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Why some licensed pot operators are turning to illegal sales in California

On an isolated farm, greenhouses stand in regimental order, sheltered by a fringe of trees. Inside are hundreds of head-high cannabis plants in precise rows, each rising from a pot nourished by coils of irrigation tubing. Lights powerful enough to turn night into day blaze overhead.

In the five years since California voters approved a broad legal marketplace for marijuana, thousands of greenhouses have sprouted across the state. But these, under their plastic canopies, conceal a secret.

The cultivator who operates the grow north of Sacramento holds a coveted state-issued license, permitting the business to produce and sell its plants. But it’s been virtually impossible for the grower to turn a profit in a struggling legal industry where wholesale prices for cannabis buds have plunged as much as 70% from a year ago, taxes approach 50% in some areas and customers find far better deals in the thriving underground marketplace.

So the company has two identities — one legal, the other illicit.

“We basically subsidize our white market with our black market,” said the cultivator, who agreed to speak with The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity to avoid possible prosecution.

Industry insiders say the practice of working simultaneously in the legal and illicit markets is all too commonplace, a financial reality brought on by the difficulties and costs of doing business with a product they call the most heavily regulated in America.

For the California grower, the furtive illegal sales happen informally, often with a friend within the tight-knit cannabis community calling to make a buy. The state requires legal businesses to report what they grow and ship, and it’s entered into a vast computerized tracking system — known as “seed to sale” monitoring — that’s far from airtight.

“It’s not too hard” to operate outside the tracking system’s guardrails, the grower said. Plants can vary widely in what each one produces, allowing for wiggle room in what gets reported, while there is little in the way of on-site inspections to verify record-keeping. The system is so loose, some legal farms move as much as 90% of their product into the illicit market, the grower added.

The passage of Proposition 64 in 2016 was seen as a watershed moment in the push to legitimize and tax California’s multibillion-dollar marijuana industry. In 2018, when retail outlets could open, California became the world’s largest legal marketplace and another steppingstone in what advocates hoped would be a path to federal legalization, after groundbreaking laws in Colorado and Washington state were enacted in 2012.

Today, most Americans live in states with at least some access to legal legal marijuana — 18 states have broad legal sales for those 21 and older, similar to alcohol laws, while more than two-thirds of states provide access through medicinal programs.

Kristi Knoblich Palmer, co-founder of top edibles brand KIVA Confections, lamented that the migration of business into the illegal market was damaging the effort to establish a stable, consumer-friendly marketplace.

“To have this system that now appears to be failing, having people go back into the old-school way of doing things … it does not help us get to our goal of professionalizing cannabis and normalizing cannabis,” she said.

In California, no one disputes the vast illegal marketplace continues to dwarf the legal one, even though the 2016 law stated boldly that it would “incapacitate the black market.” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was lieutenant governor at the time the law was approved, called it a “game changer.”

But California’s legalization push faced challenges from the start. The state’s illegal market had flourished for decades, anchored in the storied “Emerald Triangle” in the northern end of the state. Not since the end of Prohibition in 1933 had an attempt been made to reshape such a vast illegal economy into a legal one.

In October, California law enforcement officials announced the destruction of over 1 million illegal plants statewide but said they were finding larger illicit growing operations. In the cannabis heartland of Humboldt County, many illegal growers are moving indoors to avoid detection. Investigators are making arrests and serving search warrants every week, but with so many underground grows “we may never eliminate the illegal cultivation,” Sheriff William Honsal said in an email to the AP.

California’s illegal market is estimated at $8 billion, said Tom Adams, chief executive officer of research firm Global Go Analytics. That’s roughly double the amount of legal sales, though some estimates are even larger.

In September, a cannabis company sued government regulators in state court in Orange County, alleging so-called burner distributors were using shadowy “front men” to get licenses to buy wholesale cannabis, then selling it in the illegal market to sidestep taxes.

No state is claiming to have eliminated illegal operators. U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, an Oregon Democrat who co-chairs the Congressional Cannabis Caucus, said he saw little prospect for undercutting illegal markets without federal legalization, which has been stalled in Congress despite having Democrats in control of Congress and the White House.

The thriving illegal markets in California, Oregon and elsewhere are a “product of the dysfunction, the lack of resources and the fact that we don’t have a national market that is regulated,” he said.

Like the California cultivator, many businesses do some transactions in the illicit market to help make ends meet, but others have given up on the legal economy or never bothered to enter it.

While California’s legal market tightly controls how and where pot is sold, the illegal industry is easy to access and offers a doorway into a vast and profitable national market.

“Licensed players are the good guys. Yet it just never feels like we’re being treated like we’re on the right side of history,” Knoblich Palmer said.

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California’s effort to establish itself as the preeminent player in the legal cannabis economy has never felt more imperiled, and talk is spreading of a Boston Tea Party-like rebellion against state policies. In a December letter to Newsom, about two dozen industry executives said the state was crippling the marijuana economy.

“The California cannabis system is a nation-wide mockery, a public policy lesson in what not to do,” the business leaders wrote. Newsom has signaled he’s open to change.

The anonymous grower said the burden of competing in the regulated economy simply doesn’t make sense to many longtime operators who came up in the pre-Proposition 64 marketplace. There is a widespread mindset — “Why bother?” — when the illegal economy is booming and there is little law enforcement to fear.

In Los Angeles, for example, opening a retail operation can cost $1 million or more with licensing fees, real estate costs, attorneys and inspections — if you can get a license at all. Promises of social equity programs that would assist businesses run by people of color who were targeted during the war on drugs have gotten off to an uneven start.

For the struggling legal market, “when you have quality, price and convenience working against you, that’s a challenge,” said Adams, the cannabis analyst. “The illicit market has all three of them.”

An irony in the legal market is that wholesale prices have plummeted, shaking the supply chain. A year ago, a cultivator could get about $1,000 a pound wholesale. Now that’s dropped as low as $300, with the market saturated.

Slap $150 in cultivation taxes on a $300 pound, and that’s a stunning 50% rate.

Part of the problem for the industry is about two-thirds of California cities do not allow legal sales or growing — local governments control when, or if, to create legal markets, and many have banned it or failed to set up rules. Even in places that do, cities have been slow to permit storefronts to sell legal products, with less than 1,000 brick-and-mortar shops in a state with nearly 40 million people.

Meanwhile, wholesale prices for buds in the underground are significantly higher. The legal market, with limited outlets to sell it, is flooded with pot from corporate-scale growers.

Few know the industry as well as dispensary owner Jerred Kiloh, who also heads the United Cannabis Business Association, a Los Angeles-based trade group.

“No one is making money anywhere in the (legal) supply chain,” he said, noting his own sales have nosedived. Kiloh sees few bright spots in the law that established California’s legal market, beyond a testing program that safeguards quality and programs to expunge old criminal records for marijuana.

Buying Marijuana Seeds in Greece 2022

Like many other European countries, Greece is slowly taking steps toward a kinder legal climate for users and growers of marijuana seeds.

Despite a long history of Greek cannabis use and an ideal climate for growing marijuana seeds, cannabis seeds from seed banks have been strictly prohibited for many years. Fortunately for those who can benefit most from the therapeutic effects of weed, social attitudes toward cannabis are improving, though the Greek government has been slow to catch up.

Whether you’re a Greek resident or planning a visit, this guide will give you everything you need to know about the legal and practical aspects of buying seeds from seed banks and growing cannabis seeds in Greece.

In a Nutshell — The Legality of Buying Marijuana Seeds in Greece

Cannabis growers around the world dream of cultivating marijuana seeds in a Mediterranean climate.

Greece is the ultimate Mediterranean climate and is one of the best countries to grow cannabis seeds in. However, there are a few legal issues that you must understand before you buy and grow cannabis seeds from online or local seed banks in Greece.

Here’s a summary of cannabis regulations in Greece:

  • Medical marijuana is legal
  • Recreational cannabis is illegal
  • It’s legal to buy and possess cannabis seeds
  • It’s illegal to cultivate marijuana seeds

Continue reading to discover in-depth information regarding cannabis laws, culture, growing tips, seed strain recommendations, and which seed banks are the best to buy cannabis seeds in Greece.

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Growing Cannabis Seeds in Greece

As mentioned above — Greece is a paradise for cannabis cultivators.

However, there are a few considerations that you must understand before growing cannabis seeds in Greece.

When to Sprout Cannabis Seeds in Greece

Greece exhibits a Mediterranean climate, which means long summers and mild winters.

Overall, cannabis cultivators can germinate marijuana seeds between March and May as long as the chance of frost is over.

Issues to Consider When Growing Marijuana Seeds in Greece
Considering the legal climate of cannabis in Greece, you must be careful of:

  • Thieves
  • Law enforcement

Furthermore, you must buy cannabis seed strains that exhibit ideal characteristics, such as fast-flowering, low smell, and mold resistance for your given location.

Tips for Growing Cannabis Seeds in Greece

Now, let’s look at our time-tested tips for growing cannabis seeds in Greece.

Buy Cannabis Seeds From a Reputable Online or Local Seed Bank in Greece

Our number one tip is to always buy cannabis seeds from a reliable online or local seed bank in Greece.

Remember, reputable seed banks that ship to Greece offer healthy cannabis seeds that make the growing experience worth the time and effort!

Buy Cannabis Seeds for Your Regional Climate in Greece

Always choose cannabis seed strains from a seed bank that fit your local climate.

From fast-flowering indicas to longer-flowering sativas, Greek cultivators have a wide variety of options.

Plan Your Cannabis Garden in Advance

Last but not least is to plan your cannabis garden.

Once your cannabis seeds arrive from an online seed bank, ensure your indoor or outdoor garden is ready.

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Which Marijuana Seed Store Is the Best Option For Greek Residents?

If you’re ready to buy cannabis seeds in Greece — here are the two options available to you.

Local Cannabis Seed Stores in Greece

There are currently no brick-and-mortar cannabis seed banks in Greece.

If you find a local source for cannabis seeds in Greece, it’s nearly impossible to verify the strain. With this in mind — it’s best to choose an online seed bank to buy marijuana seeds.

Online Cannabis Seed Banks That Ship to Greece

Two of our favorite trusted online seed banks are the Canadian-based Crop King Seeds and MSNL, located in the Netherlands.

MSNL Seed Bank sells a wide variety of highly-rated retail and wholesale cannabis seeds, and they throw in an extra 5-10 free seeds with every order.

Crop King Seeds is also known for its high-quality cannabis seeds. Both of these top seed banks provide discreet shipping, which means that no one, from your bank to your neighbors, will be able to tell that you ordered from a cannabis company.

It is, however, completely legal to send and receive cannabis seeds through the mail in Greece, so you can rest assured that ordering seeds online won’t cause you any trouble.

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Recommended Cannabis Seed Strains to Buy From Online Seed Banks and Grow In Greece

Here are our top three seed strain recommendations to buy and grow in Greece for the 2022 growing season.

Gorilla Glue Feminized Seed Strain

Gorilla Glue is one of the most renowned cannabis seed strains among indoor and outdoor cultivators.

Thanks to the pleasant climate of Greece, the 7-9-week flowering time is perfect. Furthermore, the yield of Gorilla Glue is massive and incredibly potent, which makes it worth it for Greek growers.

Cement Shoes Feminized Seed Strain

The Cement Shoes Feminized seed strain is an elite hybrid that offers rapid flowering, massive yields, mouth-watering terpenes, and mind-blowing potency.

In other words, the Cement Shoes seed strain is beyond top-shelf and a joy to grow in Greece.

Candy Haze Feminized Seed Strain

We couldn’t help but recommend the deliciously potent Candy Haze seed strain.

The Candy Haze Feminized seed strain offers sativa-dominant buds within 9-weeks. Furthermore, the Candy Haze seed strain is easy to grow and provides resistance to various pests and diseases.

The History of Cannabis in Greece

Marijuana naturally grows in the wild in Greece, and the ancient Greeks reportedly made good use of it for its fiber and medicinal properties – for animals and humans!

However, in 1890, The Greek government outlawed the use, sale, or possession of marijuana in any form – other than ungerminated cannabis seeds. Despite the ban, Greek use of hashish experienced a temporary surge in popularity following World War I and the Greco-Turkish War.

Many Greek soldiers and displaced ethnic Greeks who had previously been living in Turkey had become accustomed to using hashish and brought their new habit back with them when they returned to Greece.

Recent Cannabis Laws in Greece

In 1987, Greece implemented a strict set of drug laws, intended to keep in step with international treaties in place at the time. While recreational cannabis possession and personal growing of cannabis seeds remain illegal, these laws have been amended here and there over the years.

In 2013 the law was altered to permit lighter sentences for marijuana-related offenses if the offender is addicted to marijuana (or another drug), as well as for those germinating only enough cannabis seeds for their own personal use or in possession of small “personal-use” quantities of weed.

A Call for Change to Greek Cannabis Laws

Social support for the legalization of cannabis has been growing in Greece, as in many other parts of the world.

In May 2015, hundreds of cannabis advocates gathered in Athens’s Syntagma Square for the Athens Cannabis Protestival. The “protestival” was organized by members of the SYRIZA party, who have consistently advocated for the legalization of cannabis in recent years.

Two Spanish cannabis seed banks sponsored the event, and the primary intention was to draw attention to the social, public health, and economic benefits of legalizing and allowing the government-regulated sale of recreational and medicinal cannabis.

Social support for the legalization of cannabis has been growing in Greece, as in many other parts of the world.

Industrial Cultivation of Medical Marijuana Seeds in Greece

In June 2017, the Greek government legalized the use and industrial cultivation of medical cannabis seeds. It downgraded cannabis from a “table A” drug to a (considered to be less dangerous) “table B” drug.

No current bills are calling for the legalization of recreational weed in Greece. Still, as the social and political environment around cannabis continues to change, it could be possible in the years to come.

Greek Marijuana Laws – Is Weed Legal in Greece?

In 2017, Greece legalized the use of medical marijuana.

These legal changes also allow for the import and industrial growth of medical-grade cannabis. Despite huge demand, the availability of medical marijuana has been slow to take off.

There are not yet any operational dispensaries, though several pharmaceutical companies have begun investing in new growing facilities – slated to be located in northern Greece.

Furthermore, industrial hemp is legal to grow and possess in Greece, as long as THC levels remain lower than .02%. CBD products containing less than .02% THC are also legal in Greece.

Can You Buy and Possess Cannabis Seeds From Seed Banks in Greece?

The sale and possession of cannabis seeds of any type or strain are completely legal in Greece.

There are no limits on how many cannabis seeds you may possess, and it is also legal to send or receive them by post from a seed bank. It is, however, illegal to germinate cannabis seeds in Greece, including for personal medicinal use.

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Greek Cannabis Laws and Sentencing

Other than prescribed medical marijuana, it is illegal to use, grow, buy, sell, or possess cannabis in any form – the one exception being cannabis seeds from seed banks.

Sentencing for cannabis-related crimes is still harsher in Greece than in many other European countries, and often includes time in prison. Since 2012, the Greek police force has seen a steady increase in drug-related offenses. A 2016 report showed that approximately two-thirds of these offenses were related to the possession of cannabis.

How to Avoid Cannabis Charges in Greece

It’s highly advisable not to travel about in Greece with cannabis on your person, as the Greek police are allowed to search you if they suspect you may own cannabis. However, carrying cannabis seeds with you is legal and will not result in legal problems if discovered.

Lenient Sentencing For Personal Use Of Cannabis in Greece

The 2013 changes to Greek cannabis law do allow for more lenient sentences for individuals found to be addicted to marijuana or who are caught with small enough quantities to be classified as “personal use.”

The decision of whether the quantity of marijuana in question falls within the “personal use” designation is completely at the judge’s discretion. The maximum prison sentence in these types of cases is now 5 months. The judge also has the option to assign a government-approved drug treatment program instead of or in addition to prison time.

The charges will not be posted on an individual’s criminal record, as long as they stay out of similar legal trouble for the following five years.

Heavy Sentencing For Cannabis Traffickers in Greece

Those caught selling cannabis on the black market, or cultivating cannabis seeds into a large crop intended for illegal sale, are typically looking at sentences of at least 8 years imprisonment.

If a marijuana dealer is addicted to drugs, they may be given a prison sentence fewer than 3 years, plus required completion of a drug-treatment program. In cases where a dealer is a professional such as a teacher or doctor, sentencing could even include life in prison.

Also, illegal cannabis dealers in Greece may be fined between 50,000 EUR and 500,000 EUR. In special cases, this fine could climb to over 1 million EUR.

Buying, Selling, Possessing, and Growing Cannabis Seeds in Greece

Usable cannabis (of varying quality) can be found and purchased on the streets in certain areas of Athens, but it is a risky venture.

Fortunately for would-be growers or seed collectors, possession of cannabis seeds from seed banks in Greece is not illegal, and it’s not necessary to take on any risk of seeking them out on the black market.

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The Weather is Perfect for Growing Cannabis Seeds in Greece

The Greek climate is perfect for growing weed outdoors – cannabis naturally grows in the wild in Greece. Of course, a controlled indoor grow room is still an option if you don’t have access to outdoor grow space. While germinating cannabis seeds remains illegal in Greece, this may be the only option private enough to be viable, though it is still risky.

With the cultivation of medical weed recently legalized in Greece, the new Greek cannabis farms are poised to have a natural advantage growing here. These ideal conditions have the potential to help the Greek cannabis seed industry expand rapidly.

Black Market Greek Cannabis Farms

The Peloponnese region of southern Greece and the island of Crete have long been known as the growing homes of some of the world’s strongest and best Sativa strains.

The islanders who tend these cannabis farms have been known to protect their illicit crops from police seizure by violent means. There have been multiple reports of Greek police officers shot and killed during attempted raids on these suspected cannabis plantations.

Greek Cannabis Culture

Despite marijuana’s illegal status, many Greek citizens still enjoy using it.

An estimated 4.5% of young adults (defined as being between the ages of 15 and 34) use cannabis recreationally in Greece, but this may not be completely accurate reporting due to legal concerns. The general population of Greece is, as in many other countries, gradually growing more accepting of marijuana as a viable medical treatment and benign recreational substance.

An example of the growing acceptance of marijuana in the Greek mainstream is the success of Greece’s first annual cannabis exposition. For several years now, the Athens Cannabis Expo has been hosted to great success.

This event features a wide variety of professional lectures on the medicinal properties of cannabis, as well as ample networking opportunities for cannabis businesses. This expo also allows for Greek citizens to learn more about cannabis and explore the latest paraphernalia and CBD products on the market.

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The Future of Cannabis Seeds, Seed Banks, and Marijuana Products in Greece

The legalization of medical marijuana in Greece is a huge step toward a positive national shift in attitude toward cannabis.

This brand-new industry is sure to make a positive impact on the Greek economy and improve the lives of so many citizens. While there are no current plans on the table for Greece to legalize personally growing cannabis seeds or using weed recreationally, these could still come up in future years, especially once the numerous benefits of the new medical marijuana industry begin to be fully realized.

However, until comprehensive cannabis legalization passes in Greece — the best option for high-quality marijuana is to grow your own seeds from a reputable seed bank that ships to Greece.