What exactly is happening in Greece in 2019 concerning the cannabis issue
“Klafsìgelos” (bitter sweet): a greek word
Occasioned by the release of the new magazine You May Say… the discussione among the friends collegues inflamed. Most of you have a difficulty understand the greek reality. We don t blame you for that, even for us who we are born here and we know what the word “ klafsigelos” means, we are having to the same difficulties. “ klafsigelos”, though, is an ancient greek word meaning “weeping and laughing” simultaneously. And this word discribes exactly what’s happening in Greece today.
We face it with equanimity and optimism, although we know that even in countries that this word does not exist in their vocabulary, the people that are invlolve with the plant more or less encounter the same problem; from the big corporate up to the small craft growers but also the scientists, the doctors, the pharmacists and the patients themselves.
You better keep on asking us with the same puzzled eye expression “Why aren t you Europe‘s California?” and “why don t you seize the opportunity given by cannabis to get out of the recession?” We are aware also of the fact that we ‘ve got the ideal weather conditions, we ve also thought of various ecotourism projects based on cannabis that could take off the tourist industry and emerge this country at the forefront of a cannabis industry that is racing globally.
But you know all these require brave political initiatives. At the moment there are no similar acts coming to a decision by our greek governments. Lots of our politicians realize the importance of the argument. Almost none of them though intends to collide “ with the cannabis stigma ” carrying the political cost. At the moment we keep an eye as you all do, on Luxemburg and its preparations concerning the legalization of recreational use of cannabis. And “thank God Luxemburg doesn‘t have the greek island and beaches or Greece would miss this train for ever”.
In this piece we ‘ll try to help you understand where exactly lays the “laugh” and the “cry” that are composing the “klafsigelos” (bittersweet) in the modern greek cannabis history.
Let‘s try to put things in order.
A. The medical use of cannabis in Greece 2019
June 2017: Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announces the “legalization of medical use of cannabis in Greece”
In Greece the ex-president Alexis Tsipras announced the “legalization of cannabis medical use” on June 30th 2017.
Afterwards the Parliament passed the associated law. This law regulates the requirements needed so that investors can cultivate cannabis with high THC concentration for medical purposes.
Till today there is a legal gap regarding the exact interpretation of what is considered “final medical product”. Therefore the enterpreneurs don‘t know the exact cost of their investment. The difference between what is considered to be a “final product” , the flower of the plant or the extraction or the formulation, as well as the conditions that must cover such formulation and the required certifications, all above can double the cost of the investment.
How many companies hold an installation permit for, medical use, cannabis unit?
By the beginning of September 2019, for the first stage of approval that the law provides about the ” Licence for Unit Installation” , 71 files/proposals have been submitted. Four of them were disapproved, while 14 companies got the licence that has been published on the Official Government Gazzette. You may find a detailed list of the 14 companies and their financial data as well at the end of this article.
Eleven more companies got approved by the Ministry of Finance and Development, increasing the real number of “certified companies” up to 25.
In total such investments extend in 1.107.941m2 of farmland and a final ammount of 359.100.468 euros invested. All this data are approx and related to what the companies themselves state in their files/proposals, submitted for approval and not on what is going to happen extactly.
According to the investors reports, 2.247 new jobs will be created, by the completion of their investments.
The “final medical product” and the Greek Public Services
As we described above, the law doesn‘t specify what is considered as “final product” that the cannabis units (for medical use) produce, in a way that the entrepreneurs were called up to invest without knowing the final cost of their investment. This caused confusion in the industry and delayed the investments.
National Organization for Medicines (EOF) is the competent public agency that determines what is considered as “final medical product”. There are two reasons why this hasn‘t been defined yet.
First of all as cannabis isn‘t a conventional medicine, certain protocols regarding the requirements that should respect the formulations in order to be approved as medicine aren‘t in detail regulated yet. Of course there are protocols already followed in many countries such as Israel, Italy, Germany where cannabis is prescribed to thousands of patients. All this could be easily replicated in Greece too. Such a choice was never taken for reasons unknown to us, and as a matter of fact beyond all understanding.
The second reason is that EOF got stucked, apparently wrongly because it is out of their competence, with the protection of this country from the “ghost investors”, that would pretend to do a related cultivation in order to produce “medicine”. And if the plant’s flowers are considered as medicine, then who would prevent them from exporting all the cannabis produced here, in countries where the recreational use is legal, trippling this way their profits. In such case, the the “medicines” produced by the plant would be unaccessible to greek patients, even if it was grown in all parts of Greece. But Canadians for example would have sufficiency in their dispensaries…
Finally, EOF carried forward the adoption of Directives. The companies that want to be certified for their “medical product” have to submit a wide range of documents and their “formulation” should meet very strict requirements. Still in September 2019, isn‘t clarified if there is ever hope for the flower of the plant to get approval, definetely though the related proposal files need six months of groundwork and numerous qualified staff in order to be complete and submitted.
At this point, either EOF and the Ministry of Health comes upon ethics problems and lack of scientific approach on the matter. For example, we have already indications showing that smoked cannabis can reach maximum efficiency in a wide range of deseases, so how could we exclude the flower from medical use.
In the process of their final completion and submition of their files to EOF, are at least 2 companies by the end of September 2019.
Since the Government announce the “legalisation of medical cannabis”, the patients await the relative medicines. Two and a half years are way too many for a patient to anticipate.
While the “bold enterpreneurs” go ahead step by step with the procedure for the approval of their intsallations for cannabis cultivation, the “bold patients” continue perforce to act as always until now. They either turn to the black market in order to get formulations containing THC or they grow the plants they need themselves or they immigrate for example to England where they can be prescribed legally by clinics.
However, even at a slow pace, the national services seem to move as in June 2019 was regulated that cannabis formulations can be purchased by the patients in the pharmacies ( whenever it will be finalized which are these products and which medical speciality can prescribe them).
Arrests of patients that use cannabis
Meanwhile, the arrests of patients by the police keep going. Even though it’s obvious, at least until the recent change of the government in June 2019, that the arrests of patients wasn‘t a police priority, the arrests kept happening.
Some they get arrested because they grow cannabis for medical use themselves, such as the President of the Association “Patients for use of medical cannabis”. Others because they use cannabis for medical purposes such as a family in Crete that’s been arrested and now collects signatures through Avaaz platform.
The level of scientific update for Doctors and Professionals of medical care
Until now, there is no official update and training for doctors and medical professionals by the State. Training courses for doctors both international and national with the partecipation of Greek doctors have been held only on private initiative. Most serious effort until now was CANNABETA, where many greek medical associations and international partecipated in a very high scientific level.
The first generation of greek doctors capable to handle cannabis as a therapeutic substance, is growing fast, even thought the State is lacking in defining with certainty which specialities can prescribe cannabis and for which deseases.
Again EOF, the National Organization for Medicines, proceeded at the end of 2018 in a “first announcement”. According to this, cannabis wouldn‘t be prescribed as a “first choice” drug, while very few of the therapeutic uses have been recognised.
Scientific research in Greece
In contrary with all the above, many Greek Universities are conducting scientific researches related to cannabis medical use as the rest of the numerous uses.
Regarding the universities in the country, at the moment “run” dozens of researches and multiples are already designed and seek funding. Greek scientists are obviously a step ahead of our politicians.
Cannabis for industrial use in Greece 2019
In Greece the cultivated stremmas of hemp in 2018 went over than 1.000, while in 2019 reached 4.500 coming from around 150 cultivations all over the country. Many cultivations are done by small units whose owners satisfy the requirements, while some of them insist in manual harvest, without using machines so that the plants can be “protected”.
What‘s happening with Cannabidiol, cannabis edibles and “cannabis light“?
Although the previous government was almost ready to legislate about the legιtimacy of hemp products, at the end this procedure was never concluded.
As a result greek growers and cannabis product manufacturers, most of them basically small growers/producers, don’t know which of their products can reach the store shelves without slipping into the “grey areas“. Edibles and drinks come up against lots of problems with the certifications, whilst cannabidiol – CBD remains in a legal vacuum.
The Association of Cannabis Professionals that represents dozens of them has done a range of proposals to the government in order to overcome the problem, but practically no answer has been given.
At the moment it’s easier for a greek grower who wants to process his harvest and produce, for example, cannabis drinks, to get the necessary certifications in a nearby country.
As you know, there is a european recommendation that cannabis drinks and products should be included in the category of “novel food”. The member states though have the ease to acknowledge this proposal. Besides greek professionals of the industry don‘t find it that fruitful, as it demands great expenses and is unecessary long.
Cannabidiol – CBD
How many are the shops selling it?
How many patients are using it?
Especially, concerning Cannabidiol, already the National Organization of Medicines and the National Phafmacists Association have warned on the risk because often is promoted as “medicine with miraculous properties”, at the same time there are even gas stations that purport to sell “medical cannabis“.
Anyone can find vials of Cannabidiol also in kiosks and mini markets, even if it‘s not in all of them. More often though Cannabidiol-CBD can be found in greek pharmacies as well.
Franchize-chains stores selling cannabis products, we’ve got at least 4 until now. The oldest that’s been established in 2016, now has 14 stores all over Greece and the biggest one has 25 stores.
Of course, at the same time, thousands of patients have improved their health using Cannabidiol – CBD.
So you have an overall image, at the moment in Greece there are 180 physical stores (not just e-shops) selling cannabis products. More than 100 are shops that have registered voluntarily with the “Cannabis Store Guide” made by Cannabis News and most of them you‘ll find at the Green Guide, a shop guide we publish at You May Say magazine too.
In most of these shops, the biggest part of their turnover comes from selling Cannabidiol-CBD.
Obviously, the exact number of patients using already Cannabidiol-CBD in Greece, we may just approximate. A good data sample is the book “Cannabis for medical use, manual”. It’s about an instruction book for Cannabidiol use by patients, with guidance finding the correct dosages etc. A book that is not useful to someone that doesn’t consume Cannabidiol, in the first year of its release, has already sold more than 3.000 copies while the free digital version is way more than 15.000 downloads.
Intex – References
The 14 companies that they already have installation permits, published on the Official Government Gazette.
AEGEAN PHARMACEUTICAL CANNABIS PRODUCTION ΙΚΕ (P.C), municipality of Sparta, area; 100.647 m2, an investment estimated by the company at 2,3 milion euros and 21 employees.
CANNATEC GREECE A.E. (S.A.), municipality of Peonia (County of Kilkis), area 40.237 m2, estimated investment 10 milion euros and 64 employees, according to the company.
ΠΕΝΤΕ Α.Ε.(PENTE S.A.), Chalkidiki, area 35.438 m2, estimated investment 40 milion euros and 200 employees.
WCM CANNAMEDICA Α.Ε. (S.A.), municipality of Oropos, area 17.293 m2, estimated investment 2.663.000 euros and 32 employees.
PHARMA ESSENZA CANNABIS - (ΕΤΑΙΡΕΙΑ ΦΑΡΜΑΚΕΥΤΙΚΗΣ ΚΑΝΝΑΒΗΣ AΕ/ Company of Medical Cannabis S.A.) estimated investment 8 milion euros.The number of employees comes up to 60. Installation in municipality of Andravida in County of Ileia in an area of 85.331 m2.
Tikun Olam Greece S.A.(ΤΙΚΟΥΝ ΟΛΑΜ ΕΛΛΑΔΟΣ ΑΕ), Industrial Zone of Examilia (municipality of Korinthia), area 40.237 m2, estimated investment 9 milion euros and 38 employees.
BIOMECANN AE (S.A.), based in Larisa,area 10.729 m2, estimated investment 9,5 milion euros and estimated number of employees 51.
BIOPROCANN AE (S.A.), based in Corintho, area 46.558 m2, estimated investment 12,5 milion euros and 66 employees.
HEXO MED A.E.(S.A.), Industrial Zone of Larisa, area 67.000 m2, estimated investment 40 milion euros and 220 employees.
GREENCANN ΜΟΝΟΠΡΟΣΩΠΗ ΙΚΕ (Single Member P.C.), based in Preveza, area 41.846 m2, estimated investment 10,1 milion euros and 38 employees.
GREEN LEAF MEDICAL ΜΟΝΟΠΡΟΣΩΠΗ ΙΚΕ (Single Member P.C.) in Mandres of Kilkis County, area 38.203 m2, estimated investment 5,2 milion euros and 30 employees.
K B ENERGY ΕΠΕ (LTD), Municipality of Missolonghi, area 16.088 m2, estimated investement 7 milion euros and 30 employees.
NINETY NINE PER CENT DEVELOPMENT A.E. (S.A.), based of Patras, area 42.611 m2, estimated investment 8.437.468 euros and 108 employees. HELLASCANN A.E. (S.A.), in Thiva, area 59.692 m2, estimated investment 15 milion euros and 109 employees.
Report by the Head of the Department Business Licencing and Procedure Coding of General Secretariat Mr Odysseas Georma, as it presented at the event of the General Secretariat for Industry held at the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry on September 10, 2019. For further details here.
CannabisNews.Gr was the main source for this article .