Slow But Steady – Europe’s Path to Cannabis Market Leadership

29.11.2019 | Blog

The cannabis market in Europe is relatively small when compared to similar markets in the U.S. and Canada. This doesn’t mean that the European market isn’t a valid competitor, though. Last year, there was €290 million recorded for the medical cannabis sales and that number is expected to rise steeply in the years to come, in fact, according to a recent research by Prohibition Partners, medical sales are predicted to be around €55b and retail sales at €60b by 2028.

As of January 2019, 19 countries in Europe have legalized cannabis in some form, be it growing, production, sale, and even personal use. In the medical market, the dominant seller is Germany, with 76% of the sales, equalling roughly €65 million.

Italy follows with 16%, though the majority of the medical cannabis sold in this country comes from imports, most of which are supplied by the Netherlands. Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands has a small market relative to the volume of sales for medical cannabis compared to the others: they make up 4% of the national cannabis sales.

When it comes to the cannabis market, there are three large European companies currently making a name for themselves in this industry.

Storz & Bickel is the biggest producer of vaporizers and their products are found in head shops all over the continent.

Endoca has been around a lot longer than other CBD brands. Their headquarters are in the Netherlands but they have hemp fields in Denmark. Since they follow a seed-to-shelf business model, this company is involved in every stage of their CBD production, with no middleman to deal with.

Agropro is the largest producer, processor, and supplier of hemp in all of Europe. Since its foundation in 2007, they expanded their portfolio by including activities in areas like agriculture and food production. Based in Lithuania, they cooperate with multiple organizations across Europe.

At the intersection of these companies, there’s also a place for retailers such as WeCanHealth, which is among the market leaders in Germany and Switzerland, focused on distributing a wide range of products offering the highest quality standards through online channels.

Europe Moves At A Difference Pace Than The US

The cannabis industry was the fastest-growing market in the U.S. as of 2018 and it is believed that it will affect Europe in a similar fashion. There are some hurdles for those in the European market to jump first, though, which the Americans didn’t have to deal with.

This is because many of the American states have provisions in place that allow the voters to directly change the laws in their states using initiatives that the Europeans don’t have access to. For instance, in 1996, a California measure was able to establish the very first medical marijuana program in the entire country. Similar initiatives also led to the legalization of marijuana for adult use in the respective states.

Cannabis activists in Europe, however, have a much more difficult job ahead of them than their U.S. counterparts are facing. For the American activists to get a cannabis proposition on the ballot in their state, they need to spend a great deal of time and money knocking on doors to get the required number of signatures. They must also campaign and convince voters to actually vote when the time comes. This is worthwhile, though, since these votes can get their initiatives on those ballots for lawmakers to vote on.

In Europe, this time and effort could be wasted, even if European activists had the good fortune to gain 99% of the population’s signatures. This won’t lead to a change unless the government wants one. The Netherlands has proven this, with 70% of the polls showing that the people want legalized cannabis, which is a full 10 percentage points higher than similar polls in the U.S. These numbers haven’t swayed the government, though, who still refuse to allow the country’s cannabis coffee shops to even experiment with regulated cultivation.

This type of red tape forces the European activists to lobby their politicians directly, using media outlets to provide the evidence needed to prove there is support from the people for such changes. That’s how each of the reformed cannabis policies has made it through so far, with small-scale initiatives that start in the larger cities and expand from there.

The courts are also another route to such changes, as Michael F. proved in Germany. It took him 16 years but he eventually gained permission to grow medical cannabis at home. This resulted in the introduction of medical cannabis legislation in Germany in 2017.

Why Europe Will Become the Leading Marketplace of Cannabis Worldwide?

Despite the rigors required when it comes to changing the cannabis laws in Europe, this continent is still poised to become the leading cannabis marketplace in the world. The cannabis industry engaged in the production of legal cannabis products in Europe has grown significantly in the last year. Europe also has a huge population of 743 million people, double the combined population of the U.S. and Canada.

The current cannabis industry leaders in Europe, being Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy, are looking to expand the medical cannabis programs they already have in place. A few other countries are looking to join them as well, including the U.K., France, and Spain, all of whom are reviewing their current legislation and considering changes in these markets. Six more countries have also announced the implementation of new legislation in the areas of growth, sale, or consumption.

There may still be some hiccups in this process since there is a lack of clinical data in regards to the use of medical cannabis, so more funding for reliable research may be necessary. There is some evidence concerning medical cannabis that is being distributed by the World Health Organization and the European Union that could help speed up the process, giving the European lawmakers the incentive to review their legislation and put forth the changes the people desire.

The Bottom Line

With the growth potential of the European cannabis market, it only makes sense for lawmakers to take another look at the current regulations in regards to this industry. Other areas, like the U.S. and Canada, have already shown that there is a wide variety of growth potential, leaving European lawmakers little reason to stay within their antiquated laws and prejudices when it comes to the growth and sale of cannabis for medical or recreational use.