Cannabis in Greece. The state of the art

Cannabis in Greece. The state of the art

Greece has only just legalized cannabis – cannabis for therapeutic use to be precise – and laid the basis for an increasing aperture towards the world of industrial hemp.

In January 2018, in fact, the vice minister of Agricultural Development, Ynnis Tsironis, declared that the government was working on an amendment to bring order in the legislative framework both for the cultivation of  cannabis and for its medical use.

In March 2018 the Greek parliament eventually approved the new law which legalized the medical use of cannabis and encouraged the agricultural development and the cultivation of cannabis. At the moment, in Greece the recreational use of cannabis is still forbidden.

Cannabis in Greece. From Ancient Times to the Twentieth Century

As for many other nations, the history of  cannabis in Greece is millenary. The first evidences of the use of hemp in Greece are discordant but many attribute some citations to Herodotus, the father of history, as well as some clear references to the common use of hemp fibre.

Still today historians are cautious in stating whether Herodotus mentioned the medical use of it. What is certain is that therapeutic cannabis was described by Dioscorides, physician and botanist of Ancient Greece, living between 40 and 90 AD and mainly active in Rome.

Dioscorides is the author of “De Materia Medica”, a series of books on botany and on the medical use of plants. In this work Kannabis is mentioned, a plant of great benefits in many fields and of which the seeds could  be utilized in the medical area.

Cannabis in Greece today

Since then, also in Greece the use and the spreading of hemp followed the same dynamics as in the rest of Europe, while showing a certain persistence among the population until the first decades of the 20th Century.

Only in the past few years – those following the serious economic crisis – the new Greek government showed  an increasing aperture towards the topic.

In 2011, the Greek government, without much publicity, put forward the idea of decriminalizing cannabis possessed in small quantities, without, however, being able to transmute this idea in law.

In 2013, instead, a first turning point, when the laws were made less severe for consumers of many drugs in Greece. Previously, a case of possession might have been punished with 5 years of  imprisonment, the maximum sentence.

In that year the limits on personal use were removed, which in the past were 2,5g of hashish and 20g of cannabis. In March 2013 the cultivation of cannabis varieties containing less than 0,2% of THC was legalized and in April 2016 the conditions for the cultivation of these varieties were further enhanced.

In July 2016 the government formed a working group in order to assess the legalization of medical cannabis while in June 2017 the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, announced a further aperture, declaring the medical use of cannabis legal for patients in possession of a prescription.  

Since then, after a very long series of debates, the recent law was formed, which definitively accepted the medical use and the production of cannabis in Greece.

The provisions to encourage the production of hemp in Greece followed one after another.

Again in March 2018, for example, the government lifted the ban on cultivation and production, attracting ever more investments. The law was largely welcomed by the population, in particular by patients using  therapeutic cannabis and their relatives.

On February 2, 2019, the seminar entitled “The role of the anaesthetist in cannabinoid therapy”, was held in Athens involving the participation of over 170 anaesthetists and other professionals in the public health sector. In the course of the appointment it emerged how the Greek authorities for Medicines (EOF) had identified the first medical indications to be followed for the administration of pharmaceutical formulations of cannabis.  

The fields involved are those of the prevention and the treatment of disorders like nausea and vomit caused by chemotherapy, oncological and neuropathic pain in general and of the symptoms of patients affected by multiple sclerosis.

At this moment in time, Greece is enjoying a great interest also among investors – it is estimated, in fact, that last year,  the turnover coming from hemp was about two billion euros.

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