individuals who have been convicted for drug trafficking may be eligible for conditional release if they serve at least one-fifth of their sentence and have undergone drug treatment.
Greek cannabis laws explained for tourists
What does that mean for the average recreational cannabis user in Greece? Well, it means you shouldn’t use cannabis in public because it’s illegal. Greek policemen are not actively looking for cannabis when tourists pass them by, but they won’t have any problems stopping you if you act suspicious.
Even though the Greek law framework allows imprisonment for cannabis consumption, you will most likely get a fine if you’re caught with a small quantity for personal use. However, you might have to show up in court, which means you might have to spend a night or two in jail waiting for your trial.
So, even if you might get away with a fine, the entire experience might be a really unpleasant one.
Greece embraces medical cannabis
Greece legalised medical cannabis in 2017 and became the sixth EU country to do so. Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister at the time, said that cannabis would also be downgraded from a class A drug to a class B drug, thus acknowledging the medical values of marijuana and softening the authorities’ attitude towards cannabis.
The legalisation of medical marijuana led to the creation of a legal consumption market in Greece. And the authorities decided to capitalise on the moment and also made cannabis-production facilities legal.
Stergios Pitsiorlas, the deputy economy minister at the time, said that the legalisation of cannabis production facilities attracted huge interest from Canadian and Israeli investors.
The Greek authorities initially issued 14 cannabis growing licences. The authorities expected the licences to produce around 1,400 jobs and revenue of around 159 million euros. More than 30 foreign companies applied to get one of the 14 lots.
In 2019, analysts believed that future cannabis investments could create up to 7,000 jobs and produce revenue of up to 1.5 billion euros for Greece.
Under the Greek medical cannabis law, patients can only access cannabis medication if they have a prescription. Only patients who suffer from conditions like epilepsy, muscle spasms, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain and cancer qualify for cannabis prescriptions.
However, Health Minister Andreas Xanthos said that cannabis products would not be subsidised through the state’s health insurance schemes, so patients have to bear the full cost out of pocket.
Hemp cultivation and CBD production are legal in Greece
Greece has a long history of cannabis cultivation. Ancient greeks used cannabis to make rope, sailcloth, sacks, clothing and more. Hemp cultivation was banned in Greece back in 1957, but a 2017 law made it legal again. And cannabis cultivation is really picking up in Greece, thanks to the country’s ideal climate for weed growing.
The big swings in temperature between night and day aid the production of resin in the cannabis plants. The microclimate in some parts of Greece allows cannabis plants to reach heights of 3.5 metres before harvest, and hemp growing can be a profitable alternative to farmers who frequently face droughts and wildfires .
Greeks can produce, sell and consume cannabidiol (CBD) products as long as their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are lower than 0.2 percent. You don’t have to have a prescription to buy CBD in Greece, and it’s legal to buy it online.
However, CBD sellers and producers are not allowed to advertise their products as health supplements.
Greece could become one of Europe’s leading cannabis producers
Greece could become one of Europe’s largest cannabis producers if it plays its cards right. The country’s favourable climate for cannabis production and the fact that it was one of the first European countries to legalise the cultivation of medical marijuana should give it the advantages it needs to become one of the EU’s main suppliers.
Recreational cannabis consumption is still illegal in Greece, and even though the Greek laws can be lenient, tourists shouldn’t risk their income and/or freedom to smoke weed.
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Victor is a staff writer at Strain Insider and a digital marketer. He writes about cannabis, health & wellness, and marketing topics. When he’s not writing, Victor usually wastes time online looking for the perfect gif.
Greece is one of Europe’s favourite travel destinations, but what about Greek cannabis laws? Will you get in trouble because of marijuana in Greece?