Greece legalizes medical marijuana sales

It’s the ninth country in the 28-member European Union to do so.

Mar 6, 2018
Greece legalizes medical marijuana sales

A football fan smokes in the stands before the Euro 2008 Championships Group D football match Greece vs. Sweden on June 10, 2008 at Stade Wals-Siezenheim, in Salzburg, Austria. AFP PHOTO / JOE KLAMAR — MOBILE SERVICES OUT — (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

The Greek parliament has approved a bill to legalize the production and sale of medical marijuana, becoming the ninth country in the 28-member European Union to pass such legislation.

Lawmakers from the country’s ruling coalition, SYRIZA, PASOK and Potami, voted to pass a measure on March 1 which would allow for grower licenses while limiting sales to a government-run monopoly.

The new regulations require licensed growers to have all the necessary processing facilities to ready the product for sale. Patients will be required to obtain a prescription from their doctor and then they’ll be able to purchase their medicine from approved pharmacies.

The legislation is in part an attempt to revive the Greek economy as multiple foreign investors have shown interest in the country’s optimal growing conditions. With a climate similar to that of California’s Emerald Triangle, Greece is seen—even by the government’s own assessment—as an ideal place for cannabis cultivation.

According to a government report on the bill’s potential impact, “this opens up a new field of entrepreneurship—which exploits the productive advantages of the country (climatic conditions, soil)—and thus promises new jobs and exports [and], on the other hand, facilitates and regulates patient access to medicinal cannabis products in the country.”

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An exhibitor selling bottles of cannabis infused ouzo liquor, manufactured by Cannama, at the 1st International Cannabis Expo at the Faliro Sports Pavilion in Athens, Greece, on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. The purpose of the event is to inform the public about all the products and innovations that exist in the world of cannabis and the latest achievements in the medical, pharmaceutical and industrial use of cannabis. (Photo by Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

The new industry will create thousands of jobs with major growers from Poland, Israel and Canada expected to bring more than €1.5 billion worth of investment into the struggling country. Unemployment in Greece has hovered around the 20 percent mark for years now as the country fights its way back to prosperity after a total economic collapse which sparked protests and multiple elections.

But the passage of the new law is not without its opponents. These major foreign cannabis investments come on the heels of a corruption scandal between Greece’s Ministry of Health and Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis. The government is currently investigating allegations that the health ministers from 2006 to 2010 accepted bribes from the pharma company that amounted to more than €40 million in exchange for the increased distribution of their products.

Consequently, government officials are now wary of large foreign investments in general, cannabis companies included. The Communist Party called foreign investors “vultures” and “murderous multinationals” while the country’s main opposition party, right-leaning New Democracy, suggested that legalization was part of “a secret plot to turn Greece into a massive cannabis plantation.”

Mar 6, 2018