Reports by Prohibition Partners have shown how Europe is going to be the largest legal cannabis market, with an estimated value of 123 billion euros to be reached by 2028. Unlike other countries in the world, the situation in Europe is quite fragmented when it comes to regulatory environments, with each country of the bloc having its own framework on the matter. On top of that, the European Medicines Agency is another institution to deal with, as this is the bloc’s medicine supervisor. Obtaining licenses or permits by EMA does not qualify companies to have a cannabis business in EU countries, licensing regulations of which still need to be complied with.
The Netherlands, Spain, and Germany
The most renowned country in Europe when it comes to cannabis is definitely the Netherlands, which legalized the consumption and the sale of dried flowers during the 1970s. Even though the regulations leave open many gray areas, especially when it comes to stock production, the ‘coffee shop’ phenomenon has been thriving until the beginning of 2000s, when many municipalities shut down many of these. However, exactly in 2000, the Netherlands legalized the medical use of cannabis through the creation of the Bureau of Medicinal Cannabis to side with the pharmaceutical industry. In the country, Bedrocan Medical Cannabis has the monopoly over the production and distribution of cannabis. On top of that, the company is also the biggest medical cannabis supplier in Europe: for instance, they have supplied Italy with more than 450 kg of cannabis in 2018.
In other parts of Europe, especially in Spain, there are the so-called ‘cannabis social clubs’, which exploit the decriminalization of home growing, thus taking advantage of the ‘1 plant per person’ rule, making it ’20 plants per 20 people’, so to say. In Spain, these clubs navigate a gray area, though some regions have made steps towards their regulation.
However, Germany is expected to be the market with the most potential. The country legalized medical cannabis in 2017. In the past months, we have also witnessed the tender process through which some Canadian companies won the right to produce medical cannabis within the country’s borders. Aphria, Aurora, and Demecann by Wayland Group have to grow 10,400 kg in four years.
The Italian situation
Italy, as usual, represents a case study on its own, with the phenomenon of the ‘cannabis light’, which is cannabis with a low THC percentage, and high CBD. Many growers and entrepreneurs exploited a low-regulated aspect of the prohibitionist Italian cannabis law which made illegal cannabis flowers with a certain percentage of THC. In a few years, this generated a whole new market, with many cannabis light shops sprouting throughout the boot. However, the recent right-wing leaning government tried to put a stop to the burgeoning cannabis light market, with the Court of Cassation saying that existing laws do not permit the sale or transfer, for any reason, of products ‘derived from the cultivation of cannabis’, and that products currently on sale including oil, leaves, inflorescences and resin must be removed from shelves.
Poland and Romania
In Poland, medical cannabis was legalized in 2017. Yet, only one year later the first non-state company was able to obtain approval to import medical cannabis into the country, and it took another year before this was available to patients.
In Romania, on the other hand, the Health Ministry created a commission to investigate the potential of legalizing medical cannabis. However, specific conditions qualify patients for derivatives or extracts.
Luxembourg leading the way towards full legalization
In this midst of different regulations, gray areas, and soon-to-come opportunities, Luxembourg could potentially be the first country in the EU to fully legalize and regulate the cannabis market as a whole. The government coalition has suggested that the country is making huge steps towards that achievement, and the Health Ministry stated that the legislative path will be disclosed this fall, with the objective to get to full legalization within two years.