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?
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.