Updated on January 22, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Even though Turkey is one of the most modernized Muslim nations, often following the example of their European neighbors, their stance on cannabis is still stringent. They are very staunch in their conservative view against the use of marijuana — the government classifies it as an illegal drug. Plus, all laws are strictly enforced, which could lead those caught using or possessing cannabis to be subject to harsh penalties.
Despite this, medical marijuana laws were passed in 2016, allowing doctors to prescribe certain cannabis-based meds. But, many are afraid to pursue these because of the harsh stance the government has taken for many years.
Turkey’s Ministry of Health oversees medical marijuana in the country — but that doesn’t mean patients who receive a prescription can purchase marijuana flowers. The only medication approved within Turkey are oromucosal sprays that contain the cannabinoids CBD and THC. Although the program began in 2016, the ins and outs of the medical marijuana use laws are still a bit hazy. Developing the specifics has been slow going, and the process of laying it all out continues today.
To get a prescription for cannabis-based meds, patients must visit a Turkish physician authorized to issue red prescriptions. Red signifies medications that contain narcotics. The doctor assesses the patient’s condition and considers whether medical marijuana is the best course of treatment. Usually, it’s only prescribed to those who have not found relief from other more conventional forms of medication.
Once they’re issued a red prescription, patients can get cannabis-based sublingual medications like Sativex. These are currently being imported into the country. However, Turkey plans to begin cultivating their own medical cannabis soon.
Overall, the types of medical marijuana permissible in Turkey is insufficient, and all other forms of cannabis containing THC are illegal. Even so, many citizens in this nation still smoke weed. However, if caught using or possessing cannabis, they could end up in prison for up to two years. Sometimes, first-time offenders or those found with small amounts of marijuana are given three years of probation along with mandatory treatment. However, there is no such leniency for those prosecuted for the sale or trafficking of marijuana — these people could wind up in prison for a minimum of five to 10 years.
There are many limitations to Turkey’s medical marijuana program, which may be the reason so many citizens turn to the black market for their supply of cannabis, risking prison time in the process. Currently, the country has no intention of amending or expanding their medical marijuana laws, which means patients must work within its confines. Some of the major complaints include:
Even if a patient has a red prescription, there is no leniency in law if they’re caught with anything other than oromucosal sprays. Doctors can issue red prescriptions to those whom they believe would benefit, but many are hesitant to do so. The harsh penalties that have been in place in Turkey for decades still keep some patients and physicians from pursuing legal cannabis meds.
If you’re planning a trip to Turkey or anywhere else in the world, it’s important to understand international cannabis laws. At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we provide the information you need to make your travel plans safe. If you’re a Turkish citizen yourself, staying informed is even more important. We also have ample resources, including an informative blog, to help you learn more about the world of medical marijuana.