Some things (may) never change

While the States lead the way in the legalization of cannabis, other countries are slow to follow. Or are they? In the case of my other home country and tourist mega-destination, Greece, the current situation can be confusing. Reflecting on my years living here, it has never been straight forward.

It was evening in Athens in the early 2000s and I was high as fuck. Earlier in the afternoon, my cousin handed me a couple gorgeous orange-haired buds with a twinkle in his eye. “It’s like crack, maaan.”

When we say something is like crack in the U.S., we mean that it is highly active. He meant that the high felt sooo good, the way crack does. I’m told. 

And truly this was one of the most legendary buds I’ve smoked even to this day. Even though my supply was limited to these few buds, I insisted on sharing it with my loved ones who don’t smoke weed: my partner, my parents. “If you ever try one, this is it.” I refused to take no for an answer. In every case, the results were spectacular to behold.  

Never did learn the strain, but I do know it was grown right here in Greece, where I am at the time of this writing. Information was limited, but the fluffy, rust-colored flower couldn’t have come from abroad. Even high quality European and Afghan weed would have been compressed into bricks to smuggle into the country.

Domestic hydroponics of any size didn’t exist at the time. Instead, outdoor grows with plants taller than Giannis Antetokoumpo famously grew “wild” in the country’s southern region of Kalamata. As a result, weed smoking was, and still is, abundant over the winter, with the harvest flooding Athens and her suburbs. By summer, as the sea warms and men and women alike unbutton their shirts another notch or two, the weed dries up. The good and bad in the universe balancing. By September, the situation gets dire for Greek stoners desperately waiting for the harvest which sadly may not always come.

As great as my haunts in Oakland and Sonoma County are for the inspired chill of the plant, Greece in the summer feels like the perfect place to get nice with some domestic product. In fact, the national television channel, ERT, recently reported that Greece has among the highest cannabis consumption in Europe, with 3.4% of the national population reporting having smoked recently, a number that jumps to 10% around the capital of Athens. Confirming my experience of 20 years ago, cannabis still peaks in the winter and trails off over the summer. Will that ever change?

After 2017, the left leaning government then in power voted to legalize medicinal cannabis, sort of. Medical cannabis products with less than 0.2% THC (yooo, that is NOT a misprint) were to be provided through pharmacies. So we are basically talking about CBD products. However, in my extensive research at my local pharmacy (ok, the one pharmacist I talked to; this is my vacation after all), not one customer has asked about CBD in the 10 years he has been on the job. And this dude has no idea of when implementation will happen.

Like everywhere else, CBD shops have sprung up around town, including in tourist areas of Athens. I asked the owner of Good Vybz, a CBD shop in the center of Athens, when he thought real weed would become available in what might become a stoner paradise. “This is Greece,” he said, “it takes five years until now and nothing.” 

No one I spoke with has any confidence that even the highly regulated medical cannabis from the 2017 law, and its sister law of 2021 allowing more proper percentages for medical consumption, will ever become available, let alone straight up adult-use kind bud.

Too bad Greece can’t just be Greece, 10% high at the beach all summer long. I have proof that they can do it here, because I still do dream about that domestic orange-haired beast that once rocked the world of everyone who tasted it.

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