Greece’s Prime Minister announced the country’s change in medical cannabis policy at a recent press conference.
Greece Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Health Minister Andrea Xanthos announced at a June 30 press conference that the country would be changing is Law on Control and Drugs to permit marijuana for medical purposes.
“From now on, the country is turning its page, as Greece is now included in countries where the delivery of medical cannabis to patients in need is legal,” Tsipras announced, according to the Greek Government Gazette.
Greece joins six other European Union countries that have legalized medical cannabis in some capacity, including Finland, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic, and the Netherlands. Germany, the latest EU country to legalize medical cannabis, has finalized its program and is currently establishing its own state-regulated growing operations.
Under the policy change, cannabis will be permitted for patients diagnosed with chronic pain, neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, some eating disorders, and cancer. It is likely that the country will allow qualified patients, who will need to first obtain the recommendation of a doctor, to use cannabis edibles and extracts but not smokable dried flower.
Under Greece’s regulatory structure, cannabis will be downgraded from Table A, which includes substances like heroin and LSD, to Table B, which features drugs like methadone and opium, signifying that the government recognizes the medical value of cannabis for treating certain conditions. Greece officials have yet to explain how medical marijuana will be grown and cultivated, though Neos Kosmos reports that the government will be a position to award cultivation permits. The downgrade also permits the import of cannabis-derived products from other growers from countries like Canada and the United States.
While there was no indication of the announcement in policy change, the move isn’t necessarily surprising. The Greek Ministry of Health had announced in July 2016 that a panel of experts would be discussing and investigating the possibility of legalize medicinal cannabis. Then, in April 2017, the ministry said it was preparing measures that would allow physicians to prescribe medical cannabis.
While Greece has had highly restrictive cannabis laws since 1890, over recent years the country has seen a string of moves toward ending prohibition. The cultivation of hemp containing less than 0.3 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) was legalized in 2013. In 2016, the conditions for hemp were announced and implemented.
Just this past February, 20 members of from the Greek left-wing political party SYRIZA, of which Prime Minister Tsipras is a member, introduced an initiative to legalize the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes.
“The proven beneficial effect in cases of especially dangerous diseases, such as glaucoma, cancer, epilepsy, anorexia nervosa, malignancies make the legalization of cannabis as medicine – already used in many developed countries – imperative,” the party wrote in its proposal. “The criminalization of cannabis use has resulted in leading many patients and their families to acquire cannabis through illegal channels, something that entails a substantial loss of revenue for the State, organized crime activities and pushing patients to report illegal activities.”
With the general worldwide shift in attitude regarding cannabis and the greater recognition of the substance’s potential therapeutic applications, market experts project that the global legal marijuana market, valued at $14.3 billion in 2016, will surge to $63.5 billion by 2024.