At a press conference June 30, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Health Minister Andreas Xanthos announced the change to the country’s Law on Control of Drugs. Tsipras said the nation is “turning its page.”
“Greece is now included in countries where the delivery of medical cannabis to patients in need is legal,” he said, according to the Greek Government Gazette. The nation joins six other European Union countries—the Czech Republic, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Germany—that have legalized the drug for medical use.
While Tsipras’s left-wing Syriza party has yet to define how cannabis would be grown or distributed under the proposal, the prime minister said cannabis would be downgraded from Table A to Table B under Greece’s regulatory structure. The move is akin to moving cannabis from a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States to Schedule II, and it recognizes the plant’s medical value in treating certain conditions.
The changes would also allow Greece to import cannabis-derived products from other medical marijuana growers, such as Canada’s licensed producers.
Greece’s Ministry of Health has identified chronic pain, neuropathic pain, nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy, some eating disorders, and a number of other conditions as potentially legal to treat with cannabis. Back in April 2017, the ministry said it was preparing measures to allow doctors to prescribe cannabis.
Early indications are that the country will allow only cannabis edibles or extracts rather than dried flower, which is often consumed by smoking.
The legalization announcement is the latest in Greece’s slow rejection of prohibition, which has been the law of the land for decades. Recent years have seen the legalization and slow reintroduction of hemp—cannabis with less than 0.2% THC, per Greek law—as well as more organized advocacy efforts.
Friday’s change, however, was relatively unexpected, largely seen as the result of the radical-left party Syriza’s rise to power in 2015, in the wake of Greek’s economic crisis.
Kostas Skliamis, a Greek-born PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam, and Leafly News Editor Ben Adlin contributed to this report.