ANKARA, Turkey (ViaNews) – The history of cannabis use is as old as the history of humanity. In Divan literature during the Ottoman Empire, many poets wrote about intoxicating substances, including cannabis. Also, it was widely used in the shamanic times, before the Islam religion was recognized by the Turks. It was believed that cannabis enabled the shamans to see the future.

Cannabis and hashish were made illegal in 1890. In 1925, Turkey and Egypt were the two countries that most vehemently insisted upon cannabis’ inclusion in the Geneva International Convention on Narcotics Control, established by the League of Nations. It is suggested that this was part of a wider move to modernize and align with the West.

In 2016, Turkey had legalized strictly-controlled cannabis use for medical purposes in 19 provinces by assigning The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock to be responsible for the process. The reason for the legalization was because of a drug called Sativex which was formerly prescribed for the cancer patients by the Turkish doctors. The drug was free to obtain within three EU countries but illegal in Turkey. Later on, by following the decision taken by EU countries, the Ministry of Health silently allowed the drug to be sold under the red prescription label. Authorized growers had to annihilate the parts of the cannabis plant after harvest so that it couldn’t be sold to use as psychoactive products.

Cannabis, now, can be used in Turkey only for medical or scientific purposes. However, possessing, purchasing or receiving any illegal drug, including cannabis, is punishable by up to two years in prison. Sale and supply of illegal drugs are punishable by prison terms of up to 10 years and unlicensed production or trafficking by a minimum term of 10 years.

Cannabis is widely known for its use in healing certain side effects such as eating disorders, nauseation, and depression caused by chemotherapy or anti-cancer drugs. In relation to that, Turkey decided to utilize the active substances found in cannabis and put the spray (Sativex) into medical use. Even though the recreational use of cannabis is still illegal in Turkey, it is allowed to be used with red prescription by doctors.

According to the World Drug Report 2008 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, since the main substance is low in percentage, Turkish cannabis is unfavourable compared to its likes in the world market. But it’s still popular among the young, urban demographic and although explicit consumption may be punished harshly, people usually smoke one way or another and the police often take bribes and let offenders go without further action unless the smoker is also a dealer.