Cyprus, a country known for its beautiful beaches, welcoming population and lovely weather, has adopted a harsh stance on cannabis consumption. But despite the fact that cannabis is considered a Class B substance, personal possession is only considered a misdemeanour.
As a tourist in Cyprus, you might think of lighting up a spliff while enjoying the sunset. But is that a good idea? Read on to find out.
Drug laws in Cyprus
In Cyprus, drugs are classified according to the harm they can cause, with Class A being the most harmful and Class C being the least harmful. Drug use and possession penalties can be imposed for all classes of drugs.
The penalties vary in length according to the drug’s class, amount and the aggravating circumstances of the offence. Drug penalties can be extended to life imprisonment, but that has never happened so far.
Possession for personal use is still considered a serious offence in Cyprus and may be punishable by up to four years of imprisonment for class C drugs, eight years of imprisonment for class B drugs and 12 years of imprisonment for class A drugs.
But, in 2003, Cypriot lawmakers introduced thresholds for personal drug use, so only those in possession of larger quantities of drugs than those allowed by law could receive the aforementioned penalties. The possession of up to three cannabis plants, 30 grams of dried cannabis or cannabis-based products, and ten grams of cocaine, opium or their derivatives are no longer considered felonies but misdemeanours and are punishable by fine.
First-time offenders younger than 25 years of age do not receive sentences longer than one year of imprisonment. And, in recent years, Cypriot judges tended to opt for alternative sentences for young first-time drug offenders, referring them to mental health services instead of sending them to prison.
Trafficking drugs may attract large prison sentences. Trafficking class C drugs may attract a penalty of up to eight years of imprisonment, while trafficking class A or B drugs may attract sentences of up to life in prison.
A 2016 law allows those who are condemned for any drug-related offences other than drug supply to be eligible for treatment as an alternative to being sentenced to prison.
Cannabis in Cyprus
Cannabis is the most popular illegal drug in Cyprus. About 4.3 percent of the country’s population aged 15 to 34 said that they used cannabis at least once in 2017. But, despite being popular among young adults and being decriminalised for personal use, cannabis is still very much frowned upon in Cyprus.
Cypriot law enforcement officers have a zero-tolerance policy regarding cannabis, and they often take even minor offenders down to the police station for registration and interrogation. Offenders may have to give a statement, answer a series of questions regarding their supplier, cannabis consumption habits and more, and they may be detained overnight.
Offenders are then called to court where they appear in front of a judge. The judge will set a fine depending on the severity of the case, aggravating circumstances, amount of cannabis found in possession and other factors and will set a fine of €400 to €1,000 for first-offenders and more for repeat offenders.
Even though first offenders may be issued warnings instead of being fined, that rarely happens in practice.
Being helpful to the police, giving a full confession, having an apologetic attitude and agreeing to join a governmental six-month drug rehabilitation program can convince the judge to set a reduced fine or sentence. On the other hand, not completing the six-month detox program after agreeing to it might attract higher sentences.
Public consumption of cannabis is not tolerated, and extreme discretion is advised. If the police catch you smoking near a school, bus station or popular tourist attractions, you might have a tough time talking your way out of a high fine or an even harsher sentence.
Most of the cannabis seized by authorities in 2017 was produced in the Netherlands and smuggled into Cyprus by air freight or on passenger flights. Despite having the ideal environmental conditions for cannabis cultivation, local farms are still rare.
Medical cannabis in Cyprus
Lawmakers in Cyprus passed a law legalising cannabis cultivation and domestic use for medical purposes in February 2019. The new law made the import of cannabis seeds and plants for cultivation purposes legal and regulated the process of obtaining cannabis growing licences.
Thanks to its warm weather and its long periods of sunshine, Cyprus has a competitive advantage over other cannabis-growing countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany or Denmark. And, according to some estimates, Cyprus has the potential to produce £204 million (about €227 million) worth of medical cannabis each year.
The 2019 law also enabled Cypriots to get their cannabis medication directly from the pharmacy, using a prescription issued by a specialist physician. Most of the people who seek cannabis treatments in Cyprus suffer from cancer, autism or resistant epilepsy. Those suffering from HIV and neurological conditions are also eligible to receive cannabis treatments.
Prior to the 2019 amendment, patients seeking medical cannabis treatments had to get permission from the health minister, which meant a lot of paperwork and long waiting times.
But Cypriot patients also have to deal with the stigma surrounding cannabis consumption. Doctors are sceptical about the benefits of cannabis treatments and only a few of them believe that cannabis-based drugs would actually help their patients. As a result, only a few of them prescribe cannabis.
CBD in Cyprus
All cannabidiol (CBD) products that contain less than 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are legal in Cyprus. They are considered food supplements, and sellers cannot make any claims about their health benefits.
Cyprus may become a leading European medical cannabis producer
Cyprus is one of the small European countries that are preparing for the cannabis boom. Thanks to its great environmental conditions, the country could become one of the leading medical cannabis producers in Europe.
But Cyprus should make some efforts to improve its domestic medical cannabis program to make sure all the patients can easily access their treatments.
And the country’s partial decriminalisation of cannabis may bolster its tourism and pave the road to the legalisation of recreational cannabis, which may make Cyprus a go-to destination for stoners all over the world.