What have you been smoking? No, Bulgaria hasn’t legalised marijuana cultivation

It was the story to make the most jaded journalist sit up and take notice, to say nothing of the effect on stoners, as public radio in Bulgaria reported on the morning of September 5 that the country’s farmers could legally grow cannabis if they just filled out the right forms.

Quoting Stefka Damianova, a Bulgarian Agriculture Ministry official, the report said that already, about 100 hectares of farmland were legally sown with cannabis.

“They have legalised cannabis cultivation in Bulgaria,” said one of a number of headlines as local media picked up the story, without stopping to wonder why no one had noticed when this step had got the nod from the Cabinet and Parliament. Oh well, perhaps because, in point of fact, they hadn’t.

Legalisation of marijuana tends to get noticed. From the Bob Marley school and from those who deem such things as a sign that society is going to pot.

After sowing the seeds, the initial story said, the relevant regional directorate of the Interior Ministry should be notified, and provided with a copy of the permit that had been issued and information of the location of the crop.

The truth, however, proved to be much less heady stuff.

Responding to media inquiries, the Bulgarian Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry said that growing marijuana had not been legalised.

The ministry had only put in place a draft new regulation on the growing of hemp for industrial purposes, such as for the manufacture of rope.

If John Lennon’s lyrics “it’s money for dope, it’s money for rope” come to mind, only the latter is applicable. Just gimme some truth, the ageing reporter’s plaintive plea.

The regulation said that the varieties that could be used had to have a psychotropic content of less than 0.2 per cent. Anything found to be over that would be confiscated and destroyed. (Customarily, the stuff is normally destroyed by burning it. In various incidents around the world, otherwise normally dour police on duty to guard the consignment have tended to end up giggling inexplicably, or perhaps, explicably.)

The regulation was in synch with European Union directives and, in effect, repeated the requirements that had been in force in Bulgarian law since 2001.

In Bulgaria, cultivating marijuana for any other purpose – cosmetic, medical or personal use – is prohibited. The same applies to the import and export of seeds and leaf mass from the plant.

Exceptions are allowed for small quantities for research purposes, according to the Narcotics Control Act.

“This ‘grass’ won’t do for smoking,” one Bulgarian media said of the clarification, with almost a whiff of disappointment.

(Photo: Aleksander Sowa/sxc.hu)



Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.