Greek market yet to deliver as cannabis firms remain stuck in the weeds
Greece’s government has been busy approving the first wave of licences for companies wanting to grow medicinal cannabis in the Hellenic Republic, but no business has yet acquired all three necessary to begin production.
The government told Prohibition Partners it is hopeful at least one firm would complete every stage of the process by the end of 2019, but it is not expecting much movement until the first quarter of 2020.
The Ministry of Economy and Development said: “It is accurate that no company yet has all three licences to grow and sell medicinal cannabis. We are confident that the businesses within the system will progress and enter the market in the next 12 months.”
It is expected that 14 companies will have acquired installation licences, the first stage approval, by the end of March 2019, the government department said.
Greece has been engulfed in a debt crisis since 2009, and the government views medicinal cannabis as a viable solution to help ease its financial woes. Embracing a domestic medicinal cannabis industry could inject €2 billion into the Greek economy according to research compiled for The European Cannabis Report™.
Presently, the licensing system favours vertically integrated companies, which can complete the entire cannabis development cycle including cultivation, production, and processing services. Initially at least, the new legislation on medical cannabis may exclude local farmers from the process.
I have been involved in business for many years and this is the first time I have seen things move so quickly, in this sector. It has amazed me
Costas Vamvakas, Managing Director of Greek business consultancy VK Premium
Vamvakas, former chair of Greece’s Chamber of Commerce, said his firm had helped the government tweak legislation to speed up the process after the first set of firms complained of lengthy delays.
Greece updated its laws to allow the cultivation and production of medical cannabis in 2017, and in March 2018 repealed a ban on growing and producing it.
Businesses wishing to set up a base need to first establish a Greek company to buy or lease the land, and then prepare their documentation for the installation licence.
“You must take into consideration many factors when choosing the right piece of land; it has to be away from a school for example, close to a power supply and have access to a lot of water,” he said.
The paperwork must go through a government evaluator, and this is where firms have tripped up, he added, given the amount of detail that must be provided.
“Get that licence and you have the right to start building the facility,” Vamvakas said. “After this is done, you can get the operations licence, and in parallel, you work on the approval for the product, the medical licence.”
Applicants must then gain approval from the National Organization for Medicines, Greece’s medical agency, for the final stage, the medicinal licence.
“The product will be licenced as medicine, so it can be sold around Europe without too much hassle, but firms will still need local approval from domestic regulators” said Vamvakas.
According to Vamvakas, Canadian and Israeli firms have been the most active investors in Greece so far, however his firm has also observed US companies staking out the market. Should 14 licences be granted by the end of the year, the government expects this will create about 770 new jobs and represent a total investment of between €185 – 200m.
Under Greece’s licensing system, medicinal cannabis products would be available on prescription from chemists, and the government is currently working to include medical cannabis products in the country’s electronic prescription system.
For support in licensing applications, joint ventures and expansion strategies in the European cannabis market contact: firstname.lastname@example.org