Updated on January 30, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
As a conservative Muslim nation, Turkey has remained staunch in its stance against legalizing the use of cannabis. However, as surrounding countries adjust their views, there have been some positive changes in Turkey. In late 2016, they made the historic move to legalize medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the laws are a bit hazy, and both patients and doctors are typically hesitant to pursue cannabis prescriptions.
Surprisingly, even with strict recreational cannabis laws that involve imprisonment if caught, many residents in the country smoke pot on a regular basis. Maybe if medical marijuana laws were clarified and better implemented, the illegal use of cannabis would decrease.
Starting in 2016, the Turkish medical marijuana program has been slow to develop. Citizens in this nation are used to harsh penalties for the use of cannabis, so many are shy to pursue it. There is no plan to change the current legislation, which continues to be rolled out and clarified.
The only treatments approved within the country are oromucosal sprays containing CBD and THC. Turkey does not currently produce their own cannabis products, so these treatments are imported. If a patient believes they would benefit from this medication, they must visit a physician to receive a prescription. Narcotic medications, like cannabis, are referred to as red prescriptions.
Cannabis, also known as esrar and kesh, has a longstanding history in Turkey. There is evidence the country may be one of the oldest homes of the plant before modern civilization ever encountered it. However, since 1890, Turkish law has prohibited all forms of cannabis. In the early 1900s, the government began strictly controlling its use by issuing severe penalties to those caught growing, selling or even possessing the plant.
This criminalization of marijuana only intensified in 1925, after the United Nations issued their convention of narcotics control. Even with severe penalties in place, many residents of this nation are regular users, and there is a consistent supply of black market weed within the country.
Although medical marijuana legislation passed in 2016, many patients who qualify for cannabis treatments are hesitant to get a prescription because of the country’s history of harsh treatment toward users.
The only cannabis products permissible to medical marijuana patients in Turkey are sublingual sprays like Sativex. All other forms of cannabis containing THC are prohibited. Those found with marijuana in their possession are subject to a number of severe penalties, depending on particulars of their case.
Although cultivation of marijuana is illegal, the country announced in 2016 that it would legalize the production of cannabis in 19 Turkish provinces. This will be tightly controlled by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock, and under the Hemp Cultivation and Control Regulations, the cannabis will only be used for medical and scientific purposes.
Those who wish to grow these plants must have a warrant proving they have never been involved in the production of illegal narcotics, and their grow license will only last three years.
To get a prescription for cannabis-based medication, a doctor must examine a patient and determine if they have a condition that would be treatable with these medications. There does not appear to be a list of qualifying conditions, but the government has recognized the health benefits of marijuana to treat patients who have not seen results from conventional medications.
If a Turkish doctor determines a patient qualifies for medical marijuana, they will issue them a red prescription for cannabis-based meds. Because Turkey does not yet produce these medications within the country, they are imported from other nations for patient use. If they have a red prescription, patients can receive these meds or procure their own medical marijuana sublingual sprays. However, just because they’re approved to use cannabis sprays doesn’t mean they can smoke pot — this is still highly illegal.
Even though many European nations are decriminalizing the use of recreational cannabis, Turkey is not following the example of their more liberal neighbors. Using, possessing, growing, selling and trafficking marijuana is illegal. Those found doing any of these illicit activities are subject to severe penalties. Some sanctions those prosecuted could face include:
MarijuanaDoctors.com closely monitors the world of medical cannabis. We follow legislation in nations around the world as they realize the true potential of this amazing plant. Be sure to check back with us to learn more about international cannabis laws — we also have an informative blog with many interesting topics and frequently asked questions.