Greece’s Medical Cannabis Milestone: Ending a Seven-Year Journey to Healthcare Innovation

After a protracted seven-year wait filled with anticipation and hurdles, Greece has officially introduced medical cannabis to its healthcare system, marking a significant milestone in patient care and treatment options. Monday, February 19, became a historic day as the first medical cannabis products became available to patients with a prescription, heralding what industry stakeholders have termed ‘a new era for healthcare in Greece’.

This breakthrough follows an extensive campaign to make medical cannabis accessible to Greek citizens, a journey that began in earnest in 2017. At that time, Greece positioned itself as a pioneer within Europe by rescheduling medical cannabis, setting the stage for its legal prescription for three specific conditions. However, the path from legislation to patient access was fraught with challenges.

The initial rescheduling was significantly propelled by a heartfelt campaign initiated by mothers of children with severe epilepsy, which successfully gathered over 45,000 signatures. Despite this victory, access to medical cannabis pharmaceutical products like Epidyolex and Sativex remained elusive for most, confined to a few patients who navigated the complex process of individual import requests amid a backdrop of bureaucratic red tape.

The journey towards accessible medical cannabis faced further setbacks in 2021 due to an import ban, interpreted by many as a protective measure for Greece’s nascent domestic market. Although the ban on cultivation and production was lifted in March 2018, it wasn’t until 2022 that the government announced plans to allow the dispensation of medical cannabis prescriptions in pharmacies, signaling a tangible step towards realization.

A pivotal development in this saga was the commencement of operations at Tikun Olam Europe’s facility in Corinthia, Greece’s first medical cannabis production site. After five years of meticulous preparation and an investment exceeding €40m, this 56,000 sq. meter facility is slated to produce 10 tonnes of medical cannabis in its inaugural year. Nikos Beis, the managing director of Tikun Europe, optimistically asserts that Greece possesses all the necessary attributes to shine on the global medical cannabis stage.

Last week’s distribution of the first dry cannabis products to Greek patients, and the dispensation of the first prescription, encapsulates the culmination of years of advocacy, policy shifts, and strategic investments. This landmark moment transcends the immediate relief it provides to patients; it symbolizes Greece’s resilience and commitment to embracing innovative healthcare solutions.

The path Greece has traversed in integrating medical cannabis into its healthcare system illustrates not just a national shift towards progressive medical treatments but also sets a precedent for other nations grappling with similar challenges. As Greece steps confidently into this new era, the implications for the global medical cannabis market are profound. With its strategic geographical location, conducive climate for cultivation, and a forward-thinking regulatory environment, Greece is poised to become a pivotal player in the international cannabis industry, offering valuable lessons in perseverance, innovation, and patient-centric healthcare.

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