|2020 Market Size
|2025 Market Size
|Key Distribution Channels
US $12.9 million
EUR €11.4 million
Greece is one of the newcomers to the European medical cannabis market. While medical cannabis was legalized in 2017, local production and sales are expected to start in 2021 at the earliest. Companies need to go through a set of bureaucratic hurdles and authorization processes to be able to produce and market their medical cannabis products in Greece. Further, given delays seen thus far, it can be assumed that these processes and operations may take longer than the initial timeline laid out. Hence, even though only a modest market size is expected in 2021, patient numbers are expected to grow steadily in the following years. This is largely because Greece has relatively liberal laws when it comes to qualifying for medical cannabis. Though certain conditions, such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, chronic pain, and multiple sclerosis are emphasized by the Ministry of Health and are therefore most likely to receive prescriptions once sales commence, doctors are permitted to prescribe cannabis for any condition they feel would be relieved by cannabis use.
Greece, with its almost perfect climate for cultivation and geographical proximity to large cannabis markets in the European continent, is expected to become a thriving cultivation and export hub for new and established producers over time. Countries currently supplied primarily by exports from Canada or the Netherlands may shift sourcing over to Greece due to its more competitive costs of production and favorable climate, thus the country is already attracting foreign and local investment and has licensed a variety of cannabis companies looking to establish or maintain market share on the continent.
Greece legalized medical cannabis in 2017, allowing doctors to prescribe it for a variety of medical conditions. In addition to this, cannabis was also downgraded from a Class A to a Class B drug, a category in which drugs like opium with approved medical values are listed. This re-classification indicated the shifting and softening attitude of the Greek government. After a period of legal unknowns in 2018, the Greek parliament, against strong opposition, passed a bill allowing the production of medicinal cannabis. Later that year, licenses were granted for private companies to grow medical cannabis.
By mid-2020, Greece had issued over 50 licenses to vertically-integrated producers, with as many still under review. Sales, however, are not expected to commence until 2021. As the companies need three separate licenses to start operations, cultivation and production have been slow to start. Under Greek law, companies must set up a Greek company to buy or lease the land, then prepare the documentation for the five-year installation license prior to committing any funds. The company can then apply for a ten-year operations license once the facility has been constructed. Producing and marketing medical cannabis products requires an additional production license and three-year authorization from the Greek National Organization for Medicines, which must be renewed every three years. According to the legislation, producers are required to obtain pre-authorization before they plant and must obtain and use cannabis seeds that meet certain criteria.
The approval of production, possession, transportation, storage, supply of raw materials and substances, as well as the establishment and operation of a facility for the processing and production of finished medicinal products, can be obtained by a joint decision of the Ministers of Economy and Development, of Health, and of Rural Development and Food. The application process has multiple steps, and detailed information can be found here.
In order to be able to produce and market cannabis medicines, companies need two separate approvals from the Ministry of Health: the cannabis production license and special marketing authorization in Greece.
The export of finished medicinal products derived from hemp of the Cannabis Sativa L. strain with more than 0.2% THC, exclusively for medical purposes, is carried out through Piraeus Customs Office and the Thessaloniki Free Zone. This requires producing an authorization by the relevant authorities of the country in which they are to be shipped which must also certified by the Greek consular authorities; the authorization must clearly state that the products in question are allowed to enter the country and that they are to be used for medical purposes, as well as the name and address of the recipient, the amount of product, and the period within which import must take place.
Medical cannabis production is expected to be a needed economic boost for the country while also providing a relief for patients, both domestically and internationally.
Recreational use of cannabis is not legal. However, the law is traditionally lenient if an individual is caught with a small amount for personal use. It is illegal to sell or supply cannabis outside of licensed medical channels in Greece. Sentences change on a case by case basis, ranging from prison time to monetary punishments.
Greece has already issued over 50 licenses to vertically-integrated cannabis producers, with dozens more pending - though product is not expected to hit the market until 2021. Both local and international companies are eyeing the Greek market, including:
Due to the complicated logistics of the medical program’s launch, licensed producers are not expected to see their first harvests hitting the market until at least 2021. In addition, infrastructure for patients and hospitals to receive access to medical cannabis still needs to be designed, although the first licensed cannabis hothouses have sprouted in Larisa (Central Greece) and in Corinth (Peloponnese). Currently, pharmacies are the only intended outlet for cannabis medical products, and the Greek government is intending to incorporate medical cannabis prescriptions into the electronic prescription system. Though access to product is currently limited by delayed licensing, there are 10,380 pharmacies across Greece and patients will be allowed to receive their prescription at any of them once product hits the market.
Greece has allowed patients to use medical cannabis since 2017. However, the legal framework for domestic cultivation and distribution was not approved until 2019, largely limiting patient access to cannabis-derived medical products. Thus far, Greece has relied on imports, which has restricted pharmacies to filling the prescriptions of patients in dire need of medical cannabis in highly exceptional circumstances. Previously, Minister Pitsiorlas expressed that the first locally-produced medicinal cannabis products would likely appear on the market at the end of 2020, though bureaucratic delays appear to have pushed the timeline back to at least 2021. As the Greek government continues to grant licenses for companies to begin cultivation and processing, these companies will have the freedom to develop their own products (once they receive approval from the Greek government), thus a diverse range of products is expected to emerge.