ATHENS – Greek lawmakers have received a draft bill setting regulations for the production of medical marijuana to end reliance on importing the drug.
The legislation was prepared jointly by officials at the Health, Economy, Agriculture and Justice ministries and require producers must be at least 21 years old and have no drug-related convictions and have at least an acre of land to cultivate.
Government officials say the bill will boost domestic production and attract foreign investors. “The purpose is to promote productive investments in this field and to benefit the economy and state,” said Health Minister Andreas Xanthos, while Agriculture Development Minister Vangelis Apostolou noted that there is already “huge interest” in investing in the field.
Medical use of cannabis was legalized in Greece last year as the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, looking for cash everywhere to offset a nearly eight-year-long economic and austerity crisis, accelerated the scheme.
Pot is still unlawful for recreational use, but if possession of a small amount is found to be for personal use, it is decriminalized in court. Individuals are arrested, although rarely convicted by court although possession of large quantities can bring prison sentences.
A project to cultivate, process and export medical marijuana in Veroia, in the fertile north of the country, shows how Greece sees cannabis as a growth industry for the country, which has a warm, dry climate similar to California. New legislation could make the plan a reality as soon as next summer, a report from the financial news agency Bloomberg said earlier.
The Veroia site will create more than 2,000 jobs in the next two to three years, Georgios Zafeiris, Chief Executive at Golden Greece, the company responsible for coordinating the project’s group of 10 investors from countries including Canada, Kazakhstan, Poland and Israel told the agency.
The first round of investment is seen at 400 million euros ($497.03 million,) rising to more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.86 billion) with reports some 80 percent of the jobs in areas such as cultivation, trading and transport could go to Greeks.
“In Greece, we’re not looking at bringing people in from other areas that have cannabis experience,” Michael Blady, one of the investors involved in the Veroia project told the agency. “We’re going to train as many people as we need and we’re going to start our own culture here.”
Greece allowed the use of medical cannabis products last year, but currently relies solely on imports until the legal framework for domestic growers was prepared. Government officials, presenting details of the bill, said they hoped domestic production and processing could attract investments worth 1.5 billion euros (1.85 billion) over three years.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)