“My good friend, you are a citizen of Athens, a city which is very great and very famous for its wisdom and power – are you not ashamed of caring so much for the making of money and for fame and prestige, when you neither think nor care about wisdom and truth and the improvement of your soul?” – Plato
Next up in our cannabis culture articles, we’re heading over to the mythical and philosophical world of Greece. Where democracy was founded, theatre was created, and some of the world’s greatest thinkers philosophised until the cows came home. This time, we’ll be heading straight to the capital; the bustling, activist fuelled streets of Athens. If you’ve ever wandered these streets, then you’ll know that the smell of cannabis is far from a rarity. However, the question is, what is the cannabis culture like out there? Greece is known historically to be a place that leads the world with its new and progressive ideas, but where does it sit on cannabis? Today we’ll be delving into the laws and cultural views of mother nature’s greatest plant in Athens, Greece.
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Athens is the capital city of Greece in the modern day, but was also the heart of ancient Greece, which was a very powerful place in the 5th century BC. Greece ruled the lands back then. The city is dotted with some incredible landmarks from that time – such as the insanely beautiful Acropolis. Athens has a population of 664,000, which for a capital city isn’t huge. Nonetheless, the streets are still busy and full of life. In fact, Athens is Europe’s oldest capital city. The city has some of the best food in the world, incredible traditional music, and weather all year round that most countries would be jealous of.
Whilst Greece were the creators of democracy and the judiciary system in 500 BC, the blood of activism remains firmly in their veins. Greece has been dealt a harsh hand since joining the European Union in 1981, and was forced to exchange their currency at the time – the drachma – to their current one – the euro. This exchange caused huge debts in Greece, and forced the nation to take 341 billion euros worth of loans from neighbouring EU countries. These loans have been slowly paid back through high taxation, poverty and recession. Many activists in Greece, such as ex-chancellor Varoufakis, believe that this is an unfair debt and Greece should fight against it. He famously said this, which is a true representation of the activist blood within the Greek people:
“If the ‘Athens Spring’ – when the Greek people courageously rejected the catastrophic austerity conditions of the previous bailouts – has one lesson to teach, it is that Greece will recover only when the European Union makes the transition from ‘We the states’ to ‘We the European people.’”
However, whilst Greece and the people of Athens face austerity measures, and unemployment, the city is an incredible place. Let’s take a look at some of its highlights.
The Acropolis is an ancient citadel, which is situated on a mountain in the middle of Athens. The acropolis contains some of Athens’ greatest and oldest buildings. These include the Parthenon, the Propylaea, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike. One of these, the Parthenanon, is probably the most spectacular. The architecture is championed today as some of the best ever by ancient civilisation. But, not only that, the acropolis is supposedly the location where democracy and the judicial system was created. People once sat up there hundreds of years ago, banging their heads together, and dreaming up a better world. The walk to the top is beautiful and the view from the top is incredible – it’s like looking at a sea of culture. In fact, on your way up, there’s a small rocky mountain called Areopagus, which often has people sitting around drinking beers and smoking joints. Be sure to join them.
Greek Food is unlike any other countries’ in the world and, for some, especially me, it’s the best food in the world. Souvlaki, Moussaka, Greek Salad, Olives, Tzatzik, and many many more are dishes that will single-handedly blow your taste buds away. The truth is that the constant sun, and beautiful weather in Greece, means that the vegetables are extremely ripe and juicy when used as ingredients. Exploring the streets of Athens, you will not be surprised to find hundreds of small tavernas that can make you a small, quick souvlaki or a more substantial meal if you’d prefer. The smell is everywhere and it makes your mouth water. In fact, it could be said that Greek food is also the perfect thing to quell munchies.
Cannabis In Athens
There is a consensus law amongst all European countries that any substance that contains more than 0.2% THC is deemed illegal. However, many European countries are beginning to dictate their own cannabis laws. Luxembourg recently legalized cannabis, Germany seems to be on the right track, Spain and the Netherlands are also role models to the rest of Europe…but what about Greece? Well, Greece is probably not quite on the same level as these countries yet when it comes to weed legalization. However, it’s important to remember that there is de facto and de jure change. Whilst the de jure (laws) position towards cannabis is slow in Greece, the de facto (steets) position is different. Cannabis is not a hard substance to come across if you’re walking about the streets of Athens. And, afterall, that’s where culture is – on the streets. But, first of all, let’s take a look at some of the cannabis laws in Athens and Greece as a whole.
The Greek drug laws of 1987 stated that all use of drugs was illegal and could lead to imprisonment. This was the case even if small amounts of cannabis was found on someone for personal use. This sounds extremely harsh, right? Well, thankfully, amendments have been made since then. Since 2013, if someone is found in possession of a ‘small quantity of cannabis for personal use’, they will be sentenced to 5 months in jail maximum. This is still quite a lot, though.
Selling cannabis is also illegal in Greece. This act could lead to life imprisonment if the person in question is in a position of authority; like a teacher or a doctor. Alternatively, a fine is given – this can be anywhere between 50,000 and 500,000 euros. In addition, if you’re caught growing cannabis in Greece, you’ll be likely to also be punished. This is because growing cannabis – even if at home – is completely illegal.
The Greek government is very strict on cannabis and drug laws, and they don’t seem to have quite yet got the memo from other, more progressive countries.
So, the question is, is any part of the cannabis plant legal in Greece? CBD products are legal in Greece, as they are in the majority of the world. However, they aren’t anywhere near as popular as other European countries.
What about medical cannabis? Well, in 2017, medical cannabis became legal in Greece – they are the 6th country in Europe to do this. Not only this, but the government downgraded the plant from a Class A drug to a Class B, which highlighted their more accepting stance on cannabis. The government then legalized the growth of medical cannabis, for those with a license. The Health Minister Xanthos, said:
“We are discussing the licensing of a single, integrated unit that includes production, processing and production of finished medicinal products of hemp. That’s what it is about,”
However, as of yet, there’s been no evidence of a real plan to implement medical cannabis in Greece. Whilst it is legal, it has yet to be integrated into medical practices. However, a site in Veroia, which is planned to open up, is predicted to generate 2,000 new jobs for locals.
The City’s General Attitude To Cannabis
As you know, laws are one thing, but the people on the streets are a completely different ball game. So, what is cannabis culture like on the ground in Athens? Well, it’s important to remember the history of cannabis in Greece. In the 19th century, Greece was the center of hashish production, and was used as a transit point for the delivery of it to various other countries. In addition, hemp was a major resource to build ropes, clothes and boat sails. Therefore, cannabis is – in a sense – ingrained into Greek society. According to Statista, 2.8% of the population consume cannabis. That’s around 200,000 people.
Beaches & Police
Greek police walk around Athens in big packs. There’s quite a few of them. There’s no doubt that you may be prosecuted if you’re found with cannabis, or in the process of purchasing it. As a rule of thumb, people say to avoid smoking cannabis in obvious public spaces and anywhere near clubs. However, cannabis is still a very easy drug to find; whether it be dry buds or hashish. The amount of beautiful beaches that Athens offers means that these spots often attract the weed-enthusiasts and dealers. This is because it’s emptier and there are less police.
The price for a gram of cannabis in Athens is around 10-12 euros. However, you can also purchase lower quality flower for 6-8 euros, which is usually imported from Albania. Some of the best cannabis strains are Kalamata and Albanses. These are supposed to have the strongest THC content, and best aromas. When you try Greek cannabis, which has been grown in the hot sun, alongside the olives and the tomatoes, it’s up there with the best.
Conclusion: Cannabis Culture in Athens
It’s evident that Greece is a beautiful country and Athens is an incredible city. No one can doubt it has beautiful food, people and history. However, the cannabis situation in Athens legally is not ideal right now. The hope is that sooner rather than later, Greece decides to take the leap and become more progressive with their drug laws. Nonetheless, it’s part of the culture. It’s part of the streets. And, in a sense, that’s all that matters.
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