Cannabis in Greece: The Nevada of Europe?

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A new draft law currently on the desk of the Ministry of Development and Investment is likely to change the equation in not only Greece itself on the cannabis question, but the rest of Europe.

Greece is a fascinating development in the entire discussion of cannabis reform. The country has moved, quietly, along with the discussion as reform has come to Europe. The industry, of course, represents an absolute boon for a country hit twice in the last 15 years with “once in a century” economic wallops. First the banking meltdown in 2008, and now Covid. Tourism plays a huge role in the overall economic health of the country. According to the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), pre Covid, the sector, pre-Pandemic, was responsible for a whopping 6.8% of the economy.

For this reason, anything that can bring economic development to the country is already attractive. Cannabis is now squarely in the gunsights of the government to do just that—unlike any other place in Europe right now.

Here is why. A fully legitimate medical industry means that the country can finally participate in a high value revolution, even by taking the first medical step. Even if all the new players circling Greece can do in the next few years is get EU GMP certified crops underway, the impact on the entire European cannabis conversation will be massive. It is a new source of flower for starters. And then of, course, there is the extraction conversation.

Medical Cannabis Vacay in Mykonos, Anyone? Book it, Danno!

Beyond the immediate economic incentives now arriving to the country soon, thanks to pro-cannabis economic development mindsets, there is another place where this all gets very interesting.

Greece is a major destination for European tourists already—especially Germans but of course not limited to them. However, in Europe, healthcare crosses borders. The idea of a cannabis medical vacation in Greece, or one of its islands, is rather appealing.

In this sense, indeed, Greece has the capacity to develop an industry that has long-lagged in places like Spain. While obtaining a pass to a cannabis club is not, despite all efforts to enshrine this ivy leaf, impossible to obtain, even for visitors, the current dramatic situation on the ground is going to take at least 12-24 months to shake out. In the meantime, Greece is setting itself up to go like gangbusters.

Here is what is even more interesting. Much like Nevada in the U.S., as a result, Greece has the first real chance of becoming a place where health insurance from elsewhere covers cannabis treatments while patients are on vacation. European health insurance crosses borders. And as more German patients enter the ranks of the pre-approved, the idea of a cheap holiday where medical access is not a “thing” is bound to grow in appeal.

In turn, just like Nevada’s early market, this will show, with numbers and bottom-line sense (as well as cents) that cannabis as economic development makes sense for Europe. And even if the UK and Germany do not become hotbeds of production just because of the weather, the economies of first Greece and inevitably both Spain and even southern France could be given a massive injection. 

Just as in the U.S., circa 2013, there is a gathering momentum of logic, desperation, changing regulations and a whole lot of economic pain. Legalizing a plant which can help salve that just makes economic sense. And Greece, so far in Europe at least, has gotten there first. Not to mention in an environment where governments in Holland and Luxembourg are telling tourists to stay home.

The Impact on Sovereign Healthcare Budgets

A strong and supported cannabis industry in Greece, in other words, is, if not a panacea, then certainly a good boost to a conversation now clearly in the drawing room if not exactly at the table. Namely, with normalized cannabis production across Europe, medical prices will drop, dramatically, at least for the entry level cannabinoid products. This in turn will lead to other discussions—including recreational markets—starting with the early blended ones. This in turn will help pharmacies as well as the supply chain begin to consolidate costs—and with relatively simple rules. EU GMP standard cannabis is the one that crosses borders—no matter the end use.

Switzerland in fact, as of next year, will shepherd its recreational market into pharmacies—and outside of Holland and Spain, this is likely to be a model which pops up across Europe—starting with Luxembourg. 

However, don’t expect all of this to end here. With the examples of Spain, Luxembourg and Holland in the room (and of course Switzerland) if not across a regional border, once the first basic leveling has occurred here in Greece—acceptance and normalization of the drug—expect to see all sorts of interesting entrepreneurial experiments—and relatively soon.

Watch this space closely, in other words, and stay closely tuned. The world will be changing rather drastically in the next 24 months, and cannabis is clearly a part of that conversation just about everywhere. The normalizing situation in Greece is certainly a monumental watershed in that.

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