Turkey has just made a major step toward cannabis reform. The country has legalized cannabis production for medical and scientific purposes in 19 provinces. However, using the herb recreationally or cultivating for an unscientific purpose is still extremely illegal under the new legislation. Still, the country now stands to be a rising star in regards to medical cannabis research.
Turkey legalizes cannabis production
Turkey wants to crack down on illegal cannabis production. To better control and regulate the plant, the country has decided to do something novel: legalize cannabis production. Cannabis cultivation will be allowed in 19 provinces. The harvested crops will be used for medical and scientific purposes.
The participating provinces include Amasya, Antalya, Bartın, Burdur, Çorum, İzmir, Karabük, Kastamonu, Kayseri, Kütahya, Malatya, Ordu, Rize, Samsun, Sinop, Tokat, Uşak, Yozgat, and Zonguldak.
Other provinces may be able to join in on the fun, but they must provide proof that their crops are for scientific purposes only. Cannabis that does not meet the requirements will be considered illegal and will be subject to the corresponding punishment.
Possessing, purchasing, or consuming cannabis in Turkey can earn you two years in prison. That number goes up to 10 if you are caught selling or trafficking the herb.
Tough restrictions on cannabis farmers
The new regulations would allow licensed cultivators to grow the plant for a three-year timespan. Growers that have any connection with or have engaged in black market cannabis production will not be allowed to participate.
Unlike cannabis reform in the United States, which is regulated by the Liquor Control Board in many cases, Turkish scientific cannabis will be monitored by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, and Livestock.
This is partly because using recreational cannabis is still illegal, and also because cannabis cultivation is agriculture. This distinction is one that has yet to be made in many U.S. states with legalized cultivation.
In order to prevent any of this cannabis from being used illegally, officials from the Ministry will pay monthly visits to the farms during harvest season. Once the harvest is over, growers will have to dispose of the remaining plant parts to ensure that none of them are used for psychoactive purposes.
Middle Eastern cannabis programs are growing
Turkey’s new cannabis program comes just as another Middle Eastern country expands their cultivation as well. Over the past decade, nearby Israel has led the world in medical cannabis research. In the past two years, the country has greatly expanded its medical cannabis programs.
Mid 2015, TechCrunch reported that some Israeli’s hope that cannabis can be the small nation’s next major export. However, the Israeli government is still a little behind the times when it comes to aggressive reform. However, there are some signs that they are warming up to their cannabis industry potential.
The Israeli government has started to understand the economic benefits of cannabis. I believe medical cannabis will be bigger and more profitable than all the arms exports combined. – Tamir Gedo, CEO of Breath of Life
Exactly what Turkey hopes to achieve with their cannabis program is unclear at the moment. Yet, this big move is sure to open up new doors for the Turkish medical landscape and economy. It will certainly be interesting to see how it unfolds.