Legal Woes: German Marketing of Medical Cannabis

The German medical cannabis market is one of the largest in the world. Indeed, as of 2021, it is not only the largest market in Europe, but also responsible for driving cultivation plans across many sunnier and lower labor cost locales. This is true of both countries in the European Union (EU) and further flung spots, all hoping to export cannabis to a country, which so far has not, by design, been able to domestically source the medical cannabis consumed in the country. 

All well and good—but this is the good news. 

In fact, the pharmaceutical infrastructure that faces medical cannabis companies is far from either clear cut or easy to navigate. Here is why.

Cannabis is Defined by Law as a Controlled Narcotic Drug

The first issue facing all distributors in the German market, is that cannabis, legally, is defined as a narcotic at a federal level. To date, despite a decision on the European level last fall, this also includes low THC hemp—which has led to a number of lawsuits and embarrassing contretemps of late even on the non-medical, commercial level

Beyond this, however, cannabis as medicine is clearly now present in the system—but merely importing and or registering strains and brands (no matter who makes them or where such flower or products come from) is far from enough to get sales.

Unlike the U.S. (for example), pharmaceutical drugs may not be advertised directly to potential consumers (also known as patients).

As a result, cannabis specialty, just like general pharmaceutical distributors, must engage in a strange, highly inefficient and expensive, three-step process to obtain prescriptions that starts but does not, by any means end, with what is euphemistically called “doctor education.”

Step by Painful Step

The first pre-step is actually still quite difficult for all nascent distributors who are not in business at all and wish to jump directly into the cannabis specialty business. Namely, before they can obtain their final licensing and approvals, they must identify a qualified supplier. As there is only one distributor in the country that handles domestically grown cannabis, this means that everyone else has to find companies who want to work with them. 

Five years ago, this meant one of two things. Find a Canadian company who wanted to expand to Europe and Germany or go to Bedrocan, the Dutch cultivator right across the border. As a result of the early rush, Bedrocan also began to limit both the amount of cannabis it was willing to sell, per distributors this way, and then limited the number of distributors it was willing to work with.

The Difficulties and Dichotomies of German Cannabis Prescriptions

Once a distributor has at least one offtake agreement with a certified company and all its licensing and approvals in place, the real struggle begins. To get your strain or brand of cannabis sold in German pharmacies, distributors must do several (expensive and time consuming) things beyond just obtaining the licenses required and obtaining the product. They must educate doctors about their strain or product and find patients to advocate for their brand when they do get in front of a cannabis prescribing doctor. 

For the privately insured, finding a doctor is not a big issue anymore, particularly in the larger cities. “Schmerz zentrums” (pain clinics) are staffed by doctors who are usually sympathetic to patients with a provable, pre-diagnosed condition. If one has private insurance, it is also not necessary to get a referral by a general practitioner. That said, both the doctor visit and the cannabis must be paid for, out of pocket and up front, by the patient. 

For those on statutory or “public” health insurance, the battle is even tougher, starting with finding willing doctors. Once found, however, it is at this point that the doctor must work with the patient to fill out forms and wait for the approval from the regional approvers (not even individual health insurers). Once that approval happens, patients can then ask for the brand of cannabis they want. Assuming the doctor is sympathetic and does so, they must then take this prescription, with the specific brand written on the paper itself, to a specialist pharmacy. These days, such pharmacies can order overnight.

Regardless, none of this is easy. So far, distributors have relied on a variety of methods (including free press, hiring pharma representatives and sponsoring events) to try to reach both the public and prescribing doctors. To add even more complications, the availability of doctors and their willingness to prescribe also varies by state.

For example, the Frankfurt city agency responsible for training new cannabis doctors will not give out the names of doctors they have trained. Further, as admitted to High Times, they understand that most doctors who work with statutory health insurance patients in the state of Hesse are refusing to take on more than two cannabis patients per practice.

The Future of Generic Extracts

Given all of these problems, not to mention the markup that is available, liquid dronabinol, the global generic, 96 percent THC extract, is highly popular in the German market these days. The reason? It is easier to market to both doctors and patients, not to mention obtain approval via health insurance (because of the “generic” designation).

That said, most patients do not want to take this extract, preferring other medications or treatments.

Patient Outreach Remains Critical but Hard

Every distributor in Germany maintains online patient outreach. Indeed, Facebook and other social media groups for patients are relatively widespread. However, this is far from a panacea. As dedicated as patients can be to specific brands, they are most dedicated to finding a regular supply and source of their drug.

This remains, by far, the hardest hurdle to broach, sadly, in a country with insurance coverage of cannabis at least by statute, but where it also took until late last year for the first patient to secure a guaranteed yearlong prescription.

Until any of these dynamics change—via legal challenge or greater statutory reform—marketing any kind of cannabis, and via any source, traditional or not, is an uphill challenge.

The post Legal Woes: German Marketing of Medical Cannabis appeared first on High Times.

The ‘Trick’ and ‘Treat’ of Marketing Cannabis During a Pandemic

The year 2020 was supposed to be a big one for Bhang Corp. The leading adult-use edibles company had spent upwards of $100k and months of planning every detail of their rebrand, scheduled to roll out in March. With the company’s 10th anniversary approaching in August, it would give the team enough time to introduce Bhang’s new look and communicate the brand messaging to licensees in California, Nevada, Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Canada.

When COVID-19 made its way to the U.S. and executive stay-at-home orders were issued in March, Bhang found themselves in a similar position to many businesses: They had to pivot quickly and make big decisions without much information.

We’ll pause here to say that this isn’t Bhang’s glamorous rebrand story (it’s 2020, people). But while the updated brand launch wasn’t exactly what they planned and hoped for, lessons were learned, silver linings were recognized, and the team remained grateful.

When resources are dwindling and revenue plummets, spending dollars on marketing may not seem like such a smart idea. But Bhang shares their story with the hope that you will learn to pivot and reimagine, rather than halt your marketing.

Not Business as Usual

During the U.S. shut down, licensed cannabis businesses were deemed essential services in most states. But this didn’t mean “business as usual” for Bhang – in fact, far from it. In anticipation of the rebrand, Bhang had stopped production as they waited for products with old packaging to sell out before stocking shelves with the new packaging. Even though dispensaries were open, Bhang was unsure if they would be able to get products on shelves due to production challenges resulting from COVID-19.

“We had to make sure we had supply chains set up, guaranteed and secured so that we could get products in new packaging and on shelves in a time when we had no clue what was going to be happening,” recounted Nicole Hanratty, Bhang’s Global Director of Marketing.

This meant some hard, in-the-moment decisions were in order for Samantha Collins, Bhang’s Chief Marketing Officer. “She was instrumental in making sure we didn’t go without product on shelves,” Hanratty said.

With disruptions initially happening in China, Collins explains that they started exploring domestic producers. “But then the pandemic moved on-shore, and our domestic producers were struggling too,” she said. “Ultimately, we had to revise our timelines for production in the short-term as well as order much higher levels of dry goods to ensure we could meet demand and keep our products on shelves.”

However, decisions weren’t only made from a financial perspective. Although Bhang had heavily invested in the rebrand, they wanted to be sensitive to how the country and the world were feeling during such an unprecedented time.

“So much preparing went into this rollout, yet we needed to be really mindful of the current climate,” Hanratty explained. “While we really wanted to celebrate the introduction of our new brand (we also turned ten in August), we had to be mindful that the country is not in a celebratory mood.”

Beyond the initial production challenges, Bhang’s biggest hurdle has been pressing pause on experiential marketing – the launch parties, tradeshows and trainings.

“I really miss the ability to share and educate people on the brand face-to-face,” Hanratty said.

Despite the change in plans that came with 2020, Hanratty continually mentions how appreciative they are for the essential workers who are helping both businesses and consumers.

“We have been very grateful that our business has been considered essential. We know our industry owes those people a debt of gratitude.”

While spending money on marketing may feel scary to smaller companies, Hanratty reiterates how important it is. She offers tips on how to modify strategy in a smart, cost-effective way so retailers and consumers are supported, and business can keep growing.  


Nicole Hanratty, Bhang’s Global Director of Marketing, speaks to what she calls the “trick” and the “treat” of marketing during a global pandemic (and just in time for Halloween!)

The Trick

–    Pivoting without panic.
–    Making deliberate decisions.

The Treat

–    Feeling the love from consumers.
–    Hearing back from consumers about how the product improves and enhances their lives, especially in 2020.

For companies on a limited budget, look to creating content and building engagement with social media channels. There’s no substitute for having a compelling brand story that connects with consumers, and if you take the time to build an authentic brand that serves the consumer’s needs, you will ultimately win in the marketplace.

The post The ‘Trick’ and ‘Treat’ of Marketing Cannabis During a Pandemic appeared first on Cannabis Now.

The CBD Business Weekly Review & Newsletter: 5 Year Market Study, New Advertising Options, Global CBD Standards, and more

In this week’s edition, we’re examining how the legal cannabis market has been working in one of the forerunners of legalization – Washington. 

Also, we’re proudly introducing our new advertising packages which include a Product Launch Campaign, the CBD Testers Program, and the CBD Flowers Advertising Package. Plus, there is a call for universal CBD standards, and the U.K. is trying to answer the call. And let’s take a look at how cannabis is saving small towns across America. All that and more in this week’s CBD Business Weekly Newsletter. 


FEATURED STORY: 5 Years After Legalizing Cannabis, Washington State To Launch ‘Cannabis 2.0’

washington cannabis

After a half-decade, the state has been able to identify some issues that need to be ironed out and officials are proposing a complete overhaul of the current industry standards and laws which is expected to boost minority business ownership, allow growers to increase the size of their crops, and legalize home deliveries for medical cannabis patients.  

In an interview with the Associated Press, The Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board Director Rick Garza (who coined the term ‘Cannabis 2.0’ in reference to these new changes) explained their plans for the future.

Click here to read the full story 

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Must Read Articles:

New Advertising Packages from CBD Testers

We have multiple different advertising packages to work with your every need: A product launch campaign to get your brand in front of a larger audience, a CBD Flowers Program which is truly the best way to market your Hemp Buds, and a CBD Testers Program in which our very own CBD Product Testers will sample your products and write reviews! Check out our page for more details.

Click here for more advertising options

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New Call For Unified Global CBD Testing Standards

cbd testing

The London-based Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC) is to gauge the appetitive for a new set of internationally-recognized CBD testing guidelines. In a press release the CMC says it has appointed leading chemist Dr Parveen Bhatarah, to investigate how to overcome the ‘barriers to analytical method standardization in the CBD-space’.

Click here to read the full story 

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How the Cannabis Industry is Saving Small Towns Across America

cannabis small towns

After decades of strict prohibition, cannabis now proving to be quite a commodity, rescuing these small towns from bankruptcy and multi-million dollar deficits. Abandoned buildings, dilapidated streets and parks, and overall feelings of financial despair are a thing of past for these areas that are cashing in the green rush.

Click here to read the full story 

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The CBD Business Weekly Newsletter: Cannabis Industry Marketing, London Stock Exchange, Amsterdam Coffee Shop Issues, and more

In this week’s edition, we’re taking a look at the complicated labyrinth that is cannabis marketing, and give you some tips on how to navigate through it.

Also, we’re going to check out the first cannabis listing in the London Stock Exchange, as well as legal issues at Amsterdam’s famous coffee shops, a new production plant in Africa, and  so much more. 

Enjoy this week’s issues of the CBD Weekly Business Newsletter.  

FEATURED STORY: Navigating Regulations for Successful Cannabis Marketing

marketing cannabis

As more and more territories around the world are legalizing cannabis in one way or another, the different rules and regulations in every territory make getting in front of customers’ eyeballs a  strenuous task for many cannabis companies all over the world.

Cannabis is not federally legal in the US (or Europe), in some states it is legal for both recreational and medical consumption, and in other, only for medicinal use. Naturally, the problem is exacerbated when it comes to marketing and advertising cannabis products.

Click here to read the full story

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Must Read Articles:

First London Stock Exchange Cannabis Listing Imminent

cannabis stock exchange

The London Stock Exchange is set to get its first cannabis company with Israel’s Kanabo Research aiming to list on the market later this year. The listing will effectively be a reverse takeover with U.K. shell company Spinnaker Opportunities PLC announcing its intention to purchase Kanabo this February. 

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Dutch to Trial Legal Cannabis in its ‘Coffee Shops’

coffee shops

Dutch cannabis producers are set to benefit from a long-awaited change in legislation which will see the country’s famous ‘coffee shops’ supplied with legally grown cannabis. The authorities say over 550 coffee shops nationwide are currently forced to operate in a ‘grey area’, buying from a criminal supply chain.

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African Foothold for U.K. Entrepreneurs in Tandem with Aphria

With the backing of a Canadian cannabis giant two British entrepreneurs have established a new CBD production plant in Africa’s most developed cannabis nation. This JV, known as Cann Invest Africa, aims to export Lesotho CBD to global markets. 

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Navigating Regulations for Successful Cannabis Marketing

As more and more territories around the world are legalizing cannabis in one way or another, the different rules and regulations in every territory make getting in front of customers’ eyeballs a  strenuous task for many cannabis companies all over the world.

Cannabis is not federally legal in the US, in some states it is legal for both recreational and medical consumption, and in other, only for medicinal use. The same goes for Europe where countries have different regulations and tolerance toward cannabis. In Spain for example, cannabis is not legal but yet, one of the biggest conventions in the cannabis industry – Spannabis – is taking place in Barcelona.  

The problem gets worse when it comes to marketing and advertising cannabis products due to dissimilarity in marketing, branding, advertising, and packaging cannabis from one territory to another. Here in California, for example, you can advertise on billboards whereas in Maryland you can’t.

Airing a cannabis-related commercial on any TV station in the world right now is quite a challenge and usually not worth the trouble. Cannabis retailer MedMen created an ad by Oscar-winner Spike Jonez that was played in movie theaters, YouTube and SiriusXM but not on any TV network. Even in Canada, the epitome of legal cannabis, the law is very strict when it comes to cannabis on TV.

But if you think about it, this is 2019, almost 2020, who needs “traditional” media these days?!  According to The Guardian “Young people in Britain have almost entirely abandoned television news broadcasts”.  The internet and social media are playing a huge part in marketing cannabis all over the world. In fact, without social media, we wouldn’t have seen the massive growth of the global cannabis industry

Social media is responsible for the hyper-fast distribution of content, ideas, and products. The problem is that even over the internet and social media, marketing cannabis is not so easy. Last year, YouTube deleted many very successful channels that focused on cannabis. YouTube is a Google company and you can not advertise cannabis on Google. Facebook is another huge outlet that does not allow cannabis advertising. Instagram, a Facebook company,  is shutting down cannabis-related profiles constantly. So no matter how you look at it, marketing cannabis is very hard. 

As a brand strategist and marketing consultant working with clients in the cannabis industry, I’m very familiar with these issues. Let me show you some light points and tactics that will help you see the light at the end of the cannabis marketing tunnel.

The thing is that as much as it is hard to market cannabis on those channels mentioned above, it is 1) possible 2) the regulation on those platforms is the same worldwide, so it is clear what you can and can’t do to promote your cannabis business. So be smart and stay inside the lines.

cannabis marketing

Social media marketing is the way of the future

In addition to these channels, cannabis media channels are booming everywhere, from magazines to online shows, huge blogs, and podcasts. Cannabis POS media is a growing channel as well, where you can advertise your products and services mainly on TV screens in dispensaries. One very beneficial result we got out of the decline of TV as the master of all advertising, is the opportunity to use the advertising budget in a much broader way than when TV was king.

There are many websites you never heard about or heard about but never thought of allocating budget for, that have an abundance of traffic. You can have a successful ad campaign for your cannabis brand using advertising networks on different high traffic websites that are not Google or Facebook, nor cannabis channels. One advertising network such as this is Traffic Roots, located in San Diego, offering ads on websites such as Rolling Stone magazine, and Huff Post, among others. 

What is common to all of the channels, platforms and promotion options mentioned above is that they all cost money. You must pay to play. 

What a lot of new businesses are missing these days, regardless of the industry, is organic, free, content to get exposure, sales, and high-quality, consistent traffic and customers. I’m a huge believer in content and a long-time practitioner of using organic (free) content to grow sales and increase market share. Regardless of obvious SEO benefits (Search Engine Optimization) which are huge, content is king, mainly when it’s free.

When I talk about free content I mean posts and stories on Instagram and Facebook, IGTV and YouTube videos, newsletters, automated emails, Linkedin/Instagram/Facebook/Youtube live and so on. In order to create the right marketing mix for your business, you must utilize the many free options for content marketing.

With the right content, you can not only make sure you’ll have no issues with Google, Facebook, or the rest of the moguls, you can extend your online presence, expose your products and services, and get immediate feedback.

The best way to master the production of good online content is to use “brand thinking”. Good branding is not about a great looking logo, it is about creating a positive emotional bond between your brand and the customers. Here are the three marketing mistakes most businesses do and that you must avoid in order to create successful content that converts to sales and brand awareness:

It’s about trust

cannabis marketing

Brand awareness is extremely important

The most important thing to understand is that in order to create long term business success you must create a trusted relationship and empathy between your business and consumers. For most business owners this means a shift in mindset: stop thinking like a product and start thinking like a person.

Products don’t write blog posts, products don’t post on social media, products don’t publish YouTube videos, humans do. You need to be personal and authentic and not focus on making a sale or create content that constantly promotes your product or service and talks relentlessly about the feature of your product. The more you try to sell, the less you will actually sell.

The context of the content

We all love our products, we know everything about them and have a clear conception as to why consumers should use or buy them. But this is OUR perception, not the customers’. In order to be successful as a brand on social media and to create content that converts, you should think from your target audience’s point of view.

What will make them read your content, click on your posts, open your newsletters, and then get interested enough to make a purchase either on your website or at your physical location?

Be Consistent

The third thing you should keep in mind to master content marketing is to be consistent. Not only post on social media all the time, but to constantly send newsletters, and publish movies to YouTube. You should be consistent with your content’s look & feel as well.

Use the same formats, the same tone of voice, and the same concepts. And remember – when a piece of content performs really well, for instance, a specific post or video, double down and create more content like it. 

Final Thoughts

I’m not a numbers guy, I don’t know about numbers, I know about people, but one thing I learned in more than 20 years in marketing is that the data don’t lie. When you do things right, you get immediate results. I don’t say it is going to be easy, or that you will be a millionaire in less than a month, but I can tell you that regardless of the industry, implementing the RIGHT content strategy for my clients has always been successful. 

The post Navigating Regulations for Successful Cannabis Marketing appeared first on CBD Testers.