Stene Jacobs, COO of Apollon Formularies Plc, elaborates on the potential of the European cannabis industry
AFTER two decades of cannabis reform and legal liberalisation across the Europe – especially in the medical sector – what does the modern European landscape look like?
Well, Europe has certainly taken a different approach to that of North America, the only other significant global cannabis market.
In the case of the US, it has opted to widely legalise both recreational and medical cannabis at varying degrees across 18 states with more talk of federal legalisation on the agenda over the next few months.
Europe’s ‘first movers’ have, for the most part, opted to legalise medical cannabis in a highly regulated and measured way and cannot be accused of rushing the process.
In fact, advocacy groups have been calling for more decisive action from government and lawmakers so that this useful medication can be used effectively for scientific and societal benefit without further delay.
A Foothold In Europe
The Netherlands was a clear first mover in the European cannabis space, and a large number of European countries subsequently embraced medical cannabis.
With this gathering momentum the European market today is barely recognisable to where it was, even just a few years ago.
Today, we find ourselves in an extremely active market with rampant M&A activity after a positive first quarter cannabis boom, resulting in multiple stock market listings in London and elsewhere.
In the UK the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) updated its guidance on cannabis related businesses in September 2020, allowing companies to list on the London Stock Exchange with a handful of debutants this year and more to follow.
Here, at Apollon Formularies plc we opted to list on the Aquis Growth Market in April. Despite our primary operations being based in Jamaica, we chose to list in London for a multitude of reasons.
First of all we wanted to get a foothold in the largest and most sophisticated market in Europe – the UK is a centre of excellence, particularly within the pharmaceutical space, which is very attractive to us.
Alongside this, access to long-term capital and global investors, coupled with specialist cannabis expertise, made choosing the UK the right choice for Apollon.
The next thing the industry needs is the political will to fast-track clinical research in all regions and to accept high quality, peer reviewed, clinical data from international sources who are ahead on clinical trials or 3D cultured cell testing, such as ourselves at Apollon.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it should be that effective international collaboration can result in miraculous results in months as opposed to years.
We need to act quickly to bring together the specialists in our sector to provide relevant evidence and data to mitigate political red-tape and speed up the entire process,
This will allow us to bring more effective medication to the market to cure modern ailments which claim many more lives than the current epidemic has done.
In the UK, we are fortunate to have a full range of highly-trained specialists dedicated to the cannabis sector, the majority of whom are in agreement with this approach.
For the most part, I’m confident that we will be successful in the near to medium future in better understanding this wonderful plant and using it to perform effective treatments.
Whilst European legislation and collaborative approaches have moved forward at a rapid pace in the last 10 years, more needs to be done to ensure that this potentially lifesaving and life-enhancing medicine – which has been around longer than most countries, as we know them today – is available to those who need it most.
We must, however, ensure the industry upholds the high standards synonymous with the pharmaceutical industry in Europe.
Despite the US having a substantial head start in the sector, Europe is a very attractive space with revenues tipped to reach €3.2bn by 2025, say Prohibition Partners.
The European market has all the hallmarks – and potential – to make this region the market leader in the space.
Laws have been, and continue to be, liberalised to enable the sector to grow, albeit painfully slowly at times. With the population of Europe double that of the US, there is also significant upside to the market and potential future revenue streams.
The highly regulated environment of the European cannabis industry will result in high-quality pharmaceutical products and specialist formulations, emulating the rigorous standards we already have in conventional pharmaceutical products manufactured across the Continent.