ATHENS – It took years and a ruling Radical Left SYRIZA-led coalition to get it done but Greece on Nov. 19 granted the first licenses for private companies to grow medical marijuana with the government expecting a boom worth billions from the product.
Greece legalized cannabis for medical use last year and in March lifted a ban on growing and producing. Two licenses were granted so far and another 12 will be issued by the end of this year, the Economy and Development Ministry said, the news agency Reuters said.
“There is huge interest, mainly from Canada and Israel … some of them (potential investors) are huge,” Deputy Economy Minister Stergios Pitsiorlas told a news conference.
But legalizing marijuana for recreational use isn’t being considered, he said, if widely practiced, particularly among followers of the Leftists.
Pitsiorlas said the first medicinal cannabis products were expected to hit the market in about 12-18 months time. The industry was mainly export-oriented, he said.
Thousands of patients in Greece are thought to use cannabis for a range of serious medical conditions, though authorities don’t have precise figures, the report said.
Under Greece’s licensing system, medicinal cannabis products would be available on prescription from chemists but not covered by the state health insurance plans, Health Minister Andreas Xanthos said.
The first licensed cannabis hothouses will be in Larisa in central Greece, and in Corinth in the Peloponnese. The 14 licenses were expected to create more than 750 jobs and represented about 185 million euros (US$212.05 million) in investment.
“Our message is that the country is open for investments,” Deputy Minister of Agriculture Vassilis Kokkalis as many members of SYRIZA are trying to block foreign companies, leading an American firm to suspend plans for a major mall in Athens.