Cannabis situation in Eastern Europe
Most of the discussions about the cannabis industry in Europe revolves around Western Europe. These include countries such as France, Germany, Spain and the UK. However, there are other countries on the continent that are embarking on the cannabis industry. Thry can become major players across the region. Some of these countries are in the European Union (EU) and others not. The countries of Eastern and Central Europe are generally known for their social conservatism, but changing attitudes allow for rapid growth in the European cannabis industry.
One of such countries is North Macedonia, located in the Balkans. With a population of just over 2 million, the country attracts attention with its potential in the industry. Main reason is the former Prime Minister Zoran Zaev who began implementing the idea to transform the capital of Skopje into “Amsterdam in the Balkans”. The aim of these activities is to encourage tourism while discouraging the development of the illegal market. Macedonia has been allowing the sale of medical marijuana in pharmacies since 2016. In addition it has already developed cannabis cultivation inspired by the Canadian industry. North Macedonia is one of the few countries in the world that allows both the cultivation and export of cannabis.
In 2018, Canadian International Cannabis Corp (ICC) acquired Balkan Cannabis Corp. All for medical marijuana production in Macedonia, and while acquiring licenses to grow medical marijuana and cannabis in neighbouring Bulgaria. In addition, there were initiatives to amend the regulations and establish a separate Agency for the control of the cultivation and production of medical marijuana. Moreover, there is a significant market trend to open up new medical marijuana companies. However, we cannot now predict the impact of these initiatives.
Another Eastern Europe country – Croatia, with a well-developed tourism industry, legalized medical marijuana in 2015. Three years earlier, they decriminalized marijuana possession for personal use. Recently, a draft law occured in Croatia to legalize medical and recreational cannabis with the intention of legalizing it for personal use. That would include the cultivation of up to nine plants per person. There has been proposed a state-private agency to regulate the Croatian cannabis market has been proposed in this country.
Although the Mediterranean climate is favourable for cultivation, there are some negative sentiments that need to be overcome. Thus, work is still ongoing to gain confidence in the Balkan region. Albania, in particular, has for decades been infamous as the main European producer of illegal cannabis. This led to the point that the EU has demanded changes to “Colombia of Europe”. Even so, Albania is now also considering legalizing marijuana for medical use.
Another emerging Eastern European country is Georgia in the Caucasus, which approved the full legalization of marijuana use in 2018. At the end of 2017, the constitutional court in Georgia ruled that prosecution for marijuana use is inconsistent with the Georgian constitution. Thanks to this decision, Georgia became the first country in the former USSR and the second – after the Czech Republic – country in the Eastern Bloc where the consumption of marijuana is legal. However, the verdict does not fully legalize marijuana. It is still forbidden to sell and cultivate cannabis.
Cannabis future in Eastern Europe
Despite the different views on marijuana in many nations of Eastern Europe, we can expect market expansion in other countries, especially after the pandemic, following the example of Georgia, North Macedonia and Croatia.