A Domestic Cannabis Industry Worth up to €2 Billion

Greece joins Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands in the race to medical cannabis market leadership.

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Seeking viable ways to create jobs, strengthen rural communities, and boost state coffers, the former Greek government took a daring step in 2018 to legalise the cultivation of pharmaceutical and industrial hemp, paving the way for domestic sales and exports. And while there was a change in government in July 2019, the Kyriakos Mitsotakis-led administration has welcomed the new industry with enthusiasm.

Banned for over half a century, growing cannabis is now seen as a boon for the Greek economy, particularly in view of the significant export potential. Greece will join the ranks of countries like Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands – current market leaders – that are producing and supplying the large demand in Europe, which currently relies for the most part on imports. According to estimates, the European cannabis market could be worth up to €123 billion by 2028, with €58 billion corresponding to the medicinal segment.

At the same time, besides the massive export potential of medicinal cannabis products, the Greek government is looking to include these in the country’s electronic prescription system so that patients have access at hospitals and through prescriptions at pharmacies.

The green light was first given to medicinal cannabis in 2017, and the ban was lifted on the cultivation and production of the product in 2018. With the first licences having been granted in November 2018 to two private companies, the government is now assessing dozens of investment proposals by foreign companies seeking to set up shop.

Greece is seen as the ideal location for such ventures due to its mild climate, low costs, and highly developed agricultural sector.

At the moment, licences are granted to vertically integrated companies that are in a position to invest in the appropriate space, set up both cultivation and processing facilities, and control the whole process including cultivation, production, and distribution.

According to the European Cannabis Report, by 2028 Greece’s industrial and pharmaceutical cannabis industry could inject some €2 billion into the local economy, besides creating hundreds of much-needed jobs.

Aiming to secure a competitive advantage over other European countries and even establish Greece as an international cannabis production centre, the government has done away with tedious red tape, including hemp projects in its fast-track licensing procedures.

According to the consultancy firm Prohibition Partners, targets have been set by the Greek government to attract €360 million worth of investments and create up to 2,250 jobs.

In the meantime, international interests, particularly from Israel, Canada, the U.S., and the Netherlands are looking to get a share of the promising and untapped market.

Greece granted the first medicinal cannabis cultivation licences in November 2018 to Biomecann and Bioprocann, two private companies, and in May 2019 to Cannatec Greece. By August 2019, a total of 26 licences had been approved and another 42 investment proposals, by foreign companies seeking to set up shop, were pending a decision. Expectations are set on businesses being up and running throughout 2020.

Companies must obtain three different licences. Besides the five-year installation permit, which requires businesses to establish a Greek company to buy or lease land, a 10-year operation licence is granted by the economy and rural development ministries.

And since hemp products are to be sold for pharmaceutical purposes, producers must also secure a medicinal licence from the National Organisation for Medicines (EOF).

The first cannabis units are being set up in Larisa, Corinth, Kilkis, Halkidiki, and Andravida.

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