GREEK businesses are preparing for amendments to the Mediterranean country’s cannabis laws allowing the cultivation, sale and export of high percentage THC medical products.
In May this year the Greek Parliament passed the draft production, extraction and distribution of final products of pharmaceutical cannabis of the species Cannabis Sativa containing over 0.2% Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The vote came nearly four years after Greece became the seventh European country to sanction cannabis for medicinal use and three years after allowing the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp containing less than 0.2% THC.
The latest bill had been expected to be approved by Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou within the next six months.
Greek Bureaucracy To Blame
However, there are currently some hold-ups in the process with a number amendments being proposed which have yet to be decided upon.
Greek cannabis lawyer Dimitrios Pessios urged foreign investors to be patient, saying: said: “These new rules are intended to assist potential investors who are willing to invest in Greece but have been deterred by very strict production law.
“This is evidenced by the fact that only three licences have made any progress. The Ministry of Development in accordance with the Ministry of Health is pushing so the rules can be simplified and obtain approval from the Greek Food and Drug Administration – and this is the hardest part.
“The legal framework for the export, distribution and circulation of cannabis products is amended, with the main purpose of simplifying procedures.
“As always the major problem in Greece is bureaucracy which causes delays, however, the Government promised that in a short period of time all the remaining issues will be resolved so medical cannabis can open the path to investments and help to reduce unemployment.”
Greece began licensing operators three years ago under previous medical cannabis law passed in 2018 authorising the cultivation and production of medicinal cannabis. But a grey area remained with regard to the production of THC-rich medical cultivation and sale, leading to the latest draft bill.
Over 90 Licences Issued
So far, 94 plant installation licenses have been issued by the Greek authorities to cultivate, produce and sell medicinal cannabis.
But only three have so far progressed to starting construction – Bioprocann SA, Essenza Cannabis, and Tikun Europe.
Tikun Europe – see below – which has been granted a five-year installation permit for the cultivation, marketing and processing of industrial and medicinal cannabis – is currently the only company in Greece that has completed most of its investment at its privately owned facilities.
It is hoped the bill for the production and exploitation of medicinal cannabis will activate the investment plans from the schemes that have received licences.
Doreta Darmani, marketing manager at Tikun Europe said whilst the medical cannabis industry is evolving rapidly and the “development of business activity in medical cannabis is a great opportunity for Greece and for the companies that will be active in this market,” the strict regulatory and legal framework can make it difficult.
“Experiencing potential delays in such capital-intensive investment which requires specific know-how in several fields, i.e. legal, cultivations, research and development, new product development, health care professional and consumer marketing, sales, etc. is not uncommon.
“Furthermore, the Greek law implies specific requirements that should be met regarding the infrastructure, the security of the facility and the environmental provisions.”
North Macedonian Envy
The need for Greece to change the law has become politically sensitive following North Macedonia’s decision to not only allow the cultivation of cannabis for medicinal purposes, but its legal export – opening its doors to entrepreneurs and investors, as reported in BusinessCann.
London-based company The Canna Consultants has spent the past 18 months advising two law groups and a number of hemp farmers legally operating on the North Macedonian border, on this latest move towards higher THC grade medical cannabis cultivation.
Stephen Oliver, a co-founder of The Canna Consultants said that even before coronavirus the Greek Government had identified the cultivation of higher grade medicinal cannabis as a possible route out of the country’s ongoing financial crisis.
But he said it had taken on a new urgency with North Macedonia’s recent export decision: “The Greek Parliament couldn’t allow that to happen,” he said.
He now expects to see other Mediterranean countries amending their drug laws.
“Many countries are now embracing medical cannabis and the next step is not just to embrace it for an export market but to embrace production that can benefit the local market too.”
However, Mr Oliver went on to say said that a number of amendments have been made to the proposed bill since it was passed by the Parliament and this is likely to delay the passing of the law until 2022.
He said the administration was currently focused on securing the future of the tourist industry decimated during the global pandemic.
He gave an example of one hold-up being in relation to the regulations not yet stipulating the distance required between the two barrier fences that need to be erected around a crop.
“We had hoped to see this signed off by Christmas but there are a few amendments, it will eventually get signed off, but it may take some time,” he added.
Company Profile – Tikun Europe
Tikun Europe was founded in 2018 in Greece with the aim of cultivating, processing and producing medicinal cannabis products.
The subsidiary of Israel’s Tikun Olam is currently investing €40m in developing a 56,000 m² facility at Corinth as it looks to take advantage of Greece’s increasingly favourable conditions for developing medicinal cannabis within Europe.
Doreta Darmani, marketing manager at Tikun Europe, said: “The Greek state has been proved to have confidence in the results of the use of medical cannabis and has been persistently upgrading and fine tuning the local framework to meet patients and markets’ needs.
“The new legislation that was recently voted by the Greek Parliament has come at the right time to enhance medical cannabis exports and is expected to unlock the implementation of investments by companies that have received approval for the installation of medical cannabis production units.
“It will allow the production of medical cannabis products intended for export, even if they have not secured a marketing authorisation/distribution permit in Greece – provided that a relevant permit has been issued in the country of destination.
Wealth And Jobs
“EOF – the National Organisation for Medicines – will be able to approve and license the production of medical cannabis products using Cannabis Sativa L type, with over 0.2% of THC in their ingredients, regardless of their form, provided that they are destined exclusively for export and for medical usage.
“This bill will also allow the production of medical cannabis in the form of packages of dried flowers exclusively for exporting and for medical purposes, regardless of whether the product will be used as a final or intermediate/in-between product in the destination country, or as a raw material for medical/therapeutic purposes.”
She added that Greece now has the opportunity to become a leading global player in the medicinal cannabis field, as it looks to bring wealth and jobs to a nation brought to its economic knees in the wake of the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.
“Greece was amongst the first countries where medical cannabis got legalised and has a unique opportunity to play a leading role in the developments of medical and industrial cannabis production worldwide, with the development of a strong cannabis industry, attracting big investments that will contribute significantly to the country’s economic development,” she added.
Tikun Europe’s new facility will boast a 21,000 sq m greenhouse cultivation area designed to provide efficient conditions for medical cannabis growing. It will utilise state of the art systems and automations and is expected to complete its first harvest by quarter one 2022.