Legislators in Greece have approved a bill to regulate medical cannabis cultivation and distribution.
On March 1, lawmakers voted in favour of the bill, which will allow licensed businesses to cultivate and process cannabis for medical purposes. Land for cultivation must be at least 4,000 square metres in size and secured by fencing. The legislation also stipulates that the processing of the cannabis must take place within the same grounds that it is grown, to avoid extra transportation of the drug, according to state-run broadcaster ERT. Once regulations are in place, people prescribed medical cannabis will be able to buy the drug from licensed pharmacies.
The new regulations have been developed by policymakers over recent months, following a ministerial decision in July 2017 to legalise the drug for medical purposes. At the time, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras stated that “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”.
An Impact Assessment Report of the bill claimed that it “facilitates and regulates patient access to medicinal cannabis products in the country”, while also “[opening] up a new field of entrepreneurship – which exploits the productive advantages of the country (climatic conditions, soil) – and thus promises new jobs and exports”.
Indeed, alongside providing medicine to patients, the new regulations are opening Greece up to an international multibillion-dollar industry – and cannabis companies are already setting their sights on the country’s potential. Canadian cannabis firm Aphria intends to invest in cannabis production in the northeast area of Xanthi later this year, regional sources report, which could create as many as 500 jobs in the local economy.
The planned involvement of foreign companies has provoked controversy among some policymakers in Greece. The Communist Party, which opposed the legislation in the vote, denounced the government for allowing "murderous multinationals" to enter the Greek cannabis business.
The legislation was also opposed by the far-right Golden Dawn party, as well as the official opposition – the centre-right New Democracy party.
Diogenis, a Greek civil society organisation working to promote evidence-based drug policies, expressed cautious approval at the legislation. “[We consider] the regulation of cannabis for pharmaceutical use [to be] a positive initiative of the Government”, they said in a statement, while warning that the cannabis market “[should] not be dominated by the pursuit of commercial interests and economic profit”.
Greece joins several EU countries – including the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany – in allowing patients to legally access cannabis for medical purposes.