Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Athens — Investors in medical cannabis projects are focusing on Greece, where a warm, sunny climate and potentially favourable future legislation could help the government deliver on a promise to pull the country out of a seven-year economic crisis.

Growers have expressed interest in pumping more than €1.5bn into projects to build greenhouse parks for the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis, Evangelos Apostolou, minister of rural development and food, said in an interview. That would give Greece a share of a global market the government says could be worth €200bn in the next 10 years.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is counting on investment to spur economic recovery and allow the country to exit a third bailout programme. Forecasts call for growth of close to 2% in 2017, rising to 2.5% in 2018.

A single campus of 12 to 15 cannabis greenhouses could create 400 jobs, according to a task force preparing a draft bill to legalise medical cannabis in Greece. Unemployment in the country has been higher than 20% since November 2011, one of the highest levels in the EU.

Tsipras’s government plans to submit a bill covering medical legalisation by the end of 2017 and passage could allow enough time for cultivation in time for a harvest in the middle of 2018, according to the task force, which is currently working on preparing the legislation.

While countries such as Uruguay and several US states have legalised general possession to varying degrees, Greece has no such plans. Cultivation and sales will be for medical purposes only, Apostolou said. "Thousands of Greek households with family members suffering from serious illnesses like cancer and Parkinson’s disease will be able to get drugs produced right here, under World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines."

The WHO cites studies demonstrating the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids for nausea and vomiting in the advanced stages of illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. Other therapeutic uses have been demonstrated by controlled studies, including treatment of asthma and glaucoma.

Canadian medical cannabis producer Tilray said in September it planned to invest €20m in Portugal as it bets on rising European demand. Toronto-based Cronos Group has struck an agreement with a pharmaceutical wholesaler to supply Germany’s medical marijuana market and is exploring expanding elsewhere in the EU, CEO Mike Gorenstein said in an interview.

"We’ve probably had discussions with 20 different countries by now, with regulators, entrepreneurs, pharmaceutical companies," Gorenstein said by phone. "If we were to pick another country in Europe to produce in it would be based on a historical track record and strong climate."

Bloomberg

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