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German grower DEMECAN on the significance of a domestic supply chain

"To meet the increasing demand and ensure nationwide supply, domestic production is absolutely important”

Every time a cannabis company wants to enter the European market, the most desired country to gain a foothold in is always Germany. “Almost 4 years ago, Germany legalized medical cannabis, which was an important milestone for the emerging European cannabis market,” says Dr. Cornelius Maurer, co-founder of DEMECAN. “This is because Germany has the largest economy in Europe, is a world leader in various industries, and has a very modern social security system. Thus, Germany is one of the most open, promising, and exciting markets and drivers for many other European countries. However, this development is not without problems. Many patients still face major hurdles in accessing medical cannabis products.”

Addressing supply chain hiccups 
Indeed, there is a widespread necessity for a better and steadier medical cannabis supply chain in Europe, as it largely lies in the hands of the one authorized producer in the Netherlands. To provide patients in Germany with high-quality medical cannabis, therefore, was one of the main reasons DEMECAN was founded. Dr. Cornelius Maurer: “The market for medical cannabis has immense growth potential, especially in Germany. This can be deduced from the increasing number of prescriptions. On the other hand, the current pandemic shows how vulnerable international trade routes can be. Supply chains were at risk because borders were closed for long periods. The resulting supply difficulties naturally affect the German market for medical cannabis and exacerbate the existing supply gaps. To meet the increasing demand and ensure nationwide supply of medical cannabis, domestic production is absolutely important.”

Everything starts with cultivation
That is exactly why DEMECAN has built a cultivation facility where they grow the medical cannabis destined for German patients. “Our production is located in Saxony, very close to Dresden,” Dr. Cornelius Maurer says. “The facility is about 30,000 square meters and soon we will plant medical cannabis in the first area that we have built out.”

“The plants are grown and processed in specially designed indoor production rooms. We use modern and automated cultivation methods: the plants grow under artificial lighting according to the standards for pharmaceutical products. On top of that, every stage of the growth is controlled through a computer. Thanks to all of that, we can achieve consistent flower quality, thus excluding quality fluctuations.”

The German license process
Before DEMECAN could get to this point, they had to undergo the hurdles of the licensing process. “There were two award procedures,” Dr. Cornelius Maurer explains. “The first was launched in April 2017. We competed as a small start-up and immediately made it to the top 10 out of 118 applicants. But then, unfortunately, the procedure was stopped by courts in 2018 because of some formalistic errors. In the summer of that same year, the process started again, with 79 new applicants submitting new applications.”

Fortunately, that delay in the award process did not compromise DEMECAN’s plans. “DEMECAN was able to prevail again,” Dr. Cornelius Maurer remarks. “In May 2019, we were finally awarded the license. The whole process was very intense. The risk was considerable, as we had invested a lot of time and money. However, this episode has brought the founders and team of DEMECAN even closer together. We are now certainly very stress-resistant.”

Research drives innovation
On top of the cultivation facility, the company has also recently completed the construction of a research facility that will allow DEMECAN to better understand how to maximize the genetic potential of the cultivars they grow. “With the research cultivation, we want to explore the cannabinoid profiles of different cannabis varieties, including those that we supply to the BfArM (German Medicine Authority),” Dr. Cornelius Maurer points out. “Specifically, we aim to grow plants whose flowers are as homogeneous as possible in terms of cannabinoid content by strictly controlling environmental parameters such as light, temperature, and nutrient composition. We plan to build up a database with information on possible cultivars for medical use. For this purpose, we collaborate with the Cannabis Network of the University of Hohenheim and various partners who contribute, for instance, to technical solutions for gentle and rapid drying or lighting technology.”

Looking ahead
Yet, there is still a long way to go for the EU medical cannabis market as a whole. “Certainly, the topic of cannabis in medicine is still fraught with prejudice,” Dr. Cornelius Maurer says. “Education is therefore paramount. Also, due to prejudices, no research has been conducted in this field for a very long time, thus making the state of the research rather weak. This deficiency must now be made up for.”

“Another important factor is the domestic production of medical cannabis,” he continues. “Germany needs to invest more in this to make itself independent of imports to secure patient care in this country. Germany is a leading country when it comes to pharmaceutical production, and cannabis should be no different. We can and should be world quality leaders and set the standards. We are on the right track, but we can already see that the quantity permitted for production by the BfArM is not sufficient to meet the demand. That’s why, when we built our production facility, we planned to be able to quickly scale up the production volume, if necessary. Surely, the German and European cannabis industry is on the rise. And while any prediction of the future is difficult, we are determined to place DEMECAN at the very heart and center of the European medical cannabis market.”

For more information:
Reichenberger Straße 120
D-10999 Berlin
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