One could make the case that the Danish medical cannabis framework is the strictest in the entire industry. There aren’t many companies that can make it through the extremely demanding Danish licensing process. DanCann Pharma, however, is in the process of becoming one of them. They have so far been able to achieve their results thanks to the extreme attention to the smallest of details. Yet, challenges for DanCann and the Danish cultivators are far from being over. “The regulatory framework here is more complex compared to what you see in other places,” says Jeppe Krog Rasmussen, CEO of DanCann Pharma. “We do support the high standards, as it gives Danish companies an advantage; yet, regulations can just be unnecessarily strict. On the one hand, these are needed as they eliminate unserious competitors, on the other, serious businesses without adequate administrative competencies have to pay the price for that.” According to Jeppe, the main reason for such strictness is that initially a lot of people from a recreational background tried to get a seat at the green table, “But that’s not the right perspective, as this is a pharma business,” Jeppe says.
Cannabis and aeroponics in Denmark
This mentality is what has indeed brought Jeppe and DanCann Pharma to the point where they are right now. “We have commenced operation in the cultivation facility, where we are using an aeroponic system by AEssenseGrows,” Morten Martinsen from DanCann Pharma explains. “We have chosen this system as it allows us to be as uncontaminated as possible since we don’t use any soil or medium. On top of that, the AEssenseGrows system allows me to control the whole facility without me being there: for instance, I could manage the whole thing from Copenhagen, which is more than three hours away from the production site. By so doing, we can move humans away from the plants: humans indeed are the first carriers of pathogens, and by factoring that out, we can greatly reduce pest pressure.”
DanCann Pharma is well-poised to capitalize on the high Danish standards for medical cannabis. “Before we will supply locally-grown medical cannabis, we want to support patients by importing products from abroad,” Jeppe says. “But Danish regulations make this a lot more difficult than it should be. To import medical cannabis products, we obviously need to get a license for that first. Subsequently, we must submit individual – one at a time – applications for every single product in our portfolio. This takes a lot of time and it’s not particularly beneficial from a business standpoint, nor for the patients. If a cannabis company could submit more than a single application at a time, and for instance for several related products, the process would be smoother and way quicker. This would eventually be a win for the whole ecosystem in terms of broader and deeper product portfolio for the patients, but also in terms of formulations and delivery systems. This makes it easier for the individual to actually start treatment with medical cannabis and cannabinoids, and ultimately to get more competitive prices.”
Making Danish regulatory framework more competitive
DanCann Pharma expects to receive the import license during H2-2021; at the same time, that’s not the only thing important to achieve by the end of the year. “We want to contribute to set up some sorts of European standards for medical cannabis production and prescribing, as well as with regards to the supply chain,” Jeppe continues. “Denmark is well known to be skilled in pharmaceutical research and development, and we should focus on contributing to developing relevant EU standards for medical cannabis.”
In Denmark, the politicians are in the coming months about to discuss the implementation of new and improved contents of the already approved extension of the Danish Pilot Programme – both in terms of standard operating procedures and for the whole part of prescribing medical cannabis in Denmark. With unchanged regulatory legislation for the prescription part, the Danish cannabis sector agrees on the fact that changes need to show a significant discontinuity with previous policies, else all market activities will reach a state of unsatisfactory status quo for patients in Denmark. In order to raise the bar for the access to medical cannabis in Denmark for patients, something needs to be done from a regulation standpoint to allow the Danish industry to thrive and play the role it deserves – both in terms of companies and patients.