Germany has a unique opportunity to frame the shape of a legitimate European cannabis industry, says Pia Marten of Cannovum
WITH Europe set to be the largest legal cannabis market in the world Germany, as the first mover, can lead the way. We have a unique opportunity; we have the chance to establish a well-regulated, adult-use cannabis market.
We are already the leaders in the medical market and this new opportunity could see us establish the benchmark for the future regulation of adult-use cannabis across the whole of the European Union.
To do this we should take lessons from elsewhere; some have done well and some have totally failed. For example, the Netherlands, where distribution is legal, but not the cultivation; so people don’t know what quality they have.
Quality And Safety Paramount
The Swiss are initiating city-based trials, but this may not be the best way to proceed.
One of the key principles in navigating a way forward for Germany is to aim for pharmaceutical-grade quality. This should become the benchmark for recreational use – there should be no compromise when it comes to quality and safety.
We want to ensure we deliver quality cannabis. If we can do it for medical we should do it for recreational, so we should be aiming for pharma-standard, EU-GMP cannabis across the board.
While Germany may be Europe’s largest medical cannabis market with some 160,000 patients there is still much work to be done to break down the stigma around cannabis.
It is still a big taboo in Germany; but this will change over time, and we’ll see greater acceptance of both medical and recreational cannabis.
We need to maintain the distinction between recreational and medical. While some self-payers will undoubtedly move to the to recreational market we must ensure that medical patients will continue to be reimbursed.
Cannabis Control Act
It looks as though the Cannabis Control Act, unveiled by the Green Party in 2015, will become the template for regulations and its seems as though these will follow a similar path to tobacco.
It’s important to educate consumers properly – we do not want to see cannabis handed out to anyone who is not over 18, and we need to inform users of the need to use cannabis properly and the potential dangers around issues such as addiction.
As for who will be the vendors? The Coalition announcement mentions licensed stores.
We like the idea to establishing a dedicated sales space where consumers can get all the information and education from specifically-trained staff to help with their purchasing decisions.
We currently have some 19,000 pharmacies, with around 2,000 of these handling medical cannabis and a core of 200 to 300 who have the necessary expertise in this field.
However, the German association of pharmacies, itself, says they’re against distributing cannabis for adult-use in pharmacies. So, at this stage we don’t know who will be the retail face of cannabis.
There is some speculation that wholesalers, like ourselves, may move up the supply chain, or perhaps established retailers will look to diversify into cannabis – at this stage we just don’t know.
Medical Cannabis Companies Head-start
Certainly medical cannabis companies like ourselves will have a head-start for the move into recreational. We have built up the infrastructure, we know how to import – we have the certificates and licenses.
We have the warehouses and the the logistics and we know our cultivators and we have the products, and, while the logistical challenge in the medical cannabis market will be nothing compared to those of the recreational market we can help with the process.
In terms of cultivation there are just three licensed producers in Germany with this all grown in bunkers. There should be changes in the law to allow German cannabis to be grown in greenhouses, but I think we should concentrate on other segments of the value chain.
I believe other European countries, with more favourable climates, will be the best supply partners. And, as we move forward this should help deliver greater regulatory harmony across Europe.
Our cannabis is sunlight grown, it’s free of pesticides and for our own brand this is important. And in relation to product procurement for our business I believe there will be synergies between medical cannabis and recreational.
As a company we will stay in medical and enter recreational, and we certainly see this as being a great opportunity to grow our own business.
We expect to see the law change in this legislative period and over that time our staff numbers will grow significantly from the 20 we currently employ.
However, operationally I’m still sitting on my hands and we will not be able to make any informed decisions until until we know some more detail about the regulations.
We can make educated guesses based on the CCA, and we will develop our strategy and plan but we cannot move on that until the picture becomes clearer.
By Pia Marten, CEO, Cannovum