The Republic of Rwanda has quite a few interesting features. It is located just a few degrees south of the equator. Bordered by Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is a highly elevated piece of sovereign real estate, picturesquely located where the Great African Lakes and East Africa meet.
It has also joined other African nations, particularly in the south, in beginning cannabis reform that will lead shortly to production. Like Lesotho, the geography is also mountainous, however maintains the distinction of being the most densely populated African country. The population is both young and rural with the average age of Rwandans at the shockingly low number of 19 years.
Work in Progress
The beginning of reform happened last summer when the country announced its plans to commence cultivation in June, when a framework for the legal industry (from cultivation, processing, distribution, and use) was released.
According to local news reports, the Rwanda Development Board has also now designated 134 hectares for cannabis production. The RDB also announced that it has received a great deal of interest in exporting the product and processed versions thereof.
Per a statement released by the agency, “RDB has been working with other government stakeholders to assess proposals received. The government of Rwanda set a rigorous process to select companies that have or are partnering with companies that have previous experience in the production of cannabis for medical and therapeutic reasons. The assessment process has different stages. So far 5 companies are in the advanced stage.”
No license has been issued yet.
Tragically, the country is also following a trend that has been seen in other countries (like Greece, the UK, and Spain). Namely there will be limited reform for companies, but solely for the purpose of export income. Europe is of course at the top of the list of destination countries.
The local law governing the consumption of cannabis is a large fine ($540 to about $5,000). This is a huge amount of money in a country where the average monthly income is around $200. Prosecution can also involve jail time for between three and five years.
The Great Export Market
Here is the new face of the global industry. Countries need cash, especially now when every government, globally, is sucking for income and economies are disrupted by both a pandemic and a war with global implications. Cannabis reform is one place where countries from Africa, Central America, and South America are starting to march with an increasingly accelerated pace.
Production in such places costs a fraction of what it is other places—even with proper GMP (or good manufacturing procedures) standards in place.
Beyond this, there are increasing numbers of countries (e.g. Portugal) who will charge such producers a huge fee per gram of such product to “convert” it to GMP, even if grown outdoors and per a certification of GACP (a sovereign standard for cultivation practices for other crops).
It is clear at least to leaders in such economies that cannabis represents a golden opportunity, particularly given the continued intransigence to reform that includes domestic cultivation in most of the world.
However, the more countries enter the cultivation and processing game, the lower prices will fall. There will be a race to the bottom, and fast, in a market where prices are already so high that only a privileged few can afford them, even in Europe.
Regardless, hemp and cannabis are increasingly valuable crops for other reasons too. This starts with industrial and environmental uses as well as the ability to provide a much cheaper and widespread medication for conditions that people in developing economies still do not have ready access to.
Even the most cynical world economist will see good in that.
It also appears that many parts of the world are also on track to create sustainable agriculture, and for all the right reasons.
Therefore, there is cause to celebrate that another African country has joined the cannabis club.
The Isle of Man (located in the middle of the Irish Sea, between Ireland and the U.K.) is attempting to enter the cannabiz, and in a big way.
Peel NRE, a local firm, has outlined proposals to build an indoor cultivation facility and is currently asking for views from the public. The enterprise is just one of several belonging to John Whittaker, a billionaire and island resident. The planned complex would include cultivation units, plus research and development facilities.
According to the finance director Chris Eves, there has “never been a better time to grow the industry than the post-pandemic era.” Licenses for the production and export of medicinal cannabis have been available since June 2021 on the island.
Indeed, Eves said that it was the change in the law on the island, along with the zoning of the company land for employment use, that allowed such plans to progress.
Initial planning applications are still on the drawing board but will be submitted later this year.
Will The U.K.’s Islands Drive Cannabis Reform on The Mainland?
Progress towards legalization in the U.K. has moved forward in fits and starts for the past couple of years. Theoretically it is possible to obtain a medical cannabis prescription here, but in reality, the only people getting access are those willing to pay for private doctors (i.e. not on the NHS or national healthcare insurance that covers everyone who is legally allowed to live in the U.K.), and those willing to face down the Home Office and apply for individual licenses with a willing doctor.
It has literally taken dying children and showdowns at Heathrow over imported (medical) CBD oil to move the needle, and so far, it has not moved much.
In the meantime, the CBD industry has struggled to get certifications and licenses in an environment where the cultivation of any part of the cannabis flower remains illegal on the mainland.
However, the picture appears to be different on islands off the mainland. This starts with the Channel Islands of both Jersey and Guernsey where efforts have been underway for several years to get cultivation and processing off the ground for (at minimum) a medical market.
That said, unlike the Channel Islands, Isle of Man residents will not be able to use the drug they produce until further reform happens locally. The island government passed a resolution in January 2021 to legalize the growing, production, and export of medical cannabis. In the meantime, patients who attempt to cultivate are still being fined and prosecuted.
On the mainland, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has pledged to begin a unique new decriminalization trial in two of the city’s boroughs.
When Is Real Reform Coming to the U.K.?
This is a question many on the ground are asking, particularly post-Brexit and post-COVID. However, with ethics, sex, and other scandals engulfing the British Royal Family, the Prime Minister, and the largest police force in the country, it appears that things are a bit rocky politically at the moment. Cannabis reform is going to be far down the list of things to get done, in spite of those who have run on pro cannabis reform platforms of late — from Germany to Louisiana.
This is particularly salient because post-Brexit, the U.K. is diverging from European regs and laws not to mention looking at dire figures when it comes to living standards and employment. That said, tragically, the Labour government and its leaders have repeatedly dropped the ball on this issue and everyone else is too busy defending themselves from the latest scandal du jour.
What Is Likely to Happen?
Cannabis reform at this point is a zeitgeisty political issue everywhere. Given the major money now backing reform in the U.K., it is unlikely to hold the tide back much longer on domestic reform, even in small and incremental steps. Indeed, this is clearly what Khan is banking on, beyond disgust with the rampant problems that have surfaced at the Metropolitan Police Service (the country’s largest police force).
Expect to see other city trials after London’s kicks off. Not to mention the issue’s day in Parliament. Beyond this, as an economic booster, the issue is a no-brainer.
And who knows? It may even attract some oddball, well-known figures, looking for alternative sources of income, no matter whose nose they put out of joint in doing so. Dodgy reputation might even help.
Prince of York cannabis, anyone? Harry, after all, is living in Cali, now.
Less than three months before legal sales of recreational cannabis begin in New Mexico, state regulators have increased production limits placed on adult-use cannabis cultivators. Under emergency regulations that went into effect last week, most licensed cannabis producers will be permitted to grow twice as many plants as previously allowed.
Kristen Thomson, director of New Mexico’s Cannabis Control Division, said that the rule change is designed to help spur the launch of the state’s newly regulated adult-use cannabis industry, which is slated to begin sales of recreational marijuana by April 1.
“We have been listening to producers, consumers and patients who are as committed as the Cannabis Control Division is to supporting a thriving cannabis industry in New Mexico,” Thomson said on Monday in a statement quoted by NM Political Report. “Doubling the plant count for licensed producers makes sense to ensure that everyone can maximize the benefits of a thriving cannabis industry.”
Under the emergency rules, which will remain in effect until July, cannabis cultivators with a Level 4 license will be permitted to grow between 12,001 and 16,000 cannabis plants, while Level 3 license holders will be allowed 6,001 to 12,000 plants. Level 2 growers will be permitted to cultivate 2,001 to 6,000 plants, and Level 1 growers will be able to maintain 401 to 2,000 marijuana plants. Thomson explained the rule change in documents filed with the state’s Commission of Public Records.
“The Division has considered demand estimates provided by applicants and licensees in the cannabis industry,” Thomson wrote. “Projected market demand shows that the demand for regulated cannabis will increase year-to-year as more cannabis consumers move from the illicit market to the regulated market. The supply of medical cannabis will become increasingly threatened without an adequate supply of plants.”
Plant limits for micro-producers, however, will not be increased by the emergency rules. Operations of such small growers will still be limited to 200 plants, a cap set by state law that regulators are not authorized to override. The director said the department would seek a legislative fix that would allow micro-producers a similar increase in production limits.
“Equity and fairness are foundational principles of New Mexico’s vision for the state’s cannabis industry,” Thomson said. “We will work with legislators and the governor to ensure those values are upheld and that micro-producers see increased plant count limits as soon as possible.”
Caps Put in Place to Prevent Overproduction in New Mexico
The plant limits on cultivators were included in New Mexico’s cannabis regulations to prevent overproduction. Regulators feared a glut of cannabis that would cause prices to drop dramatically, a scenario that might challenge small operators trying to gain a foothold in the nascent industry.
But last summer, Linda Trujillo, superintendent of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, which oversees the Cannabis Control Division, warned that supplies of recreational marijuana would be tight once adult-use sales begin in the state.
“It’s highly likely we will run out of cannabis in the first week, if not the first two weeks,” she said at a meeting of the legislature’s Economic Development and Policy Committee on July 26. Trujillo told lawmakers that her prediction is based on the experience of other states as they launched adult-use cannabis sales.
Limits on cannabis production were first put in place under New Mexico’s medical marijuana program. Ultra Health, one of the state’s largest producers of medicinal cannabis, has sued the state over the caps, arguing that they are too low to serve New Mexico’s patient population. On Monday, the company said that the production limits on adult-use cannabis are also insufficient.
“Unfortunately, this increase may be too little, too late,” a spokeswoman for Ultra Health wrote in a statement to local media. “Sales to adults will commence in 74 days, and it takes twice as long, five months, for cannabis to be fully prepared from seed to sale. We are running on a deficit to support 130,000 patients today, so to think this new rule would somehow alter the biological processes required to grow cannabis is naive, at best.”
Ben Lewinger, the executive director of the New Mexico Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, applauded state regulators for considering potential shortages that would negatively impact those relying on steady supplies of medical cannabis.
“Protecting patients and patient supply is absolutely critical and has been a first-order priority through recent legislative and rulemaking processes, and we’re grateful that the Cannabis Control Division is working to ensure that medical cannabis patients aren’t neglected as the state shifts to legalized cannabis for adults,” he said.
But Lewinger questioned the rule change, saying that doubling the cap on plants only weeks before legal sales begin “undermines the work of legislators and advocates” who advocated for production limits to allow equitable access to participation in the new recreational cannabis economy.
“Building the infrastructure to double plant count could take months to years for most operators, and plants put in the ground today won’t be ready in April,” Lewinger said. “Increasing the plant count now will only help the very biggest and well-resourced producers—it won’t help medical cannabis patients and it won’t help new businesses trying to break into the industry.”
Cannabis production is an energy-intensive activity. Producers must maintain the right conditions of temperature, light, and humidity for the plant to grow. The process requires an electrical system with sufficient capacity to power operations such as lighting, HVAC system, drying, CO2 inject, space heating or water handling. Solar power for cannabis growers can be a […]
It’s always interesting when a new location breaks stride and changes laws. We saw it with Thailand in Asia, with Uruguay in South America, and with Lesotho in Africa. With ranging reasons as to why to open these industries, the Arab world has now put forth its own example. As of the spring, Lebanon legalized medical cannabis.
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It would be untrue to say that Lebanon is the first Middle Eastern country to legalize cannabis in some form. It’s neighbor to the south, Israel, has been a central location for the study and cultivation of cannabis for decades, pushing through its own medical legalization originally back in the 1990’s. But Israel stands apart from its Arab neighbors when it comes to many beliefs and ideologies, so Lebanon’s entrance into the legal cannabis game is still very much a first for that part of the world.
A bit about Lebanon and cannabis policy
Cannabis is illegal in Lebanon to possess or use. There are no personal use laws so even small quantities are considered a criminal offense. Regulation of the system and punishment is done through the Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances Law 673, which states that any narcotic use without a medical prescription is subject to a prison sentence of three months to three years, along with a fine. Individuals are permitted a certain amount of leniency if not involved in the drug trade, and showing of generally good character.
Sale and supply crimes are illegal. Offenders found guilty of these crimes face heavier sentences than for possession and use, and do not qualify for any sort of leniency. Personal cultivation is also illegal, with no individual-use amount applicable. Cannabis seeds are not legal in Lebanon and cannot be bought, sold, or possessed.
When it comes to CBD, Lebanon makes no differentiation between the cannabis plant, and the individual parts, like cannabinoids CBD or THC. This makes CBD just as illegal as a standard marijuana plant, regardless of the lower THC content. For this reason, it is illegal to sell or use the oil in Lebanon, although the country’s recent medical legalization could certainly change how CBD is used there.
As far as industrial hemp
Prior to new legalizations this year, it was illegal to grow hemp at all in Lebanon, although this didn’t stop it from happening. The Bekaa Valley is the center of the hemp region, which provides rich, healthy soil for cultivation. Over the years the Lebanese government has worked hard to eradicate the hemp fields of the region, which has had an incredible monetary impact on local farmers, forcing many into poverty. Despite these efforts, cannabis is still grown en masse, with cultivation mainly controlled by powerful clans and Hezbollah, which has caused much conflict over the years between farmers and police. As of just a few years ago, the UN cited Lebanon as the 3rd biggest world supplier of cannabis resins.
The legal framework changed earlier in the year when Lebanon legalized medicinal cannabis, including the now-legal farming of cannabis for medical use.
Now legal for medical use
In 2018, Lebanon’s house Speaker, Nabih Berri reported to US ambassador Elizabeth Richard, that Lebanon was in preparations to begin legal cultivation of cannabis for medicinal use. The idea of legalizing cannabis in Lebanon gained a bigger following after the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. sent the Lebanese government over 1,000 pages of economic recovery information which included creating a legal cannabis market.
On April 21st, 2020, Lebanon legalized medicinal cannabis, when legislators approved a law that allows the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal use. Hezbollah representatives provided opposition to the bill, which was still able to pass anyway, as allies of Hezbollah – including President Michel Aoun, and Speaker Nabih Berri – were still in support of the legislation. Of course, Hezbollah’s reasons for opposing the legislation probably have to do with the group’s current control of much of the cannabis cultivation in the country, particularly the Bekaa region, and the possibility of having a chunk of its revenue stream diverted to the government. Criminal organizations don’t usually appreciate these legalizations.
It bears pointing out that Lebanon legalized medical cannabis during the most globally locked-down period of the Coronavirus pandemic. While other governments were temporarily closing-up shop, or tabling cannabis legislation for the future, Lebanon was getting it done, showing, if nothing else, a very strong desire to really make this happen.
What did McKinsey & Co. say?
McKinsey & Co. is a global management firm, which in 2018 gave a longer than 1,000 page macroeconomic report to the Lebanese government which focused on ways to make short-term gains in order to stabilize a politically unstable, debt-ridden economy. McKinsey & Co. made several recommendations for ‘quick wins’ in different areas like wealth management, tourism, and construction, but of more interest was the company’s recommendation to legalize the already buoyant cannabis industry of the country, and turn it into a legal export. The recommendation did make international headlines when it was first presented, but political infighting and the inability to form a functioning government eight months after the previous election, led to delays.
The report was actually made public to the media the following year, when Economy and Tourism Minister Raed Khoury, released it in an effort to regain waning attention on the matter. While it didn’t get as much attention the second time around, a clearer picture was put out to the public of a country in very dire need of help, fraught with economic mismanagement, with deficits in every sector. One of the revelations of the paper, for example, showed a GDP slip from 9.2% in the years of 2006-2010 to 1.3% over the next seven years.
The report offered a total of 160 initiatives. These initiatives were based mainly on reinvigorating the five sectors that were acknowledged as being most-likely to help jump-start the economy, including: tourism, financial services, industry, agriculture, and knowledge economy. The recommendations provide for the projected addition of approximately 200,000 jobs in these sectors, and $11 billion incrementally added to the GDP by 2025.
What comes next?
As we already know, simply passing legislation is not enough. Once passed, a law needs to be implemented, and it needs a regulatory framework to do so. According to officials, the idea is to have a state-run system, with licenses issued to private companies for the farming, production, and sale of cannabis products, through a regulatory authority. No statement has been made on the approximate cost of these licenses, nor has information been released on licensing requirements, or if local farmers will be afforded any protection from larger international companies. The idea is to attract new investments, create a new revenue stream, and raise generated tax revenue, so it’s probably a very sad ‘no’ to the last point.
While Lebanon legalized medical cannabis, it didn’t say much yet about what it means to its own citizens. When a set of laws to govern the industry come out, it will be more clear how the people of Lebanon will benefit from the actual idea of cannabis medications, or if this legalization is really only a vehicle to enter the global medical cannabis market.
According to Alain Aoun, a senior MP in President Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, the only reason for the decision is economic motives. He explained to Reuters, “We have moral and social reservations but today there is the need to help the economy by any means.” This attitude might be great for Lebanon’s economy, but it probably won’t do as much to help ailing patients in a medical system.
Sometimes change is good, even when the reason for it isn’t quite what it seems. Some medical legalizations come as the result of wanting to provide medications to sick people. Some, like Lesotho, and now Lebanon, are not only more driven by economic reasons, but possibly only driven by those reasons. In the world of medical cannabis today, the medical cannabis industry and making money off of it, often trumps the idea of how valuable this medicine is, and all the wonderful things it can do. Sometimes change comes through the backdoor. Let’s hope Lebanon really makes the most of this new industry, and that the people of the country get the chance to benefit from it, both monetarily, and medicinally.
Germany has the largest legal medicinal cannabis flower market in the EU, and it’s about to expand out even further. With imports coming from Canada and even Uruguay, the German cannabis flower market is, indeed, ready to fully explode.
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Germany has been growing its medical cannabis market in the last few years. According to worldstopexports for 2019, Germany imported $240 million worth of cannabis oil – or 7.8% of all cannabis imports for the year, making it the second largest importer behind the US. In that same time period, it also exported $230 million worth of cannabis oil – or 8% of the market for the year.
Now, the emphasis is more on cannabis flowers, and Germany sure isn’t slowing down. In July, Germany released data on medical cannabis imports for Q1 and Q2 of 2020. Q1 showed an increase of 16%, while Q2 showed an increase of 32%. It should be remembered that Q2 of 2020 was when the coronavirus was at its worst, and lockdown measures were strictest.
Prior to this year, Germany imported approximately 3.1 tons of cannabis flower in 2018, and 6.7 tons in 2019. During this time, Germany requested additional imported cannabis from the Netherlands to help with supply shortages it was experiencing. The increase this year in imports is related to the rise in new patients in Germany, as well as the addition of new cannabis exporting countries. Approximately 60,000 Germans are registered to use medical cannabis as of June 2019. That number has likely risen substantially since that time.
A little about Germany and cannabis
Possession of cannabis is still illegal in Germany, despite the growth of its medicinal market. German law does allow for residents to have a ‘small amount’ of cannabis, but this amount is not consistent and can vary between 6-15 grams depending on location. Sale and supply crimes are predicably illegal, with prison sentences of five years or below for more standard cases, or up to 15 for more severe cases. Personal growing of cannabis is also illegal.
On the other hand, medicinal cannabis was legalized in 2017 in Germany, and since that time Germany’s medical cannabis market has become the largest cannabis market in Europe. Up until 2019, supply for this market came strictly from abroad as Germany was not cultivating its own cannabis. Now Germany is working to supply its own market, but still requires imports, en masse, from other countries.
New market for imports
Up until recently, the only suppliers of cannabis to Germany were the Netherlands and Canada. However, Germany didn’t want to be beholden to such a small number of suppliers, and (BfArM), the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, authorized Germany to receive imports of cannabis flowers from other countries like Spain, Portugal, and Denmark. In fact, Germany now works with at least 30 cultivators, which has greatly improved Germany’s supply situation, and greatly increased the German cannabis flower market.
Germany isn’t just looking to European countries and Canada for supply though. In late 2019, Portugal received an initial shipment of 1,000 kg of cannabis flowers (high-THC). The shipment was very secretive in that the final destination for the product, and the buyer, were kept private, while the shipment itself was actually done legally. According to the customs documentation, the exporter was licensed producer Fotmer Life Sciences, and the deal was for $3.2 million including all related costs. The final destination didn’t seem to be Portugal though.
As it turns out, more recent news has pointed to Germany being the final buyer. Apparently, Tilray, a Canadian-based producer which now operates in many countries, started offering Germany high-THC flowers as of September 30th of this year. Tilray’s director of government and public affairs in Europe, confirmed to Marijuana Business Daily that the shipment was indeed grown by a 3rd party in Uruguay, that it was imported through Portugal via Tilray’s subsidiary in that country, processed there, and then shipped to Germany.
Part of what makes this story interesting is that the supplier – Fotmer Life Sciences, is not EU-GMP certified, meaning it is possible to import non-EU-GMP certified products to Germany through the right avenues. In this case, processing through an EU-GMP certified facility in Portugal made it possible to pass onto Germany. It also makes it look like Germany will go to some interesting lengths to import more flower (maybe particularly high-THC), and that it’s willing to bend the rules to do so.
One of the newer companies to join the Canadian satellite cannabis team is Aphria, which claimed to make its first shipment of dry flowers to its subsidiary in Germany, CC Pharma GmbH, earlier this month.
Clearly Canada has a good hold on Germany, but imports do, indeed, come from the Netherlands, Uruguay – apparently via Portugal, and Spain, through Spanish producer Linneo, which provides cannabis flowers to Germany as well as Israel and the UK, though under different names. Medical cannabis producers in other countries are also trying to get in on the German cannabis flower market. Producers in countries like Colombia, Australia, Lesotho, Malta, Greece, and Denmark are also looking to get their products into Germany. How much money these companies can make in the future, might create a challenge though.
What about wholesale pricing in Germany?
So, how much does cannabis cost in Germany wholesale? In November of 2019, the German Federal Government agreed to buy no less than 650kg of medical grade cannabis flowers from local cultivators at the price point of €1.5 million per quarter of product. This, in turn, sets a standard for average wholesale pricing at €2.3 per gram. This low price is an indication that medical cannabis companies probably won’t be able to attain the high margins that such companies have been seeing, prior to this designation being made. It also means that theoretically, prices should be kept low for German citizens.
To give an idea of the difference… retail prices for medical marijuana in Germany are as high as €20/gram right now. This is mainly due to a mandated 100% markup by pharmacies, not enough global suppliers that meet EU-GMP standards, and a domestic cultivation license that was only finalized after many delays. The new price point, along with bringing in new exporters, is important in bringing this price down.
Who will grow domestically?
Three different companies were picked to locally cultivate this cannabis for the government. Aurora Produktions GmbH – a subsidiary of Aurora Cannabis, Aphria Deutschland GmbH – a subsidiary of Aphria, and local Germany-based Demecan GmbH.
Pricing in medicinal markets is generally much lower than recreational markets where larger taxes are added on. But it does beg the question of how enticing the market will be for domestic growers (and importers), if they can’t inflate their costs to bring in more money.
The three companies that won the contracts to grow for the government will provide packaged cannabis flowers to BfArM. The German government has indicated that it will institute an application process for distribution in the future. What this means is that domestic growers and producers won’t be able to actually sell directly to pharmacies, even with established distribution channels. They will instead require a distribution license.
Weirdly, this just slows down domestic products hitting pharmacy shelves, and promotes Germany importing more. The German cannabis flower market, in fact, is expected to continue relying on imports to cover demand, which makes the aforementioned license for distribution for local cultivators…a little strange. Almost like Germany would prefer to import.
Germany’s medicinal cannabis market, and specifically the German cannabis flower market, is getting bigger every day with tons of countries vying to get their products through German borders and onto pharmacy shelves. Germany wants to import so badly, that it even seems to be going through semi-sketchy means, sending non-EU-GMP certified product through other EU countries in order to access more flowers!
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