Summer 2022 European Cannabis Roundup

Looking back on the trajectory of reform in Europe from the vantage point of 2032, a decade from now, this year, and particularly the spring and summer of 2022, will almost certainly be recognized as the European-wide tipping point for cannabis.

This is largely being driven by current events in Germany. The government just wrapped up several weeks of hearings on how to implement recreational reform. A white paper containing the recommendations of the same will be released in the fall, with draft legislation expected to be published by the end of the year. Beyond that, the timing is understandably a bit hazy, but the bill is widely expected to pass in the early part of 2023, with a recreational market on track to begin by the first part of 2024.

However, Germany is not the only game in town, as much as its impact on the conversation across the E.U. is huge.

The Domino Countries

There are currently several E.U. countries on the verge of recreational reform that stand poised to follow Malta into recreational reform this year by legalizing home grow. These are:

Switzerland – The country is launching its recreational use city trials this year. While outside of the E.U., the country’s forward progress on recreational reform is one of the key markets to watch in Europe right now.

Portugal Now established as one of the most important medical cultivation countries in Europe, the country is on the verge of formal recreational reform—and will proceed with home grow as a first step to creating a fully integrated recreational market with international juice. Portugal also has the distinction of being the most liberal country on drug policies across the E.U.

Luxembourg – The country’s current government promised to implement recreational reform before the end of their first term (which ends next year). Medical reform was implemented during 2018. Currently, the first step into the adult use market will be home grow also, although given the size of the country, it most likely won’t be a large producer.

Austria – The country will certainly follow its DACH trading partners—Germany and Switzerland—across the recreational line in the near future. Medical reform has already been implemented here and the country as a strong hemp industry.

Medical Reform Is Still in Motion

Adult use reform of course is not the only discussion in the room. Medical reform has also been moving forward in important jurisdictions this year—leaving no major country within the region that does not recognize at least medical efficacy of the plant. Even Albania, in accession talks with the E.U., is moving ahead with medical use.

France – The country formally (and finally) moved forward on a pending medical trial earlier this year. The jury is still out on whether the country’s president Emmanuel Macron, will be pushed by his more liberal government to move forward on some kind of recreational discussion. As the cradle of hemp production in Europe, the country has also been the testing ground for changing CBD policy across the E.U.

Spain – The home of the cannabis club announced their recognition of medical efficacy this summer. This is significant for several reasons, including the fact that Spain is also apparently ramping up its medical cultivation while allowing the clubs to continue to operate.

As a result, Europe is very much having its “2012” moment. By 2024, it is almost certain at this point that there will be, beyond Holland, several European countries where recreational cannabis is legal.

The Global Impact of European Reform

While it is still hard to predict accurately, make no mistake about it: This change is seismic, worth a great deal of money, and will have huge repercussions.

It is unlikely that in the U.S., for example, serious arguments will hold much longer against finally legalizing cannabis on a federal level.

Beyond this, it is almost certain that multiple countries in Asia will follow both events in the E.U. as well as Thailand and probably Indonesia’s early lead. Even if this change is also “only” medical for now, as has been seen worldwide at this point, this is only the first step.

From this vantage point, it is also not hard to envisage a world where the plant is finally, formally recognized, and at an international level.

Does This Mean Smooth Sailing from Here?

Just because legalization is moving however, does not mean there will be no detours much less distractions. This starts with a domestic rollout of reform, which on the recreational front will almost certainly also include some states, cities, and towns also placing a ban on sales.

The discussion about tourism is also much in the balance as Holland continues to make noise about banning cannatourists from Amsterdam. However, it is hard to believe that this will last, even in Holland. Greece, for example, which is already inviting German pensioners to spend a warm winter away from higher gas prices and lower temperatures, will ignore this valuable segment of the market.

On the regulatory front, Novel Food looms as a large and unsolved problem—and not just for CBD but also the full plant discussion.

All of these issues will take time and money to resolve. However, the most important step has clearly been taken in Europe this summer—and that will reverberate in turn, as perhaps the last major push necessary for the final dominoes to begin falling. Regionally and, of course, globally.

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Cannabis Laws in France Have Disproportionately Affected Muslims

In the U.S., it’s an all-too-familiar story that Black and Mexican folks have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs, but in France, they have a similar issue with the impact cannabis laws have on Muslims. 

France, like many other countries around the world, are finally flirting with the idea of ending prohibition. They have CBD cafes now, which are gaining popularity, and the European Union is slowly starting to change the tune about how they treat cannabis. But like in many other spots, it is the marginalized folks who have been impacted the most. 

New research shows that the past 50 years have been rough for Muslims when it comes to the War on Drugs. Close to one-fifth of prisoners in the French prison system currently were arrested for drug offenses, and most of them are men. It is hard to gain specific demographics in France because their “absolute equality” law makes it illegal to collect data based on race, ethnicity, or religion. 

However, sociologist Farhad Khosrokhavar studies the French prison system and found that half the people incarcerated today in France are either of Muslim or Arab descent. This means that half of the 69,000 people who are incarcerated are Muslim or Arab, although those demographics only make up 9% of the 67 million people in France. 

Another study from 2018 commissioned by the French National Assembly shows that when looking at the 117,420 of the arrests in 2010, 86% of them were over cannabis charges, and the amount of people arrested for cannabis use between 2000 and 2015 rose from 14,501 to 139,683. When all these studies are compared, it paints a clear picture of Muslim and Arab folks being arrested for cannabis at a disproportionate rate.

Much like how America demonized cannabis by equating it to a poison pedaled by Mexican drug cartels and Black criminals—a largely false and inflated narrative—French historians have done something similar with Muslims. French fiction talked of Muslim “hashish-eating assassins”  who were deranged, violent, and dangerous. French researchers also grew tired of working with cannabis when it was clear it was not a cure for cholera. The combined lack of medical interest and racist propaganda led to a distrust of cannabis throughout the culture. In 1953, medical hashish became illegal. 

They even have their own version of reefer madness: “folie haschischique.” French colonialists in Algeria claimed that hashish caused insanity and violent criminal behavior, often putting sober or self-medicating mentally ill folks into psychiatric care and claiming cannabis was the cause. 

In 1968, again mirroring events in the U.S., there were racial tensions against the North Africans who emigrated to France, claiming they were prone to violence and criminality due to the use of cannabis in their culture. This led to even harsher criminalization of the plant. The drug problem in France was referred to as a “foreign plague” and blamed on Arab and Muslim drug traffickers, people of color, and immigrants. There was talk of a cult of Muslim murderers inspired by cannabis and known as the “Hachichins.”

Today, of course, France is making a stand against such racist phrasing and thought, but it is still inherently a part of their culture when it comes to the backlash against cannabis, and it clearly shows in the numbers when prison data is pulled. Like many other places in the world, France has a lot of work to do when it comes to separating out what truly needs to be regulated about cannabis and what just comes from a history of racist propaganda. 

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What Impact Will the French Elections Have on Cannabis Reform?

For Americans, European—especially French—politics are generally a bit strange. Of course, the same could be said in reverse.

Regardless, France, one of the largest and most influential countries in Europe, is headed back to the polls on April 24 to elect a new president. Whomever wins will certainly have an impact on cannabis reform in both France, and beyond that, the EU. However, given the candidates’ track record on the issue so far, whoever wins will not take bold steps forward on the issue. 

At best, it will be more of the status quo. At worst, it could herald a new Drug War.

The rivals for the top spot are the sitting president, Emmanuel Macron, a former banker and political centrist who has played it safe on this issue since he was first elected in 2017 and Marine Le Pen, a female version of Donald Trump if there ever was one, starting with being the national president of the far-right National Front (which changed its name to the National Rally) from 2011-2021.

The two went head-to-head in the first round of the French election for president and emerged as the two politicians with the highest votes in April.

How will the situation change after the second runoff, in a country with some of the harshest laws against cannabis in Europe still on the books, but now in its second year of a national medical trial?

Macron and Cannabis

Rather ironically, if not tragically, as the child of both a physician and a professor of neurology, Macron has largely been absent on the discussion of cannabis reform in France. However, more telling is his distinguished career at the nosebleed level of French politics ever since he entered as Deputy Secretary-General of the Elysée, a senior role on then-President Francois Hollande’s staff. 

He generally sits on the cutting edge of “done and dusted” when it comes to cannabis reform—and that has shown up in the slow pace of change he has advocated so far, starting with the implementation of the national medical trial which kicked off in 2021 (delayed for a full year, in part thanks to political intransigence as much as COVID).

He has, however, specifically ruled out legalizing the recreational use of cannabis while he is in office.

Marine Le Pen and Cannabis

As most right-wingers are, Le Pen is vehemently opposed to the legalization of cannabis. According to her, this route is “obviously not the solution.” She has also said things like “those who believe that by legalizing cannabis, dealers will become melon producers… are at best naive, at worst worrying.” She obviously does not understand the business, nor has she made any attempt to. To her, legalization, like immigration, is dangerous to the identity and soul of the French people.

If she is elected, expect another Drug War. She has already called for the same.

Why is France So Important in European Cannabis Reform?

France sits in an interesting place when it comes to the legalization discussion. The country may be the largest hemp producer in Europe, but it has been decidedly late to the party when it comes to even accepting the medical efficacy of cannabis. This is despite the fact that cannabis is one of the most popular “illegal drugs” in the country—and has been for a long time. Indeed, during Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798, French troops resorted to the use of hash because alcohol was not widely available, and ignored the national ban implemented in October 1800.

During the mid-1800s, hash became a popular drug for the cafe and intellectual set and has never really gone out of style, despite its modern criminalization in 1970. The country also banned the use of cannabis for medical purposes specifically in 1953. 

As of late 2018, a national poll found that nine out of 10 French people were in favor of legalizing medical use, and 51% of the population supported recreational reform.

What is Likely to Happen with French Cannabis

While it is impossible to accurately predict the outcome of the election, according to the most recent data, Macron looks likely to win a second term and by a fairly comfortable margin. Le Pen’s strident background, anti-EU record, as well as the revelation that she is being accused of embezzlement of about $700,000 by the EU anti-fraud office, is not helping matters.

If Macron, as expected, does win a second term, however, do not expect him (or France) to play a leading role in the legalization debate in Europe at least by positive steps taken by national leaders. This is a shame. However, given the movement on reform in Europe, not to mention the regional impact of the KanaVape case which ended up establishing the legality of cross border trade of CBD, this does not mean France will end up sitting this one out entirely.

Macron usually is a political animal in all that he does. And the rising tide of voices pushing for cannabis reform, both in France and beyond that, the EU, will not be something he will actively fight. He may not lead the calls for either greater medical reform, much less recreational cannabis legalization, but he will certainly follow the herd.

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France Moves to Begin Cultivating Medical Cannabis

March 1 may not go down in history as a revolutionary date in France—like, say, the July standbys such as Bastille or Independence Day—but it will still stand as a significant one in the world of cannabis. 

The French government has finally seen the light and announced that medical cannabis is here to stay. They have, as a result, now agreed to a decree authorizing the medical cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of medical cannabis in the country as of today.

The move has been a long time coming, particularly given the forward motion of another large economy, Germany, which kicked off this process, albeit messily, in the spring of 2017. Nevertheless, several promises at a national level later, German confirmation of a recreational market in the offing (along with several other EU countries implementing one—see Malta and Luxembourg), not to mention COVID and a national lawsuit that ended up changing EU policy on CBD, the French have arrived.

Medical cannabis will, in the future, be cultivated in France, along with the establishment of a medical supply chain.

Now, as the Germans have already found out, the real fun begins.

Quelle Fromage!

There are likely to be all sorts of contretemps over interpretation by an industry tired of endless loopholes. There are also going to be interesting challenges to a law clearly written to favor the pharmaceutical industry if not create a medically certified (EU-GMP) supply chain.

Here is the first twist. According to Article 2, the production, including cultivation, manufacture, transport, import, export, possession, offering, acquisition, and use of cannabis in France, are still prohibited unless a medical authorization has been specifically issued by the relevant authorities—in this case, the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products. 

Look for all the same issues in Germany, plus a few more, as the French now move to establish the domestic medical cannabis industry.

This means that the biggest public Canadian companies which have not already done so, are going to establish at least some kind of foothold in France. The national medical trial kicked off last year where corporate participants had to donate meds and equipment. It also means, no doubt, that there will be entries into the market by other pharmaceutical firms, if not a rush to set up domestic distribution companies (just as has already occurred in Deutschland).

What this all leaves very unclear however, is whether the French authorities will continue to accept flower cannabis as medicine. Given the language of the resolution, however, specifically “only growers who have contracted to supply their production (to a licensed and authorized manufacturer) may cultivate cannabis plants for the purpose of manufacturing medicines,” it appears that flower may be on the way out. Unless, of course, someone sues first.

What has France got Against Cannabis Flower?

It seems very clear that whoever is writing official French cannabis policy right now failed to get the memo that France just lost a war on the banning of the CBD flower front.

In January, in fact, while trying to establish the regulatory environment for a CBD market in the wake of both the Kanavape case and an EU decision on the matter, the French government was slapped down by the nation’s highest court (at least temporarily) when the authorities also tried to ban the sale of CBD flower.

Don’t think such a decision has gone unnoticed at any federal French agency. This is either sloppiness or, more realistically, a final attempt to cut off the flower discussion at a federal level for both THC and CBD. 

Don’t expect the industry to sit this one out, particularly having just won several major victories.

Pharmaceutical Interests vs. the Rest of the Industry

Here is the thing to remember. The forces arraigned against the plant are moving in lockstep, and this position is increasingly falling out with court challenges. Such legal showdowns are likely to be necessary everywhere, and France, so far, has been one prime example of that, and at an EU level. 

That beats the record, so far, of other challenges launched from other sovereign countries in the bloc. See the failed attempts of the Spanish cannabis club industry last year at the same nosebleed level. In fact, so far, the Spanish industry (in direct comparison) has yet to succeed legally even at a federal one. Perhaps, unlike the French, the Spanish already have tried to cut off the entire recreational discussion by (so far) allowing a limited number of cultivation licenses.

Indeed, that is the strategy Germany tried to take—and ended up with large public Canadian companies instead, not to mention a new government which has been essentially forced into moving forward on recreational reform, no matter how slowly it is dragging its feet.

It is not clear who would move into this slot in France, but with cultivation footprints now firmly established in other EU countries (including Portugal, Denmark, and Deutschland) it is highly unlikely that these folks will be focused on domestic cultivation in France in quite the same way as they were back in 2017.

This is also what the French government intended. European leaders and regulatory agencies are so far not seeing cannabis as an economic development.

However, as history (including in France) has long taught, incremental moves in the face of an overwhelming political, medical, and social paradigm shift rarely hold the dam for long.

This development in other words, no matter how overdue, may not be exactly the storming of the Bastille, but, perhaps, will finally light the powder keg.

Vive la cannabis revolution!

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Vive La CBD Revolution: The French Ground War on Regulated CBD

As with many things in the cannabis revolution, there are moments when achieved reform or market creation feels bittersweet. Certainly, most within this industry, having attained a hard fought and well-deserved, even litigated, or legislative victory have also had the experience of realizing that such a development is both a step forward but also two back. 

Thus is the case in France right now.

On one hand, the order by the French Ministry of Solidarity and Health, issued on December 30, 2021, implementing Article R.5132-86 of the Public Health Code is a victory for the industry. In direct response to the KanaVape case, where the European Court of Justice decreed that imported CBD sold in France (and produced elsewhere in the European Union (EU)) was legal and by extension that the cannabinoid was not a narcotic, the French government has essentially enshrined an EU decision into French law.

Namely, that CBD can be sold and further that it is clearly not a narcotic.

However, it is what forms that cannabis could be available to consumers that are creating consternation if not a direct rebellion from some in the industry.

The Basics

Here is what the new order does. It legalizes the CBD industry and products. Here is the bad news. It specifically bans the retail sale of cannabis flower. This includes the smokable and tea varieties.

The positives? This development means that the purveyors of any CBD containing product that has been certified in the required regulatory pathways are finally in a position where there is a legal market for their products. 

No French police raids on grocery stores for CBD cookies loom in the horizon as a result. 

Merci beaucoup.

On the other hand, here is the merde a la mode.

The order is devastating to hemp producers and small stores who sell flower and products that contain the same (like hemp tea). While the legal limit for THC in hemp was also raised (from 0.02 percent to 0.03 percent), this means that cultivators must rely only on B2B sales to those who will further transform (usually extract) the CBD for use in other products (from cosmetics to food).

The new order also does not move CBD out of the Novel Food category. This could also be a ripe territory for legal challenges, particularly for CBD cultivated in France itself. However, given the blow just directed in the direction of the French cultivation industry, a by-product of this decision could very well move cultivation of even hemp outside the country’s borders.

A Whimper Rather than a Bang

The bottom line is that this development is hardly a French Revolution on CBD. Further it may well be a cynical move by French President Emmanuel Macron, who as of January 1 took over the next six month tenure as the President of the EU on his way to facing national voters in the near future. Namely, inch a conversation which is much despised at the nosebleed level of European politics only as far forward as absolutely necessary.

Indeed, this kind of unfortunate mindset is still much in keeping with the general attitude about cannabis cultivation, even of the medical kind, in Europe. Politicians in Germany were so opposed to legalizing home grow that they banned even registered German pharmaceutical firms from participating in the country’s first cultivation bid for the regulated pharmaceutical market. Beyond that, there are still many questions still open on the hemp side of the conversation.

It is trickle down reform and of course, as a result, will be fought, again, in court.

The Industry Strikes Back?

On January 3, industry groups including the hemp union and the trade association of CBD sellers, the Union des Professionals du CBD, for whom flower sales can represent as much as 80 percent of their business, issued a challenge to the new order. They are asking the government to suspend the same because at an EU level, there is no distinction between flower and extract. The application was submitted to the highest administrative court in France—the Council of State. It has so far not been rejected (meaning that the court could side with the industry).

Indeed, many on the ground feel that this is just another way of setting back the industry if not reform itself—and further apparently fairly similarly at the nosebleed level of European politics. For example, the discussion about the sales of both flower and CBD containing products has also been contentious in places like Germany (which has seen both police and court action against firms selling either or). In the UK, the sale of the same is explicitly banned. 

Yet this is not the trend in Europe. In most places, although not explicitly stated as such as in Belgium and Luxembourg, CBD flower is more or less treated like tobacco. In both Malta and Italy, home grow is also now explicitly allowed—even if just of the hemp variety. Indeed, that is one of the more intriguing aspects still outstanding of the KanaVape case (namely that the imported extract at the centre of all the hullabaloo was for inhalation). 

Obviously, since 2017 in Germany, there are very clearly medical flower sales that are smoked by patients and nobody is talking (yet) about removing flower from the high THC, adult-use market, coming hopefully now sooner than later aus Deutschland. There is also no guarantee that those patients now participating in French trials are only consuming their dispensed flower by approved medical vape.

Regardless, no matter the hypocrisies and inconsistencies, on both the smoking argument, and of course the perennial pushback from the police (on issues from not being able to tell the difference on the street, to driving issues), these are the issues much in the room across the European discussion right now. This newest development in France is no exception.

Further, the underlying assumption being made about even CBD flower is also highly significant. Not only does it rule out the opportunity of consumers and patients to make their own products using extraction methods, but it also continues to categorize all cannabis flowers in a highly harmful category.

This is concerning for two reasons. The first, obviously, is that this is potentially a major blow to the hemp industry in France, an industry with about $180 million in sales last year. More worryingly, it may also have an impact far beyond French borders. European countries are looking to each other to figure out a pathway to legalization that can be both accepted and implemented given the current state of international regulations on cannabis. Namely the still unchanged classification of cannabis and cannabinoids by the UN as a Schedule I drug.

Indeed, the many wrinkles in the path towards even CBD legalization seen in France, among other EU countries, are just a small precursor to the now looming fight over THC.

It is for all these reasons that the hemp industry at both the French and increasingly European level is watching this case actively, if not preparing strategies on how to fight back not only on the ground in France, but use similar tactics unleashed locally in every sovereign nation in Europe.

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2021 Roundup of Cannabis Reform in Europe (and 2022 Predictions)

As the world contemplates a whole new year, whether or not COVID will finally recede, there are a few things to cheer about, including cannabis reform. Namely, no matter how many uncertainties face us all, as grey January stretches beyond the holiday lights, there is certainly cheer in the air that will last much longer than the season.

Indeed, there are plenty in Germany right now who are already making plans for infused Weihnacht treats just a few years hence. It is now clear that cannabis will take its place quickly in German traditions, Christmas being just one of them. Canna-Glüwein (hot, mulled wine), anyone?

Beyond this, the rest of the EU now teetering on the edge on this issue, has now woken up to the reality that no matter what they decide to do (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and, of course, the current laggard, France), now that Germany has just uttered the declaration that is the beginning of the end. If not an inevitable form of economic development and tax money in a world starved of the same.

Cannabis has turned a major corner in Europe in 2021. Here are the major hallmarks of the year.

Red, Amber, Green, Go Deutschland!

Germany’s new “Traffic Light” political coalition has promised to address the issue of recreational reform legislatively in 2022. Unlike the U.S. where multiple attempts to pass federal cannabis reform have failed, this is likely to happen. 

In the initial rollout of reform, however, do not be surprised if the Germans decide to follow the Swiss and allow regular pharmacies to be the first port of call for both medical and recreational users. It would solve several issues at once—starting with the establishment of tight restrictions on cultivation and retail supply chain. 

A short term, interim solution such as this will knock out a far more contentious issue—how to structure a licensing system for everything from cultivation in the country (and by whom) to specialty shops that resemble American or Canadian “dispensaries.” Namely not medical establishments. Plus, online sales.

This is for both Germany and cannabis reform, expect there to be several iterations of reform, starting with state and city experiments that will inevitably see Berlin, Bremen, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Munich on the front lines (because such ideas have been avidly pushed on a municipal level before).  

Also, don’t forget that it basically took four years after the law changed and two after the cultivation bid was finally awarded, for there to be distribution of German cultivated medical cannabis. Don’t expect the details of recreational to be handled or hammered out much more quickly. See Canada.

In the meantime, however, full decrim will become the law of the land, and patients will be free of prosecution, both for possession and presumably (hopefully) reasonable home growing. Despite the reluctance to actually have cannabis cultivated in the country, either by patients or companies (see the drama over the first cultivation bid), this is not 2017. Germans, albeit grudgingly, now admit that the drug does work, as a drug, even if they are not yet of one voice in the majority that cannabis prohibition has of course, failed.

Regardless, German recreational, just as medical reform was before it, is a huge, huge step which will drive other countries across the region forward too.

Malta and Luxembourg will Lead the Way

It is a sign of how convoluted the Dutch situation is, if not national position, generally, that the island of Malta led the way on actual, formal, federal, recreational cannabis reform within the European Union (EU). Indeed, if there are analogies to be made, Holland is kind of like the European California—creating a market that exists in the grey areas but is only now facing a discussion (and further one far from complete) about how to federally regulate the industry.

Luxembourg also, it appears, was just hanging back until another country took the leap, despite promising the same in 2018 as a new coalition government took the reins there. Now there is no excuse for any more delays.

Portugal will also inevitably now enact reform as soon as the smoke from the general election early next year clears—and no matter who wins. The country needs an economic boost—either from tourism or exports, and this is a natural solution.

Beyond this, Spain may well follow a Dutch model to formalize production for its clubs rather than coffee shops in the next 12 to 24 months.

Also expect to see Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece and potentially outliers like Belgium begin to move with the herd, even if in the creation of experimental markets. This may or may not start to happen next year, but it will most certainly catch on within the next 24 months.

The Swiss Wild Card

Do not forget, of course, that the Swiss began preparing for a recreational trial rollout that now has a calendar date set for actual lift off in 2022. Companies have been submitting and obtaining approvals for the last eight months or so.

The beginning of this market, with its own strange requirements and rules, will also inevitably drive discussions and the shape of reform just across the DACH if not other EU borders the country shares with other countries. Everyone will be watching what goes down in Der Schweitz—including the unique waiving and blending of certain kinds of certifications—including but not limited to Novel Food and GMP.

Other Notables (or Not)

Try as they might to get some respect, the British cannabis industry, such as it is, has weathered difficult times, and these do not seem at least for now, to be ending any time soon. 

In contrast to the British on both European membership and cannabis reform, North Macedonia will inevitably play a role in the immediate future, even if just as a source of cheaper flower and oil extracts.

Poland is also still teetering on the brink of actual if not accessible medical reform, but expect this now also to speed up.

The Growth of Import Markets Serving Europe

The year 2021 was notable for another reason. Feeder markets will target EU if not Germany at their founder’s mandate, continued to grow. This means that no matter what happens with future cultivation discussions, in any country, starting with Germany, there will be no shortage of other certified cannabis from countries all over the globe at this point, looking for a German home. 

For this reason, there will be significant downward pressure on both the medical and “other” flower and biomass discussions.

Bottom Line On 2021?

If there is an analogy to be made, the situation in Europe now on the ground looks a great deal like the conversation in the U.S. in 2012, post presidential election that returned Obama to his second term in office. Namely, two states, Colorado and Washington State, voted on state mandates to create state markets. They both bloomed in 2014—and the rest, as they say, is history.

The developments this year in Europe, and even some of the stuttering delays, no matter their cause or ultimate resolutions, resemble this period, in many ways. And that spells great news for the industry, on all fronts.

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Aurora Cannabis Delivers First Shipment of Cannabis to France

Aurora Cannabis officially shipped out its first shipment of “free” dried cannabis flower to be given to a select number of patients in France.

A subsidiary of Aurora Cannabis Inc., Aurora Germany GmbH, partnered with Ethypharm to deliver the first shipment of cannabis medicine to France to be used in the country’s medical cannabis pilot program. Both Aurora and Ethypharm were chosen by the National Agency for Safety Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) to deliver dried flower for use by French patients.

Both companies signed an agreement to work with the ANSM in October 2020. In the agreement, Aurora confirmed it would deliver medical cannabis from the company’s largest European facility, Aurora Nordic. Ethypharm is in charge of distribution of the dried flower throughout France. According to the program, companies will participate knowing that the product they send would be “free of charge.”

According to Aurora’s Chief Executive Officer, Miguel Martin, this is a great honor for the company. “The first prescriptions of dried medical cannabis as part of the French pilot program are a significant step toward providing access to patients and will support the destigmatization of medical cannabis in France,” Martin said in a press statement.

The statement continued, “This accomplishment is another example of Aurora’s leadership in global cannabis, with a proven track record of supporting the advancement of international medical cannabis markets alongside government bodies. By demonstrating a deep commitment to compliance and focus on product quality, we won three of the nine available tenders. If successful, this pilot program could lead to one of the largest regulated medical cannabis markets in Europe.”

Ethypharm’s Chief Commercial Operations Officer, Jean Monin, declared his honor in the company being chosen to assist French medical cannabis patients. “Combining our pharmaceutical skills is, in our view, the right approach to build trust and confidence in medical cannabis for the long term in France,” said Monin. “We want to be a driving force to support patients suffering from chronic pain when there is no other therapeutic option than medical cannabis. With our deep expertise in disorders of the central nervous system and an expertise in highly regulated medicines, we are well prepared to collaborate with the health authorities and physicians.”

There are three types of dried flower being shipped to France currently: Aurora 20/1 XPE (high-THC), Aurora 8/8 XPE (balanced amount of THC and CBD) and Aurora 1/12 XPE (high-CBD). The flower will be consumed using a vaporizer from STORZ & BICKEL.

When the French government announced this effort on October 7, 2020, it referred to the program as an “experiment.” The initial decree noted that the program would last for “a period of two years from the prescription to the first patient and no later than March 31, 2021,” and will serve up to 3,000 patients.

Nadine Attal, a pain specialist who works at the Ambroise-Paré hospital in Paris, France and is one of the committee members who will oversee the experiment. “There is a group of patients who respond very, very, very well to this product, particularly those who have chronic pain that is resistant to everything else,” she told Radio France Internationale in an interview.

Attal also mentioned that this effort isn’t a scientific trial and there won’t be a placebo given to some patients. Rather, this is a way for researchers to analyze the “real-life use” of cannabis as a medicine. “We will learn more about the kinds of patients who respond, and we’ll be able to identify side effects, like vertigo, drowsiness, fatigue,” she described.

Aurora Cannabis is one of six companies participating in France’s medical cannabis program. This includes Australian companies Althea and Little Green Pharma, Canadian company Tilray, Israel-based Panaxia and Emmac Life Sciences from the UK. The participating companies are all foreign because cannabis flower that contains THC over 0.2 percent is illegal in France.

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