25 February 2016
International attention was raised yesterday in the conference held inside the European Parliament in Brussels on hemp and medical cannabis hosted by SYRIZA MEP, Stelios Kouloglou. Prominent figures from the world of politics, international organizations and civil society and many participants from all over Europe to the US participated in a rich and constructive debate on the therapeutic value of cannabis and the multiple uses resulting from the cultivation of this plant helping thus to boost the employment and the economy.
The European magazine Politico announced the conference with a special report entitled “is growing hemp the way to save the Greek economy?”
“Today’s event is the third one in a series of events is to combat unemployment and restart the economy in Greece. The first was about youth entrepreneurship programs, the second about social and solidarity economy and this is now the third on hemp and pharmaceutical cannabis and their beneficial as well as economic impact. Things are very difficult in Europe and even more difficult in Greece and the time is ruthless. We have to work hard in order not to surpass us “said Stelios Kouloglou in his opening remarks.
The SYRIZA MEP also moderated the first panel discussion on industrial hemp.
Francesco Tropea, political analyst from the European Parliament’s Research Service (EPRS), noted that cannabis is not something new in Greece and Europe but that historical production was widespread in Europe, especially in Greece, Poland and Romania. He also referred to various aid programs based on the Common Agricultural Policy programs, which can reach up to € 70,000 for young farmers.
Paper, clothes, bags, car doors, scooters even entire buildings can be made from hemp. This is what Marc Reinders said, deputy president of the European Industrial Hemp Association and of the industrial unit HempFlax, which has put into practice the theory that cannabis is an all-purpose plant.
Myrsini Christou, Head of the Biomass Department at the Center for Renewable Energy Sources, spoke about the usefulness of the cultivation of cannabis in energy production.
Evangelos Matrakas, stated his personal experience as he was confronted with prosecution authorities for many years when in 1998 he opened a cannabis shop in Halkida, Greece. Shortly afterwards, he was the one who -in collaboration with a roof manufacturer- cover the roof of the Ministry of Finance building with an ecological hemp coating which helped the Ministry save energy equal to 5100 euros per year.
The good news of the day came from Anna Foulidis of the Ministry of Rural Development, when she announced that the joint ministerial decision allowing the cultivation of hemp in Greece is about to be signed in the coming days.
The second panel on medical cannabis was moderated by Spanish MEP of the Liberal Group, Beatrice Bethera Basteretsea. First speaker, Michael Carus, managing director of the European Industrial Hemp Association and the Nova Institute said that in 2013, we had 11 500 tons of total consumption of hemp and that the use of cannabis in the food chain is now considerably increased as it contains over 20 vitamins and proteins. Many cannabis products are now available in supermarkets all over Europe.
The coordinator of the European Coalition for just and effective drug policies, Joep Oomen, estimated the financial impact of hemp cultivation and emphasized that in Europe 2-3 million people use cannabis for medical reasons. From 85 – 100 of the active ingredients of cannabis, 12 have now been acknowledged for their healing properties.
Giorgis Ikonomopoulos, psychiatrist and president of the Libertarian Association for Rehabilitation (ELEF.SYN.A) called cannabis “Jesus of Herbs” as it can provide cure for a wide range of diseases.
Particular emotion was caused by the personal public testimony of the mother of a child with a difficult form of epilepsy which is following in the last and a half year a treatment with cannabis oil. As she said, so many years have gone wasted in hospitals and in grueling treatments with conventional antiepileptic drugs. Cannabis oil brought immediate positive results in reducing seizures and in enhancing the mood and the behavior of the child.
Present at the conference were the member of the political secretariat of SYRIZA, Yannis Bournous, the MEPs of the European Left, Stefan Eck (Germany) and Luke Ming Flanagan (Ireland) and SYRIZA MEP and Vice President of the European Parliament, Dimitris Papadimoulis.
Photos and video Vassileios Katsardis