While the European cannabis market has not developed as fast as Canadian pitchmen were predicting in 2017 and 2018, the EU continues to grow as an export market and investment destination. On Wednesday, conference company Cannabis Europa held an event in Toronto to pitch Canadian investors and producers on European opportunities. Here are a few takeaways from the event about the landscape in Germany, the United Kingdom and France.
The German market has grown rapidly over the past two years, following the introduction of a federal medical cannabis regime. There were around 1,000 patients with medical cannabis authorization in 2017, said Dr. Marcus Schmidt, the director chemicals and healthcare at Germany Trade & Invest, a federal economic development agency.
"In the first half of this year, we've seen 122,000 prescriptions that were covered by Health insurance companies,” Dr. Schmidt said.
To date, all of the legal cannabis in Germany is imported from the Netherlands and Canada. Last year, Germany imported about three tons of cannabis and this year the amount will be between five and six tons, Dr. Schmidt said.
Even with the award of in-country cultivation licenses in the spring – which went to the German partners of Aurora Cannabis Inc., Aphria Inc. and Wayland Group Corp. – there will still be a need for imports.
"Production will be 2,600 kilos initially, and there will be additional tenders to come in the next couple of years. But we see from the numbers that less than half the market demand can be met by local production,” Dr. Schmidt said.
While there is significant support of medical cannabis, polls show that the majority of Germans are against recreational legalization, Dr. Schmidt said. That said, recreational legalization is supported by Germany’s Green Party, and it could become a political bargaining chip as the Christian Democrats look to maintain their ruling coalition, he added.
The United Kingdom
While the U.K. expanded medical cannabis access last November, the market remains tiny. “I think we're about 100-odd prescriptions in the U.K., and this is 30-day supply getting shipped into the market right now," said Latham French, an investment officer with the UK Department of International Trade.
A limited number of private clinics with specialist physicians will write medical cannabis prescriptions, but the cost is high and the drug is not covered by public health insurance. Until cannabis is adopted by the National Health Service (NHS), the medical market will remain small.
The emphasis on this point needs to be on medical research, said Mr. French. “The NHS won’t touch this until NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) gives it the stamp.”
“We are renowned globally for being a country that takes a much longer time to come around to a new medicine format, and unfortunately it’s not just about the efficacy, it’s about the economics, and currently the economics aren’t there," said Jonathan Nadler, managing director of Lyphe Group, a U.K.-based cannabis company. "The price point has to drop considerably over the next year or so,”
"We expect 2020 to be a very good private market, but really for mass consumption, it is NHS-focused,” he said.
In late October, the French National Assembly gave the go-ahead to a two-year medical cannabis study program that will track 3,000 patients.
"The information mission that we're launching is separated into three parts, firstly on medicinal cannabis, secondly on therapeutic cannabis, and thirdly on recreational cannabis," explained Emmanuelle Fontaine-Domeizel, a member of the National Assembly, through a translator.
"For France, there's an urgency from a medicinal point of view. We have patients who are suffering and seeking supply in neighbouring countries,” Ms. Fontaine-Domeizel said.
The study will also look at how to regulate CBD, she said, noting that the status of the drug is in unclear after several coffee shops selling CBD were shut down last year.
“We are looking at cannabis from a public health point of view, but also from an agricultural point of view, which will revive that part of our economy,” she added.