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Cannabis Business Europe, day 2

The European cannabis market: "Lots of potential, but a long way to go"

Today is the second and last day of Cannabis Business Europe, the event in Frankfurt where people gather to discuss the developments in the European cannabis market. As we are currently enjoying the second day of informative presentations, let's take a look back at some of the insights shared on day 1.

At the event, visitors choose which presentations they are most interested in, as they are divided by location: German-speaking countries, Central and Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, and Israel. In between presentations, there is time for roundtable discussions and networking.

For all visitors, the event was kicked off by a keynote presentation by Florian Holzapfel, Founder of Cantourage. He discussed the importance of liberal markets for cannabis, as there has, of course, been lots of talk about cannabis regulation in Germany. According to Florian, more liberal cannabis markets would not only diversify the available products, it would lower the prices and support economic growth. Therefore, he pointed out that it is important to compare cannabis to other substances, like alcohol, as statistics show that cannabis is not more dangerous to use. Sharing more knowledge surrounding that fact could eliminate the negative connotation cannabis sometimes receives.

Swiss pilot projects
As Switzerland is the first country in Europe to start adult-use pilot projects, Marc Brungger of Pure Holding AG shared what the situation is currently like. More European countries are about to follow a similar model, as The Netherlands and Germany are also working on a cannabis pilot. Marc explains that the Swiss model is quite a strict one. Everything is produced organically, only in greenhouses or outdoors. Indoor cultivation is not allowed, and neither is artificial lighting. For some growers, this is quite tricky, Marc says. What fertilizer do you use, and what do you do when a pest is affecting your crop? He mentions that in Canada, a lot of the produced cannabis has to be thrown out because it doesn't fit the contamination requirements. Only being able to grow outdoors or in greenhouses, this poses even more of a challenge in Switzerland. Yet he says that with the right genetics and production process, it is definitely possible to achieve the same quality product as you would when growing indoors.

Oliver Zugel of FoliuMed and Andrew Miller of Clever Leaves

Spain is often mentioned as becoming a potentially major European cannabis market. Yet how probable is that? According to Oliver Zugel, Founder and CEO of FoliuMed, we shouldn't be expecting too much too soon. At the moment, Spain is one of the few countries without a specific medical cannabis regulation. The 2022 political initiative to regulate appears to have stalled. Most Spanish patients currently depend on home grow and social clubs. 

So what does the future bring? It is probable that within 10 years, Spain will be one of the major cannabis markets. While medical cannabis laws may change, many parties are not fully behind it and it is all taking a very long time. For the near future, CBD or social clubs are the only proper opportunities in Spain, Oliver says. But that is more to satisfy the demand, not to grow a major cannabis industry.

The Legal Cannabis Coalition (LCC) and its members were also present at the event

Oftentimes it seems like all eyes are on Germany when it comes to cannabis. So before companies possibly get into this promising market, what lessons can be learned from the past? According to Thiago Casar, Vice President of Cansativa, many mistakes can happen when bringing cannabis to the German market. He mentions that many cannabis products are not available anymore, which is, of course, difficult for patients. So what can go wrong? Thiago says that one of the main reasons products don't get to market is that the product quality is not up to par. Quality and consistent THC content need to be ensured from the beginning. Also, uniqueness is important in the market, which is not always the case. He says that at Cansativa, they have the White Widow strain under 5 different brands, for example. Products also need to be properly analyzed from the start, as a company might think a product will do better than it does in reality. Also, start small. Thiago says that it has happened many times in Germany that too much of a product is imported, and the price drops. Smaller batches allow for regular, consistent imports and having less product left over.

Major challenges and opportunities in Europe 
After lots of presentations, the event was ended with a panel discussion about the challenges and opportunities in Europe. The panel consisted of Armin Prasch of the Cannabis Business Industry Association, Melissa Sturgess of the Cannabis Industry Council, and Anthony Traurig of CannIntelligence. 

First of all, what do they see as the major challenge currently? Anthony mentioned that from a regulatory perspective, it is a pressing question where the distinction between medical and recreational cannabis lies and how important that distinction is. With the proliferation of hemp-derived products and developments for recreational cannabis, is this distinction for medical cannabis necessary to keep, and how, Anthony wonders. 

Melissa answers that one of the biggest challenges is aligning investors' expectations with what is actually achievable in a constantly changing regulatory space. In a nascent industry, this is really tough, she says. 

What would improve the cannabis industry? Anthony answers that better regulations are necessary. Also, transparency is important. He says that a lot of data is not made public. Armin says that the gap of the lack of evidence needs to be closed. That is necessary to get into a solution-oriented conversation with the regulators. Melissa agrees that in the UK, evidence is what they need. She would also like to see the discussion around medical cannabis shift to a different perspective. Instead of just pointing out the amazing things cannabis can do, let's look at the indications and conditions people suffer from. That way, we would be speaking the language of the regulator and doctors who prescribe. 

More to come 
Of course, this is just a very small overview of what was discussed on the first day of the event. Stay tuned for more insights and a photo report next week!