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Prescription Cannabis for Medicinal Use Becomes Legal in Greece

Prescription cannabis for medicinal use became legally available in Greece and can be bought at pharmacies. Credit: Bogdan, CC BY-SA 3.0

Prescription cannabis for medicinal use became legally available in Greece for the first time on February 19th to complement the treatment of patients suffering from extremely challenging and painful conditions.

Such conditions include nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy for cancer and AIDS/HIV, pain, and spasticity in multiple sclerosis, persistent pain that does not respond to available treatments or where treatments are not well tolerated by patients. It could also help increase the appetite of patients receiving palliative care, AMNA reports.

Doctors who have the right to prescribe pharmaceutical cannabis in Greece include anesthesiologists, neurologists, and pathologists specializing in cancer, infections, and rheumatism. Prescriptions can be repeated by other doctors for six months, but the treatment must then be re-evaluated by a specialist.

Plans to allow the sale of prescription cannabis in pharmacies in Greece were announced in 2022 before their eventual implementation almost two years later.

Prescription cannabis “not a panacea”

Anesthesiologist Dr. Chrysoula Karanastasi, head of the Greek Medical Society for Cannabinoids, tells AMNA that “everyone could potentially benefit and everyone could see their hopes disappointed” as prescription cannabis is “not a panacea.”

The doctor explains that cannabinoids are a new group of pharmacologically active substances, which behave in a different way to the drugs available until now: “I would not say that they cover a specific gap so much as complement our treatment options.”

Finding the right dose is a step-by-step process that needs to be individually tailored to each patientin collaboration with the doctor, Dr Karanastasi points out.

The cost of the treatment with prescription cannabis products is covered exclusively by the patients, as there is no provision for state insurance coverage.

The recreational cannabis decriminalisation debate

The use of recreational cannabis, on the other hand, remains illegal in Greece.

There is ongoing debate for its decriminalization in Europe, as last week Germany legalized the possession of recreational cannabis for personal use, thus becoming the third European Union member state to legalize cannabis for personal use after Malta and Luxembourg.

Supporters of the legalization of recreational cannabis argue that such policies would undermine the black market, protect smokers from contaminated cannabis, and destroy revenue streams for organized crime gangs.

On the contrary, doctors share their concerns that this would also endanger the health of young people by making the drug more accessible and increasing the risk of addiction.

The International Narcotics Control Board in 2023 cited data indicating that in all jurisdictions where cannabis has been legalized, there has been an increase in cannabis-related health problems.

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