Greece is one of Europe’s favourite travel destinations, and there are good reasons for that. Greece offers stunning views, more history than you could take in on holiday, and plenty of opportunities to party or relax, depending on what you’re looking for. But what about cannabis in Greece?
As a tourist, you might be wondering if you would get in legal problems if you light up a spliff while admiring the sunset on a Greek island. Spoiler alert, you might even spend a night or two in jail if caught. Let’s take a look at the legal situation of cannabis in Greece.
Drug laws in Greece
Greece passed its main drug law in 1987. And, even though it’s more than 30 years old, the law presented some points that were ahead of its time. Right from the start, the law referred to drug addicts as ‘patients’ instead of criminals, making a clear distinction between addicts and non-addicts.
According to the Greek system, addicts would receive a more lenient sentence when caught with drugs, and they would be encouraged to seek treatment instead of being sent to prison.
As you can imagine, the law was updated periodically. One of its most important updates was introduced in 2013 and stipulated that individuals who use or obtain drugs for personal use shouldn’t be sentenced to more than five months in prison. If the offender doesn’t have a criminal record and doesn’t commit another relevant offence within a five-year period, the drug offence can be expunged from the records.
The 2013 update also allows judges to suspend the penalties of drug users who admit themselves into special drug treatment units operating in prisons or join drug treatment programs operated by authorised drug agencies.
However, the 2013 update also removed the definitions of all quantities of drugs for personal use which were stipulated in the earlier versions of the law. This means that the judge presiding the case is now the one who decides if an individual was in possession of drugs for personal use or if there was intent to sell them.
The judges have to make this decision on a case-by-case basis, depending on the type of drug, its quantity, purity and the individual circumstances of the offender.
Individuals convicted of drug supply may be sentenced to three years of imprisonment if they’re addicted to drugs or sharing in a group (yes, passing a joint is considered supply) and at least eight years of imprisonment if they’re not. The Greek drug law makes life sentences for drug trafficking possible, albeit in special cases.
If medical professionals and drug therapists supply drugs to their patients or teachers supply their pupils, they risk getting the life sentence.
The drug law also states that those convicted for drug trafficking may receive a fine of 50,000 to 1 million euros, depending on their individual circumstances. Drug-dependent individuals who have been convicted for drug trafficking may be eligible for conditional release if they serve at least one-fifth of their sentence and have undergone drug treatment.
Greek cannabis laws explained for tourists
What does that mean for the average recreational cannabis user in Greece? Well, it means you shouldn’t use cannabis in public because it’s illegal. Greek policemen are not actively looking for cannabis when tourists pass them by, but they won’t have any problems stopping you if you act suspicious.
Even though the Greek law framework allows imprisonment for cannabis consumption, you will most likely get a fine if you’re caught with a small quantity for personal use. However, you might have to show up in court, which means you might have to spend a night or two in jail waiting for your trial.
So, even if you might get away with a fine, the entire experience might be a really unpleasant one.
Greece embraces medical cannabis
Greece legalised medical cannabis in 2017 and became the sixth EU country to do so. Alexis Tsipras, the Prime Minister at the time, said that cannabis would also be downgraded from a class A drug to a class B drug, thus acknowledging the medical values of marijuana and softening the authorities’ attitude towards cannabis.
The legalisation of medical marijuana led to the creation of a legal consumption market in Greece. And the authorities decided to capitalise on the moment and also made cannabis-production facilities legal.
Stergios Pitsiorlas, the deputy economy minister at the time, said that the legalisation of cannabis production facilities attracted huge interest from Canadian and Israeli investors.
The Greek authorities initially issued 14 cannabis growing licences. The authorities expected the licences to produce around 1,400 jobs and revenue of around 159 million euros. More than 30 foreign companies applied to get one of the 14 lots.
In 2019, analysts believed that future cannabis investments could create up to 7,000 jobs and produce revenue of up to 1.5 billion euros for Greece.
Under the Greek medical cannabis law, patients can only access cannabis medication if they have a prescription. Only patients who suffer from conditions like epilepsy, muscle spasms, PTSD, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain and cancer qualify for cannabis prescriptions.
However, Health Minister Andreas Xanthos said that cannabis products would not be subsidised through the state’s health insurance schemes, so patients have to bear the full cost out of pocket.
Hemp cultivation and CBD production are legal in Greece
Greece has a long history of cannabis cultivation. Ancient greeks used cannabis to make rope, sailcloth, sacks, clothing and more. Hemp cultivation was banned in Greece back in 1957, but a 2017 law made it legal again. And cannabis cultivation is really picking up in Greece, thanks to the country’s ideal climate for weed growing.
The big swings in temperature between night and day aid the production of resin in the cannabis plants. The microclimate in some parts of Greece allows cannabis plants to reach heights of 3.5 metres before harvest, and hemp growing can be a profitable alternative to farmers who frequently face droughts and wildfires.
Greeks can produce, sell and consume cannabidiol (CBD) products as long as their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) levels are lower than 0.2 percent. You don’t have to have a prescription to buy CBD in Greece, and it’s legal to buy it online.
However, CBD sellers and producers are not allowed to advertise their products as health supplements.
Greece could become one of Europe’s leading cannabis producers
Greece could become one of Europe’s largest cannabis producers if it plays its cards right. The country’s favourable climate for cannabis production and the fact that it was one of the first European countries to legalise the cultivation of medical marijuana should give it the advantages it needs to become one of the EU’s main suppliers.
Recreational cannabis consumption is still illegal in Greece, and even though the Greek laws can be lenient, tourists shouldn’t risk their income and/or freedom to smoke weed.