Greek Marijuana Industry Hit by Theft of Hundreds of Trees

(Photo by Eurokinissi via Greek Police, file)

ATHENS – Hopes that a medical marijuana industry could bring a revenue boost for Greece were set back when police said some 1,200 trees in industrial cannabis plots in the area of Koropi were stolen within a month with no report how it happened.

In early September, robbers removed 800 trees of the Tiborszallasi variety from a plot in Aghia Marina, while another 400 of the Finola and the Silvana varieties went missing from another field just a few hundreds meters on Oct. 2, said Kathimerini. There was no report on whether there was any security for the plots.

“It is a big disappointment,” Krista Pappa, one of the owners of the Kannabishop company, whose plot was robbed, the paper said. “This act was not just a robbery but a stain on the field which is only just being developed after a 20-year struggle,” she said.

She and co-owner Argyris Moutzouris were among leaders of a campaign pushing for the legislative changes that allowed the cultivation of industrial cannabis but the development has been delayed by the notorious Greek bureaucracy and a labyrinth of regulations.

The Health Ministry said in May it would open a special department to deal with the prescription and sale of medical marijuana, 10 months after the law was passed, with no signs it will be implemented any time soon.

The delay is partly because growing and processing marijuana for medical use in Greece was not legalized until March and technical aspects are in the black hole of the bureaucracy which grinds very slowly in Greece.

In the meantime, marijuana-based medicines have to be imported via the National Organization for Medicine (EOF), which is only just starting to set up its committee for approving foreign imports and briefing doctors on the requirements for prescribing the drugs, said Kathimerini.

Doctors meanwhile can apply to EOF for “emergency” imports on a case-by-case basis, but it’s a complicated procedure that only a few medical professionals know how to handle at this early stage.

The law was a centerpiece for the the Radical Left SYRIZA to let marijuana be cultivated – for medical use – and which could create an industry of as much as one billion euros ($1.23 billion) and drew keen interest from five groups who want the right to grow it legally.

Deputy Economy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas is overseeing the bids after the Parliament approved a law for the production, manufacturing and sale of medical products containing cannabis, luring foreign investors as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants, although elements in his party don’t.

The government has declared under the new law that patients with approved medical needs can use marijuana with a doctor’s prescription. Tsipras said that, “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.”