Medical Cannabis in Europe – the next frontier
The world is beginning to look very different as the Covid-19 pandemic rolls on – and the cannabis industry is no different. But what is on the cards in the next five if not ten years with such an impact in mind?
Towards European regulation
So far, the conversation about cannabis reform, if not Europe’s first real medical market, has been led by Germany. This began in 2017 when the German government mandated that medical cannabis be covered under statutory health insurance. The country also plays an undue influence in setting standards not only across the continent for all who hope to export there, but those much further afield including cannabis producers in Canada, Australia, South Africa and even South America. However, the fact that the regulatory environment even in Germany, much less across the region is not homogeneous is an increasingly recognised barrier to trade. This is also beginning, beyond medical and legal reform, to stir another conversation – namely full and final cannabis reform (including of the recreational kind) that is increasingly a political issue in all countries across Europe simply because many, even in the industry believe that the entire conversation will as a result be “easier.” Even on the medical side of the conversation, GMP standards are not uniform across Europe. This has led to several fractious showdowns – such as the refusal of Poland to accept The Netherland’s standards in late 2019.
Further, as developments over the past six months in the EU have shown, cannabinoids are starting to be better defined on a regional level – starting with the decision that cannabidiol (CBD) is not a narcotic that opens up broader applications such as the use of Cannabigerol (CBG) in skincare products. Both European-wide decisions have only just begun to be felt – and indeed has thrown most sovereign laws about CBD – starting with Germany – out of sync with the same.
Trickle down cannabis reform
How cannabis and cannabinoids are defined on a European level is one thing. How such regulation will then be integrated into sovereign law is another. All of this is on the cards for the next five to ten years.
Even though this is new territory for traditional pharmaceutical companies, the battle will have to be fought by a concerted industry front. So far, the loudest voices for reform have come from the more traditional “community.” This will increasingly not be the case as larger companies enter the fray. But how, where and whether such companies will work together is another question. Finding common ground, however, is critical for all of those who work in the space or intend to graduate to the vertical
This article was originally published in Summer Edition European Biotechnology Magazine 2021.