Greece is one of the latest European countries to consider the possibility of legalizing the use of cannabis for medical purposes. Earlier this year, the Greek Ministry of Health announced that measures allowing doctors to prescribe cannabis for certain medical conditions were on their way.
As a result, patients who are suffering from epilepsy, PTSD, chronic pain, and cancer can soon have legal access to doctor-prescribed cannabis and cannabis products for the treatment of their condition. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, however, still has to indicate how the government will go about legal medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. Greece already permits the regulated cultivation of marijuana with up to 0.2 percent THC, while strictly prohibiting the cultivation of full-strength buds.
Now, according to a recent report by Bloomberg, investors in medical marijuana projects are keeping their eye on Greece, which possesses a warm climate that is very ideal to growing cannabis and whose future marijuana legislation could potentially help the country recover from its economic crisis.
It can be recalled that since late 2009, Greece has been facing a sovereign debt crisis. This happened in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis and it reached the Greek people as a series of austerity measures and sudden reforms that led to loss of income, loss of property, and impoverishment. The Greek crisis was triggered by the Greek economy’s structural weaknesses and by revelations that the country’s debt levels as well as deficits had been miscalculated by the government.
Professional cannabis growers have expressed their interest in shelling out more than €1.5 billion for cannabis-related projects in Greece, Evangelos Apostolou, rural development and food minister, said. This amount will go into the development of greenhouse parks for cannabis cultivation and manufacturing.
The Greek government projected that this investment would give the country a global market share that could be worth €200 billion in the next decade.
Tsipras is counting on investments to be able to deliver on the government’s promise to pull the country out of its seven-year economic slump. These investments will spur economic recovery and enable the government to roll out its third bailout program. To note, forecasts are calling for close to 2 percent growth this year and 2.5 percent in 2018.
According to a task force in charge of drafting a bill to legalize medical marijuana in Greece, a campus composed of 12 to 15 cannabis greenhouses can generate 400 jobs. This is going to be very helpful, considering that unemployment here is one of the highest unemployment levels among European Union member-countries. In fact, Greece’s unemployment went over 20 percent since late 2011.
The government plans to submit a medical cannabis bill that will cover legalization by the end of 2017. Passage of the bill would allow sufficient time for cannabis to be cultivated in time for next summer’s harvest.
Can cannabis really help pull Greece’s economy up?
Legal cannabis ranks high up in the list of the world’s fastest growing industries. The ever-shifting opinions on cannabis also serves as one of catalysts behind significant market growths.
Take North America, for instance. ArcView, a cannabis research firm, found that legal cannabis sales in 2016 grew by 34 percent to almost $7 billion and that by 2021, the North American market is expected to reach close to $22 billion in sales. This type of rapid and consistent growth is not easy to achieve, and this is the reason why investors have been holding tight to their cannabis stocks.
However, beyond shareholder investment gains, there is a huge opportunity for cannabis to be a positive for any economy. It has the potential to create jobs, boost wages, and boost GDP.
In its cannabis industry report for 2017, New Frontier Data is forecasting that at least 283,000 employment opportunities will have been created in the U.S. by the legal cannabis industry. By comparison, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expecting that jobs in utility, government, and manufacturing will decline through 2024.