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- In the event of a breach in safeguarding conditions, authorisation may be withdrawn at any time;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.
Cannabis in Greece – Laws, Use, and History
It is illegal to use or supply cannabis in Greece, though the law is less strict on limited personal use. In 2017, the Greek government legalised the use of cannabis for medical purposes, and a year later, they lifted the ban on growing or producing it. This enables pharmaceutical companies to grow cannabis legally, and industrial hemp suppliers too.
- CBD Products
- Legal under 0.2% THC
- Recreational cannabis
- Medicinal cannabis
- Legal since 2017
Cannabis laws in Greece
Can you possess and use cannabis in Greece?
The Greek Drug Law of 1987 stated that all aspects of drug use were ‘punishable with imprisonment’, even if the individual was only caught in possession of cannabis for personal use. Since then, many amendments have been made to this.
The 2013 amendment introduced a more lenient stance, though it is still strict when compared to other European countries. If caught with a small quantity of cannabis for personal use, you may be sentenced to no more than five months in prison. The offence will not be added to your criminal record, on the condition that the same offence isn’t repeated within a five-year period.
If the investigating judge recommends you to a special treatment unit, the prison sentence may be suspended. The judge decides on the severity of the sentence based on the quantity of cannabis seized, and the offender’s unique circumstances.
Can you sell cannabis in Greece?
It is illegal to sell or supply cannabis in Greece. If you are found guilty of supplying it, you could be sentenced to as much as eight years’ imprisonment. This is reduced to three years if you are an addict yourself or part of a supply group. A life sentence may be given if the supply is carried out by individuals in a position of public responsibility; for example, a teacher or doctor. If the supplier is drug-dependent, they may be considered for conditional release once they have completed the recommended treatment for drug addiction.
In some instances, a fine is issued. Usually this is between EUR 50,000 and EUR 500,000.
Can you grow cannabis in Greece?
The law dictates that it is illegal to grow cannabis in the home. Technically speaking, it is not illegal to purchase cannabis seeds, but these cannot be germinated, nor can they be used to grow plants.
If caught growing a limited number of cannabis plants, the sentence is unlikely to be severe. However, if it is determined that you intend to harvest and distribute the cannabis, this is regarded as a much more serious offence.
Is CBD legal in Greece?
While CBD is not widely used in Greece, it is starting to become more popular. This is largely due to the change in law regarding medicinal use. If the CBD oil is harvested from EU-certified plants, then it is legally acceptable to purchase or sell it.
The CBD oil must not contain more than 0.2% THC. THC is the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis that provides the ‘high’; and the effects of such a small amount are minimal.
Be aware, as the law for the purchase or sale of CBD oil is a famously ‘grey area’ in many countries in Europe. As such, CBD oil should always be sourced from a reputable supplier.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Greece?
Greek law permits the sale, purchase and possession of cannabis seeds. It is legal to send them via the post too. At present, the use of cannabis seeds is restricted. For example, you are not legally permitted to germinate them, nor can you use them to grow plants.
Medicinal cannabis in Greece
In 2017, Greece became the sixth EU country to legalise the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras commented: “From now on, the country is turning its page, as Greece is now included in countries where the deliver of medical cannabis to patients in need is legal.”
Additionally, the plant was downgraded from a Class A to a Class B drug. This highlighted the Greek government’s softening attitude to cannabis.
At this stage, it was unclear how pharmaceutical companies would cultivate cannabis for their medical products. The following year, the government passed a further law, permitting the production of medicinal cannabis.
This is significant, not only for patients in Greece requiring medical treatment, but also for the country’s economy as a whole. Its warm climate is ideal for cannabis growth and could benefit Greece financially in the future.
Industrial hemp in Greece
Thanks to the 2018 law permitting the growth and cultivation of cannabis plants, the country can now legally cultivate industrial hemp. The hemp can be used for a variety of purposes, from construction and textiles, to paper and biodegradable plastic. As with any other form of cannabis production, the plants used must contain less than 0.2% THC.
Greece’s political parties and cannabis
In the past, Greece’s political parties have often adopted a hard-line on the laws regarding cannabis use. In recent years, this has changed considerably. In 2017, the coalition government approved the use and production of medicinal cannabis in Greece, with many centrist parties voting in favour of the law.
It was challenged by New Democracy, Golden Dawn, the Communist Party and the Centrist’s Union. New Democracy emphasised that they saw the value of medical cannabis but were against the government’s approach. They felt the new laws did not safeguard against uncontrolled production and distribution.
The Communist Party took an even stronger stance in opposition to the decision. They called upon the government to withdraw the decision, claiming that it would open the gates to “murderous multinationals”.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Greece (or currently live there), it is useful to know the following:
- It is still illegal to use cannabis for recreational purposes in Greece. The law is traditionally fairly lenient if you are caught with a small amount for personal use but has the right to impose a prison sentence.
- Investments in hemp and medical cannabis have grown significantly since 2018. Most processing plants will be situated in northern Greece and the first is anticipated to open in April 2019.
- The Greek government see medical cannabis production as a chance to boost the economy and reduce unemployment. Just one site in Veroia is anticipated to generate 2,000 new jobs.
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Greek cannabis history
Cannabis has a long, illustrious history in Greece. In ancient times, it was prized for its medicinal benefits, such as reducing “inflammation, earache and edema” (Lahanas, Examples of Ancient Greek Medical Knowledge, 2006). The historian Herodotus also noted that the Scythian tribes inhaled its smoke.
Before being banned in 1890, it was widely smoked by the Greek population. There were even bars established to allow people to smoke it freely. However, it was declared a threat to society and since then, the laws regarding cannabis use in Greece have been strict.
Despite this, many Greek soldiers and refugees smoked cannabis regularly after World War I, but this decreased with the onset of the next World War.
Modern attitudes to cannabis
Greek attitudes to cannabis have shifted noticeably in recent years. Once regarded as a dangerous, Class A drug, its recent downgrading to Class B marks a growing change in public perception. It is still a criminal offence to use, possess or supply cannabis. But the decision to give judges the right to make the final decision on sentencing indicates that the law is becoming more flexible on the matter.
Here are a few statistics regarding cannabis in Greece:
- Herbal cannabis is the most seized drug by the police, in terms of kilogram weight. It is followed by heroin and cocaine. Hash is the fourth most commonly seized.
- 4.5% of ‘young adults’ in Greece use cannabis. (‘Young adult’ is defined as between 15 and 34 years old)”
- Of all people seeking help for drug addiction, 23% of those are receiving treatment for cannabis use. Heroin addiction is the most treated – accounting for 61% of cases.
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Can you receive cannabis on prescription in Greece?
Under Greece’s current licensing system, cannabis medical products can be obtained on prescription from pharmacists. They are not yet subsidised through the state. Exact numbers of patients are not known, but it is believed that thousands currently use cannabis to alleviate symptoms associated with various medical conditions.
Cannabis products produced in Greece are not yet available (as the processing plants have only just been established). It is anticipated that the first Greek-grown medical cannabis will come to market in 2020.
Why is Greece good for growing cannabis?
In order to thrive, cannabis plants require warmth and sunlight. This is something that southern European nations such as Greece have plenty of. Establishing cannabis plantations in the country makes good business sense, and the easy access to other European countries is also an advantage.
Experts believe that, by creating a cannabis industry in Greece, the economy will be boosted significantly. Investors estimate that the European medical cannabis market could be worth over EUR 50billion in annual sales.
“Perceptions are changing as the sector booms,” says Andreas Gennimatas, a partner in a company about to start producing cannabis products in Greece. “It’s like the internet in the late ‘90s”.
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Is it safe to use cannabis in Greece?
While laws are becoming slowly more liberal, it is important to remember that using cannabis is illegal. Also, punishments are among the most severe in Europe. Although the government’s recent support of medical cannabis marks a change, it is inadvisable to see this as a chance to use it recreationally.
53 thoughts on “Cannabis in Greece – Laws, Use, and History”
AS OF SUMMER OF 2020:
TO ALL THOSE THAT THINK THEY CAN ENJOY CANNABIS IN GREECE. THINK AGAIN DO NOT COME FOR THAT.
Let me explain: Greek cannabis (and drug in general) laws are not at all strictly defined. There is no threshold for what personal use is. One gram can make you spend the night (or the weekend) at the police station. You WILL have to pass through the legal system, lawyers will get paid (most government officials for the past 50 years have been lawyers – they dont want to lose their main source of income), as well as court expenses. You will most probably not receive any penalty but you WILL have to pay the system quite some money, not to mention that in most cases you will have to wait for years for the court to happen – while living in uncertainty.
It is common that news report arrests on the street or even house searches that result of less than 1 to a few grams of weed.
Moreover, if you like to grow forget about it. Despite the fact that the law says: people that possess amounts or cultivate plants that are for their own personal use receive a maximum of 6 months in prison, once again the law does not state what are the limits for “personal use”, meaning that getting busted for growing even one plant will result in you on the news, house searched thoroughly and having to pass through the legal system with accusations for distribution (dealing). If you have just one plant and a clean record you will probably get away but you will have spent a lot of money in the procedure.
On the contrary if you are caught with heroin nothing happens to you, you can even shoot it in public and the police will not care because “you are an addict”
Growing legally for medicinal purposes: once again the laws passed are not precise, to get a license you have to fulfill many absurd requirements and in the end whether you get the licence or not will be up to an official’s opinion on whether you fulfill the requirements or not. Long story short, if you are interested in commercial cultivation of “medicine” you got to be a big (preferably foreign) company with a BIG budget that partly will be used for bribing the relevant officials that get to decide whether you fulfill the requirements or not.
Bottom line: If you like weed do NOT come to Greece and support these politics and politicians with your money.
I as a Greek take regular trips to the Netherlands to enjoy some freedom on that matter.
It is illegal to use, possess or sell cannabis in Greece. But, due to recent changes cannabis use for medical purposes is permitted. Learn all about the latest laws.