Greece, a country with a long history of cannabis production, used to be a renowned exporter of superior-quality hashish across Europe prior to the prohibition era. Some areas still cultivate cannabis, although the country's drug laws are considered stringent even by European standards.
The Legal Landscape of Cannabis Usage, Possession and Cultivation In terms of cannabis consumption and possession, the Greek drug law underwent a significant amendment in 2013, adopting a more lenient stance towards users. As per the current regulation, individuals found consuming or possessing cannabis for personal use, as decided by the courts, could face a prison sentence of up to five months. The law does not distinguish between cannabis and other illicit drugs when prescribing punishments.
However, the custodial sentence may be suspended or waived under specific circumstances, such as if the incident is proven to be a one-time occurrence unlikely to be repeated. Also, the incident does not reflect on the individual's record, provided no similar offence is committed within five years.
On the other hand, the sale or "trafficking" of cannabis or any other drug invites a minimum of eight years imprisonment, along with a fine ranging from €50,000 to €500,000, which can go up to €1,000,000 under certain circumstances. If an individual is found cultivating cannabis, the laws deem it as severe as sale and trafficking. For personal use, proof must be presented; otherwise, the penalties remain the same.
In 1987, Greece took significant strides to align with international drug treaties, legislating a crucial piece of drug law which distinguished between addicts and non-addicts. It argued for a more lenient approach and treatment rather than punishment for addicts. But the law was severe on casual, non-addicted users, prescribing a maximum sentence of up to five years for possession of even small quantities.
This legislation underwent several revisions, usually reducing penalties for users. Notably, the 2009 amendment, which was the last before the 2013 amendment, set the limit for personal possession at 0.5 grams. The 2013 amendment, however, removed this limit, leaving the decision on whether the amount constituted personal use to the courts' discretion.
In 1999, an amendment to the 1987 legislation decreased the penalties for individuals found trafficking small quantities of drugs, particularly if it could be established that the primary objective was personal use. Under these circumstances, a minimum term of just six months could be imposed, which could be replaced with a suspended sentence or a treatment order. However, in practice, it's challenging to argue that sales are solely for personal use, and lengthy sentences are common, even for minor amounts.
Despite the stringent laws, Greece has an illustrious history as a producer of superior-quality cannabis, particularly in the southern region known as the Peloponnese. The Kalamata landrace sativa, with long, compact buds, a lemon-pine aroma, and an exceptionally potent "trippy" effect, is often likened to African landrace sativas in structure, aroma, and impact.
Cannabis in Greece has a documented medicinal history dating back approximately 2,500 years. However, currently, there is no legislation whatsoever for medical cannabis in Greece. In February 2016, it was reported that twenty members of Greece's ruling coalition SYRIZA introduced a bill calling for full legalization of medical and pharmaceutical cannabis. However, it appeared that the bill aimed at legalizing only low-THC variants of cannabis, which should more appropriately be called industrial hemp.
The industrial hemp situation in Greece also reflects its regressive attitude towards cannabis. In 2000, the European Commission complained that Greece was using its anti-cannabis laws to block the legal sale of hemp products. However, it seems that Greece is slowly changing its approach. The country's first "Cannabis Festival" held in May 2015 and the prime minister's statement supporting cannabis legalization are positive signs.
In 2022, the conversation surrounding cannabis in Greece showed signs of advancement. The Greek government was increasingly engaging with the potential benefits of a regulated cannabis industry, particularly in the context of the country's economic struggles. They initiated a series of discussions about potentially expanding the country's existing medical cannabis program to include adult recreational use, thereby opening up a potentially profitable new industry and further destigmatizing cannabis use.
In conclusion, Greece's complex and nuanced relationship with cannabis continues to evolve. Although the country has traditionally taken a hard-line approach, there are encouraging signs of progress. It remains to be seen how the public, the government, and the wider international community will respond to these shifts. One thing is clear, though: as the global attitude towards cannabis continues to evolve, so too will the Greek stance. The future holds promising potential for the Greek cannabis landscape, as the discussions continue and the country navigates its path forward.