Today, Greece became the seventh nation in the European Union to legalize medical marijuana, joining the Czech Republic, Finland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the Netherlands. In announcing a change to the country’s Law on Control of Drugs, Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras declared, “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.”
The joint decision between the Ministers of Health and Justice reschedules marijuana from a Table A drug (similar to the U.S.’ Schedule I) to a Table B categorization. This move, which declares marijuana as having approved medicinal uses, removes marijuana from a list of drugs including heroin and LSD which are seen as having no medical benefit.
Mr. Tsipras did not comment on what conditions will be considered for the program or how prescribing and dispensing will work, but once the framework is in place, importing cannabis-based medicines will be permitted. Currently, other European countries allow medical marijuana for the treatment of conditions such as muscle spasms, chronic pain, PTSD, epilepsy, and cancer.
Greek officials have not commented on whether full legalization could be considered in the future; however, doing so would make the country only the second to legalize recreational use in the European Union, following Portugal. Proponents claim it would create a financial boost for the struggling country.
Members of SYRIZA, a left-wing political group, urged the parliament to legalize cannabis last month, stating, “The financial benefits of cultivation of our own cannabis in Greece for medicinal/pharmaceutical purposes and for use in research would be multi-faceted, rejuvenating our agricultural economy and processing, resumption of export of hemp products after many years of stagnation, strengthening insurance funds to escape the burden of expensive prescription pharmaceutical products.”
Marijuana has been prohibited in Greece since 1890. In July 2016, after being pressured by SYRIZA, the country announced that it would be pulling together a group of experts to discuss the possibility of medical marijuana. During an update in April of this year, officials indicated that they were leaning towards legalization. Still, the announcement today was a pleasant surprise for medical cannabis advocates and confirmation of the rapid progress being made worldwide on this important issue.