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Medical Cannabis Access Continues To Be Hindered In Greece

European Parliament

A Member of the European Parliament from Greece is urging the European Commission (EC) to adopt legislation that would bring some long-needed uniformity to medical cannabis access on the continent. Greek MEP Stelios Kouloglou recently appealed to the EC.

It is not the first time that MEP Kouloglou has sought clarity on this subject. Back in January 2022, MEP Kouloglou submitted a “Question for written answer” to the European Parliament which included the following language:

Many Member States have now legalised the medical use of cannabis and the circulation of EMA-approved and other prescription drugs. At the same time, the EP has adopted a resolution highlighting their therapeutic effects, possibly even in the case of COVID-19.

Since 2017, the cultivation of medicinal cannabis and the licensing and manufacture of finished products with a TCH (sic) content exceeding 2% have all been officially regulated in Greece.

On 2 December 2021, the Government banned the import of medical cannabis products in their final state for domestic consumption, making it impossible for Greek patients to obtain such products with a tetrahydrocannabinol content exceeding 2%, since they have not been licensed for domestic production and few companies will meet the necessary conditions any time soon. As a result, patients are resorting to illegally distributed preparations from unreliable sources.

In view of this:

1. Will the Commission seek to establish whether the principles of fair competition, which is essential for the free movement of goods, and the provisions of the European Medicines Regulatory System are being infringed?
2. How can it help Greek patients gain legal access to the treatment they need?

Earlier this month MEP Kouloglou submitted another question, the language of which is below:

The use of cannabis for medical purposes is accepted worldwide. The WHO recommends the use of prescriptions for a wide range of conditions, while the European Parliament has called on European and national authorities to address regulatory barriers, provide funding for research and innovation and inform healthcare professionals.

Greece legalised medical cannabis in 2017, allowing its cultivation and the production of cannabis products containing more than 0.3% THC. However, patients do not have access to these medical products and the little national investment in medical cannabis that exists, is slow.

In November 2021, the Greek Government banned the import of medical cannabis products, violating Article 28 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and creating a market situation in which supply was controlled by a few who influenced prices, leading to unfair competition. As a result, for the past two years patients have been forced to turn to the black market to get treatment for a range of conditions.

In view of this:

1. How does the Commission plan to address the shortage in medicines for patients, caused by national measures that violate the fundamental principle of the free movement of goods and create a breeding ground for unfair competition within the Single Market?
2. Does it plan to introduce an EU legal framework that comprehensively regulates the issue as a whole, preventing the existence of a black market, regulating quality and labelling accuracy and ensuring legal and safe access to cannabis products for medical purposes?

MEP Kouloglou’s questions are all valid, as Greece is not the only country in Europe struggling to navigate a patchwork of laws, rules, and regulations, with many of them seeming to conflict with each other at times.

If Europe’s cannabis industry is ever going to reach its full potential, both at the individual nation level as well as the continental level, there needs to be sensible uniformity to some degree. Suffering patients across Europe, including in Greece, are depending on it.