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Greece’s Parliament just voted to legalize the production and sale of medical cannabis, advancing the country’s long-delayed medical marijuana program. 

Greece initially legalized medical marijuana back in 2017, but this original law did not allow the cultivation or sale of cannabis products containing more than 0.2 percent THC content. The following year, lawmakers passed a limited bill to advance cannabis production and sales, but regulatory hangups prevented the program from advancing further. 

In 2019, US-based weed investment firm DevCann invested nearly $14 million into the country’s medical marijuana market, in hopes that Greece would become the “European California.” By the end of that year, businesses from Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other countries invested $400 million into Greek weed businesses, but even so, Greece failed to fully implement its medical pot program.

After another two years of delays, the Greek Development and Investment Industry proposed a new bill to explicitly legalize the sale and production of medical pot. Nikos Papasthanasis, Deputy Minister of Development and Investment, said that this legislation would help expedite the process of licensing medical marijuana businesses. 

Christos Kellas, a spokesperson for the New Democracy party, told the Greek Reporter that the new bill is “an integrated framework for the development of the cannabis industry in our country, from which we expect that there will be benefits for our economy through investments and the creation of new jobs.”

Kellas explained that this legislation will create “new options in the fields of agriculture and processing, but most importantly, to those who use the final products of medical cannabis. Medical marijuana can relieve their diseases and help them respond better to treatments, if this is deemed necessary by the treating physicians.”

The bill was challenged by several parties in Parliament, including the main opposition party Syriza, who called it “cowardly and timid.” Syriza spokesperson Alexis Haritsis argued that the bill is incomplete, as it only legalizes the production and sale of medical cannabis flower. Extracts, oils, edibles, and other popular products would remain illegal, which could put Greece at a competitive disadvantage compared to neighboring countries.

Despite the opposition, the bill passed last week with a 158 to 33 vote. Haritsis said that Syriza was still hoping to amend the bill to allow the cultivation and sale of cannabis extracts. The opposition party also hopes to change the bill to allow one single cannabis business license to cover both domestic medical pot sales and exports.

While Greece is still struggling to implement its medical marijuana program, some of its neighbors are spearheading bolder cannabis reform efforts. Last fall, North Macedonia Prime Minister Zoran Zaev announced a new plan to legalize adult-use cannabis in order to help make his country the top tourist destination in the Balkans.