The government of Greece, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of the left-wing Syriza party, has today announced that cannabis is effectively legal for medicinal use. Tsipras announced in a press briefing at the Ministry of Health that the Joint Ministerial Decision on the legalization of medical cannabis was signed and published.
The Greek Government Gazette quoted Mr. Tsipras as saying: “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.”
As part of the announcement, it was stated that cannabis is to be reclassified from Table A—the most restrictive category of narcotics, which also includes heroin, LSD and MDMA—to Table B, a category that includes methadone, cocaine and opium.
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The reclassification means that the state can potentially give licenses for cultivation in the near future, although nothing has yet been announced regarding potential licensing procedures.
Prime Minister Tsipras also announced that the import of cannabis-based medicines will be permitted once the framework for cultivation has been fully established.
Greece has long had extremely restrictive laws on cannabis and other drugs, and implemented laws prohibiting its sale and use as early as 1890. However, this announcement is the latest in a string of recent moves towards liberalization of cannabis laws.
In March 2013, the cultivation of cannabis varieties containing no more than 0.2% THC was legalized; in April 2016, the conditions for cultivation of these hemp varieties were announced and implemented.
In July 2016, the Greek Ministry of Health announced that a panel of academics, psychiatrists and other experts would discuss the possibility of legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes. The Ministry stated in April 2017 that measures were on their way which would allow doctors to prescribe cannabis for certain conditions.
This latest news marks yet another small but significant step on the path to legalization of cannabis in Greece. Prior to prohibition, the country had a thriving export industry of fine-quality hashish, originating from the Peloponnese region of southern Greece. Urban legends of the fine landraces of the region still abound in Greek grower circles.
Even further south, in Crete, there is a thriving market in illicit cannabis cultivation. Throughout the country, rates of recreational consumption are consistently high, yet penalties for its use remain harsh.
Greece has a long history of cannabis use and cultivation, a favorable climate (in both temperate and political terms), and a need for economic stimulus. It is therefore possible Greece’s current government will continue on this trajectory and consider the legalization and regulation of other forms of cannabis cultivation, sale and use in coming years.