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10+1 steps for the cannabis industry in Greece

Many will say, here ships are lost and they are still dealing with cannabis. Others will think that the problems of the world right now are so many, that cannabis is the last thing they want to deal with. There are, of course, those who listen to cannabis and are cross-cut, automatically taking out an aversion and reactivity. But let’s look at things with composure to understand the essential possibilities offered by this multipurpose plant, in order to get out of the multilevel crisis we are going through.

2020, as the culmination of a decade of irrationality, reversals and reversal of meanings, has proved to us so far that there is an inextricable interaction of our collective and individual decisions as humanity and the multi-layered systemic crisis unfolding before our eyes, with its numerous and interrelated social, economic, environmental, health and cultural implications. We are in a phase where the future is coming faster than ever and we are called either to adapt and accept the dystopia of decadence, playing in the best possible way the game that has reached us at this critical point, or to work individually and collectively for a realistic utopia in practice that will (re)determine and safeguard the future of humanity.

The vast majority of the world is now in a permanent state of agonizing survival, by any means and at all costs, but also of a planned denial of reality, expressed as apathy, empathy and half-heartedness. Most people find it difficult to understand the criticality of the situation and to form another narrative, individual and collective, to get out of the multi-layered crisis. Most people have planned him to believe that the problems exceed him and he cannot do anything to solve them, except to fight for his survival at the expense of the rest of society, in a spurious normality, transforming him from a being of “you think” and “do” to a submissive being of “look” and selfishness.

In this way, most people turn a blind eye to the real causes and devastating consequences of climate change, deforestation and reckless pollution of soils and seas, as well as the accumulation and redistribution of wealth by a small oligarchy of economic and political actors. He closes his eyes to the real causes of poverty and unemployment, but also to the real reasons for the emergence and mismanagement of deadly viruses such as COVID-19.

Cannabis is not a panacea, but it can be a key component of the new narrative we need to save the planet and humanity, and by its very nature it is a plant that encourages collaboration. Cannabis has been scientifically proven to be of very important nutritional value as a food and an indisputable therapeutic effect as a medicine, since ancient times, while we now find that it is a very useful tool to move to a circular economy free from plastic, wood from forests, industrial agriculture / livestock and fossil fuels. It is a renewable and biodegradable raw material, from which we make durable fibers, homes, clothes, food, furniture, medicines, energy, bioplastics, biofuels, batteries and thousands of other products with a low environmental footprint. At the same time, it is a very useful tool of self-knowledge that reveals ourselves to us, aiming to improve it and free ourselves from addictions of all kinds, if we have this ability.

Especially with regard to medical and industrial use, there is already significant literature in the last 60 years and practical experience in several countries, which substantiates not only the usefulness but also the necessity to support these two sectors at a global level. There are now more than 10,000 scientific articles documenting the positive effect of cannabis on more than 200 diseases of the human body, either through the treatment of symptoms or through immediate treatment. Thousands of patients around the world are now legally administered with cannabis, and recently important research work has been developed around the treatment of infections and inflammations caused in various organs by COVID-19, using Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). The innovative industrial applications of the plant are constantly gaining ground, since its cultivation contributes to the decontamination of the soils, the confrontation of climate change and the penetration in many productive / economic sectors.

”Where euphoric use has been decriminalised, there has been no significant increase in the consumption of cannabis by minors and adults, crime and road accidents have decreased, prisons have been decongested and law enforcement authorities have saved resources to deal with real crime, while problematic use has been reduced and most importantly the stigmatisation and marginalisation of users has been eliminated.”

All these positive characteristics are the main causes that have led the war against cannabis in the last 80 years and the repression of those who use it even today, as it competes with very well-established economic interests of industries (eg medicines, plastics, pulp, oil, cotton, etc.), but also because the black economy that has been set up around the ban, supports a gigantic network of corruption and enrichment of institutional actors (politicians, police officers, judges, etc.). It may be that in times of crisis, when the consumption of substances is skyrocketing, the cultivation and trafficking of cannabis financially supports people who are in a dire economic situation, but in the long term the main winner of the case is organised crime and corruption.

The numbers are revealing. According to the latest UN report (2020) on drugs, cannabis is still the most popular illegal substance, with more than 192 million people using it worldwide. In Europe, around 8-9% of the population uses cannabis, while arrests and seizures are on a steadily increasing trend. In Greece, according to a survey by the University Institute of Mental Health (2019), more than 8% of young people have used cannabis, while according to conservative estimates about 8% of the country’s adult population makes occasional or regular use of cannabis. This means that about 800 thousand to 1 million people consume cannabis in Greece (as confirmed by the analyses of the wastewater of the Basin by the University of Athens) and if we calculate that they consume at least one gram per week as an average (very conservative estimate), then we can conclude that in Greece we have a cannabis consumption of about 800-1000 kilos per week, that is, 3-4 tons every month, or about 36-48 tons every year. With an average price of 8 euros per gram on the black market, then we can make the very conservative estimate that in Greece we spend 6.4-8 million euros per week on cannabis, 24-32 million euros per week. Euro per month or 288-384 mil. euro per year. This money so far has ended up entirely on the black market.

On the other hand, we see in countries that have legally regulated cannabis that this revenue goes to legitimate businesses with employees, as well as to the state through taxation. For example, in Canada in the second quarter of 2020, the country’s citizens spent $648 million on the legal market for recreational use and $155 million on the legal market. dollars for medical use ($803 million total), while on the black market they spent less, about $784 million. dollars. More than 1,100 legal retail outlets operate in the country, and annual legal revenue from cannabis sales reaches $2.4 billion. According to Canada’s statistics office in June 2020, the legitimate cannabis industry contributed $5.44 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP), while the illegal market made a turnover of about $3.89 billion.

There are now several countries that treat cannabis more rationally than the rest and have formed an institutional framework that on the one hand encourages economic and investment activity, thus combating organised crime and the black economy, while on the other hand defending public health and the individual rights of those who use it. Countries such as Portugal, Canada, Uruguay and Switzerland, among others, have formulated a modern institutional framework for cannabis that is not based on repression, but on harm reduction, prevention, legality and transparency. Consumers are not persecuted, production is supported, food and medicines from cannabis are disposed of without restrictions, while thousands of businesses employ multiple workers and the state receives taxes.

Recently in Europe, of course, an attempt has been made to reverse the progressive approach to cannabis, mainly because very conservative and in some countries far-right governments have come to power, which are negatively affecting the Brussels bureaucracy. Industrial hemp and hemp foods have been primarily the victim, firstly through the inclusion of cannabidiol (CBD) in novel foods that require special eu authorisation (as if we have not consumed it for thousands of years as food) and then, through the debate that has opened up whether CBD should be included in the controlled substances even though the International Conventions on Drugs do not include it, while even the World Health Organization has ruled that it is not a addictive and addictive substance and that natural cannabis extracts containing less than 0.2% THC should not be considered controlled substances. If hemp and CBD come out of our diet and are limited to only medicines it will be devastating, not only for the industry but also for public health, especially at a time when we need to strengthen our immune system against viruses like COVID-19. Producers across Europe have already begun coordinated legal moves and political pressure to protect the food hemp and CBD industry, which globally is expected to exceed $2.5 billion in turnover in 2020, and is expected to exceed $6.5 billion by 2024.

In closing, let’s look at 10+1 steps that can be taken immediately to implement a modern and comprehensive framework for the legal regulation of cannabis and the sustainable development of an industry that can provide productive outlets, work and income to young people, as well as contribute in the best possible way to the confrontation of the multi-level crisis:

  1. Decriminalization of the possession of cannabis for personal use and its inclusion in category D of law 3459/2006, by a Joint Ministerial Decision as provided by Law 4139/2013. Simultaneous establishment of occupation limits for personal use and strengthening of prevention and treatment structures. The decriminalization of possession for personal use is already in place in Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland, Canada and in dozens of U.S. states, among others.
  2. Regulation of the homemade cultivation of up to 6 cannabis seedlings and institutionalization of community or medical cannabis clubs, which they cultivate non-profit, exclusively for their members, taking advantage of the good practices from Spain, Belgium and 11 other European countries in which there are community cannabis social clubs, which even the EU now considers as the best practice of legal regulation.
  3. Licensing of special pharmacies for the controlled disposal of cannabis for medical use, as well as controlled cannabis outlets for euphoric use. A constant request of the patients is the issuance of the Patient’s Card for the provision of specific quantities / formulations each month. Also licensing the contract cultivation of cannabis for medical and euphoric use in order to supply the controlled disposal areas.
  4. Prescribing and coverage by the insurance funds of medical cannabis formulations and flowers. Wide-ranging information for doctors and nursing staff on the medical administration of cannabis for various ailments.
  5. Establishment of the National Cannabis Organization, with responsibilities from all involved ministries (Rural Development, Health, Development and Investments) for the coordination of all required actions and the management of all issues related to medical, industrial and euphoric use. Adoption of a National Strategy for Cannabis and sectoral sectoral studies for the optimal utilization of all the potential of the plant as well as the international experience in medical and industrial use.
  6. Shortening of the procedures for the licensing of medicinal cannabis production units, while at the same time allowing exports without the marketing authorization of a final product by the National Organization for Medicines (only with the EU-GMP certificate). Licensing of the flowers by the National Organization of Medicines (EOF) as final products and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API) and concretization of the response time limit of the National Organization of Medicines for the licensing of the final products. Possibility of production of mother plants before the license to operate the plant, with the agreement of the law enforcement authorities. Immediate adoption of the JMD that specifies the technical specifications of greenhouses and the conditions for the introduction of plant genetic material (seedlings, mother plants, seeds). Establishment of National Standards of Standardization / Certification for the production of flowers and cannabis products for medical-pharmaceutical use.
  7. Establish limits on the content of CBD in foods (up to 200 mg/daily dose), and dietary supplements (up to 300 mg/daily dose). New Foods should only include those using CBD in isolated and crystalline form or above 300 mg/daily dose, while levels above 400 mg/daily dose should be included in prescription drugs/parapharmaceuticals.
  8. Research on the medical and industrial applications of cannabis, which will be financed by contributory fees (excise duty) for cannabis products.
  9. Introduction of a 1% THC limit on the cultivation of industrial hemp and introduction of an excise duty according to the standards of vaping (e-cigarettes) for smoking cannabis products. Adoption of legislation regulating the processing / standardization of industrial hemp for the production of food, extracts, food supplements, cosmetics, as well as industrial products from fiber and woody trunk.
  10. Introduction of maximum limits for the THC content in food along the lines of Switzerland (I do not think any politician considers that the Swiss do not take care to protect public health). Establishment of National Standards for Standardization / Certification for nutritional cannabis products (e.g. seed oil, extracts, and per food category) and immediate release of the organic certification of the final cannabis products (establishment of a special label for organic cannabis).
  11. Tax incentives and funding for the creation of processing and processing plants for the trunk, flowers and seeds of industrial hemp into finished products. Creation of at least 5 first processing plants per region to separate the fibre, woody core, seeds and biomass, as well as the development of a strategic plan to fully exploit the prospects of industrial hemp. Inclusion of industrial hemp crops in coupled payments (based on the quantity produced and not on the acres cultivated), especially those of organic products, environmentally friendly measures and ‘eco-programmes’. Creation of a program for the gradual replacement of the organic cultivation of cotton. Support for small and medium-sized hemp producers and not just for large investments.

The above steps should not be considered only utopian should not be considered, as they are already successfully applied in various European, and not only, countries. The adoption by Greece of an integrated strategy for cannabis will bring us to the forefront of a promising economic sector and will contribute greatly to the productive reconstruction of the countryside, the reduction of unemployment and the increase of living standards, helping the country to emerge from the multilevel crisis.

Michalis Theodoropoulos, consultant for the environment and cannabis applications.

KANNABIO KOINSEP

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