A different kind of air blew over Syntagma square over the weekend as hundreds of Greeks gathered opposite the parliament and smoked at the Athens Cannabis Protestival, the first pro-cannabis legalization celebration to take place in the country’s capital.
People attended the event organized by pro-legalisation groups and called on Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ newly-elected government to change legislation in Greece and allow the use and self-cultivation of medical and recreational cannabis.
The organizers set up banners at the square reading ‘Nature is not illegal’ and ‘Cannabis is a medicine.’
They used the marble stairs that lead from the square to the Greek Assembly as a stage where dj sets and live bands performed for the crowds. One of the event’s organizers said legislation was changing all around the world and Greece should follow suit.
Co-organizer of Athens Cannabis Protestival, Dimitris Paraskevas: “What we are trying to do today is we are trying to decriminalize the use and self cultivation of cannabis. We believe that in the 21st century with all the information, the scientific information we have available, we can very much conclude that cannabis is not only harmless but it’s very beneficial. So what we claim is our right to be able to cultivate and use a certain plant as it’s been done internationally now.”
Event organisers said via Facebook that alternative approaches to cannabis had been tested in dozens of countries around the world. They argue that there is concrete evidence that decriminalisation brings positive results.
They say it stabilises the number of users, improves public health through the use of medical cannabis and helps to reduce crime.
One pro-marijuana activist said he thinks that society is ready for change and believes that Greece’s current radical left government is perfectly placed to make that happen.
Co-organizer of Athens Cannabis Protestival, Alex who did not wish to give his last name: “What we want to show here is not only towards them (government) but also to the society you know. We want to break down all the taboos that are all around people using drugs of any kind, and we believe that now it’s time with the supposed to be more radical, more progressive government, compared to all the previous ones, to really get that political hot potato and bring solutions using models that have been already applied throughout Europe.”
The pro-cannabis event organisers say that legalising marijuana will also lead to financial benefits by bringing in much-needed tax revenue to the Greek state and would have a positive impact because it would create more jobs.