It’s Official: New Ruling German Coalition to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use

Even the most die-hard “medical only” German voices within the cannabis industry have been posting the news all over their social media including LinkedIn for the past week, even before the news was official. But as of Wednesday, that has changed, officially. The new so-called “Traffic Light Coalition” will indeed be legalizing recreational use cannabis with a bill to do so introduced in the German Bundestag next year.

For those who have fought for the same, in the trenches, for years if not decades, it is an exciting moment. It is also electrifying the industry, which now has over 100 medical cannabis specialty distribution licenses, a growing patient base (estimated 100,000 at this point), and a topic that just will not quit. Particularly as the Swiss (in part, a German language country) are doing the same thing. This is particularly momentous given the timing. Germany might even beat Luxembourg into the recreational discussion within the European Union.

That said, no matter how exciting, the devil, as always, is in the details. How much, what exactly, and how it will be implemented is all still up in the air. Cannabis is still not actually decriminalized, and there are all sorts of strange pieces of case law and to be changed statutes still very much in the room.

What Is Known So Far

The reason this is such a big deal is that the announcement comes as the three parties who won the most votes in the federal election in September have sealed the deal to work together with a common plank that includes cannabis reform (along with phasing out coal by 2030 while also having at least 15 million electric cars on the road). After that, it is just a matter of crafting the legislation and introducing it into the German parliament. Unlike the U.S., where there have been multiple, unsuccessful attempts to pass a federal legalization bill, this one is almost guaranteed to pass. The Germans are funny like that.

Here is what is actually official. In a statement released by the SDP, Greens and FDP, this is what the coalition plans to do. “We are introducing the controlled supply of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores. This controls the quality [of marijuana], prevents the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantees the protection of minors.”

The government will review the experiment in four years to determine the impact (including economically and socially). That said, there is little chance such a forward step would be rolled back.

Issues And Problems Along the Way

It is not like this is going to be smooth sailing. There are a few major issues to address. Chief among those is how to amend the country’s federal narcotics law. Cannabis, including CBD, is considered a narcotic. This is already out of step with EU policy on the same (with a pending lawsuit to change that). Regardless, add THC to the mix, and there is going to be some fancy footwork and legal eagling to make the change happen not only in the new legislation, but that which governs and regulates the medical variety.

German Impact

There is little doubt that Germany’s move to recreational cannabis will forward the debate across Europe—and potentially in the same timeframe as it has impacted the medical conversation. Just four years ago, the concept of using medical cannabis even for pain relief was a very strange, often socially unacceptable topic. Today, there are about 100,000 German patients.

The Germans may not have arrived yet, but they are certainly on the way.

This is absolutely a Colorado if not Canadian tipping point. However, it may also be one that is not just about Germany, or even Europe, but an international and global one.

Coming as it is on the international news of Mexico implementing recreational reform by year’s end and Italians potentially having the ability to vote on legalizing personal possession and home grow as of next spring, not to mention both Luxembourg and Switzerland definitely moving ahead with their own recreational markets, it is clear that full and final cannabis reform is now a mainstream topic and goal on a federal level of many countries.

This will also, undoubtedly spur on the debate in the U.S. If Germany can do this, less than four years after federal legalization of its medical market, what is the U.S. waiting for? Or for that matter China? In the latter case, with a corporate real estate market melting down, perhaps finally, and on a global scale, cannabis will be considered a great if not green and global investment.

In the meantime, the last days of Prohibition have clearly arrived and on a global level.

The post It’s Official: New Ruling German Coalition to Legalize Recreational Cannabis Use appeared first on High Times.

Few Medical Cannabis Licenses in Portugal Have Been Awarded

Ever since Tilray decamped for Portugal during the early days of the German cannabis cultivation bid circa 2017, the country has been touted as “the place” within the European Union (EU) for the German distributors to source their product.

That said, the actual progress of the industry has been a little slower than that—in part because of the length of time it takes for legislative change to happen. Indeed, it was not until April 15 of this year that Ministerial Order No. 83/2021 was finally published. According to local legal practitioners, at least, this order also has clarified a great many practical aspects of the application process. This includes reference prices.

Looking at the progress of cultivation licenses, however, and the proof is in the pudding. To date, there have been 114 applications for the cultivation of cannabis to the National Medicines Agency (Infarmed). Of these, just 23 are “under analysis,” 11 are awaiting a response from the cultivators, and 61 are waiting to be inspected (a major issue facing almost every budding cannabis cultivator thanks to COVID.)

Here are a few more dampening statistics. Of the 19 currently operational cannabis cultivation facilities, only three can manufacture medical grade extracts and products. One of these is in business solely for the purposes of providing “quality control.” The remaining facilities are in business to cultivate the plant as a “raw material,” or, of great interest of course to every German distributor looking for new sources of EU cultivated product, “active substances.”

What, exactly, is going on?

EU GMP Is Not an Easy Certification

Despite its reputation to the contrary, including the now pending legislative move to formally legalize adult-use cannabis, the medical authorities here are very strict. They must be. They are the country’s version of the Federal Drug Administration (or FDA).

Indeed, it was only this February that Tilray announced that it had received the first and only market authorization for medical cannabis products in Portugal. This means that everyone else is cultivating for export to other countries (notably Germany). Many German distributors (for starters) are currently importing raw flower (or flos) as “Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients” or APIs. There is clearly a market for the same.

Getting a medical license also takes capital. And it is also very clear that Portugal is also not the only game in town. Greek, Macedonian and, as of this year, African cannabis is also starting to enter the room.

Further, while there is a great deal of enthusiasm, generally, about the coming cannabis revolution on the recreational side, the medical game remains, as always, a difficult nut to crack, even after the capital has been raised. This is not always a popular task to take, but it is clear that when the dust clears, Infarmed is not interested in being just a pass-through agency.

According to Rob Smallman, a highly experienced Canadian cultivator who has been involved in multiple European projects, including in Portugal, “experience and a focus on the actual business in the room is a far better strategy than just satisfying investors.”

Michael Sassano, CEO and founder of SOMAI Pharmaceuticals as well as the recent recipient of an innovative product grant by the Portugal 2020 committee, concurs. “Cannabis entrepreneurs need to know exactly what they are doing to succeed and receive full certification,” he said. “Medical cannabis growing, and manufacturing requires more than just a lot of capital. It requires deep knowledge of regulations and GMP standards plus serious knowledge of the cannabis plant to surpass timely building, operational, and international sales goals.”

Portugal 2020 is a partnership agreement between Portugal and the European Commission to fund policy goals of interest to both member states and the EU as a whole.

Domestically, however, there is another catch. In a land known rather infamously if not accurately as “anything goes,” on the “illicit drug” front, cannabis as medicine is just as foreign here as it is everywhere else. Not to mention, just like everywhere else, medical cannabis is very expensive. The monthly price tag of about $600 is out of reach to most, if not many.

What Impact Does Pending Recreational Reform Mean for Portugal?

There are several answers to this question. The first and most obvious one is “nothing” since Infarmed only regulates a medical market, not a broader consumer one (more like BfArM in Germany than the FDA in the United States).

However, this is also not the only answer. Forward reform of Portugal’s legislative approach to recreational reform has repeatedly stalled, even as both Switzerland (outside of the EU) and Luxembourg (within it) have progressed.

There is of course this twist. Just like the Czech Republic (and Switzerland) have now started to discuss (and Holland has been in the midst of the same since 2017 when Dutch insurers stopped covering the drug the same month the German Bundestag or Parliament, voted to cover it under Deutsch public health insurance), the entire discussion of “medical” cannabis is coming under scrutiny. Particularly for domestic use, rather than foreign export.

This is a simmering issue. But it is bound to stay in the room, particularly given the advance of overall cannabis reform across Europe.

In the meantime, it is clear that Portugal is proving to be a stringent port of call for all things medically cannabis related—and far from just a pass-through cultivation or extraction state.

The post Few Medical Cannabis Licenses in Portugal Have Been Awarded appeared first on High Times.

New German Government Plans to Legalize Cannabis

Politicians forming Germany’s new government have agreed to a plan to legalize cannabis use by adults and provide for regulated marijuana sales, according to media reports last week. The plan for the legalization of cannabis in Germany comes following September’s election for the Bundestag, the nation’s federal parliament.

The election brought down the Christian Democratic Union, which had led the government under Chancellor Angela Merkle for 16 years. Representatives of the center-left Social Democrats Party (SPD), which garnered the most votes in the federal election, are now negotiating with leaders of the environmentalist Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) to form a ruling coalition and establish a new government.

Last week, newspaper publisher Funke Mediengruppe reported that negotiators for the three parties had agreed to a plan to legalize cannabis in Germany that includes regulated retail sales to adults.

“We’re introducing the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for consumption in licensed stores,” an unidentified spokesperson for the coalition said. “This will control the quality, prevent the transfer of contaminated substances and guarantee the protection of minors. We will evaluate the law after four years for social impact.”

The announcement seems to confirm a report earlier this month that representatives of the parties were including cannabis legalization in their discussions to establish the ruling coalition.

“Negotiators for the Social Democrats, Greens and pro-business Free Democrats are hammering out the details, including conditions under which the sale and use of recreational cannabis would be allowed and regulated, according to people familiar with the talks, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private,” Bloomberg wrote on Nov. 10.

Both the Green party and the FDP have called for cannabis to be legalized in Germany for recreational purposes for years. And in its party platform for this year’s election, the SPD characterized cannabis as a “social reality,” according to a report by the Independent, and advocated for an “appropriate political way of dealing with this.” The coalition government still must be formalized and a new chancellor to replace Merkle, who declined to run for reelection to the Bundestag, must be named before reforms can be put into place, however.

Medical Cannabis Legalized in Germany in 1998

Germany legalized cannabis for medical purposes in 1998, and in 2017 expanded the program to cover more patients, permit domestic production, and relax rules on the importation and exportation of cannabis products to and from other countries. But a bill to legalize recreational marijuana failed last year after the ruling coalition failed to support it.

Avihu Tamir, CEO and founder U.K.-based medical cannabis company Kanabo Group, said that cannabis legalization in Germany, Europe’s most populated country, could energize efforts at reform throughout the continent. Although the Netherlands has a long-held policy of tolerating cannabis use and sales and Luxembourg passed legislation allowing personal cultivation and use of cannabis last month, most of the European Union continues to maintain prohibitionist policies toward non-medical uses of marijuana.

“Germany’s decision to legalize cannabis is not just a game-changer for Germany, but a gamechanger for all of Europe,” Tamir told Cannabis Now in an email. “Even before the deal is finalized, countries across the EU will begin their own process toward legalization as they race to catch up and reap the financial rewards that legalization will offer.”

With only medicinal uses of cannabis legalized so far, Germany is already Europe’s largest market for legal cannabis. And if the country expands reform to include recreational use, the economic impact could be a tempting reason for other nations to follow suit.

“Some reports predict the cannabis market in Germany could add around 3.4 billion euros in tax revenue to the nation’s economy every year,” said Tamir. “The legal cannabis market in Europe is predicted to be worth 3.2 billion euros by 2025 – but this move by Germany could see that increase. At that level of revenue, and at a time when countries edge closer to more lockdowns and the hit to economies that will follow, this is a no brainer for governments and leaders.”

But not all Germans are ready to take the step of cannabis legalization. When news broke last month that the incoming coalition was considering legalizing cannabis, Oliver Malchow, the head of the GdP German police union (GdP), told the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung that he could not support the plan.

“There must finally be an end to trivializing the joint,” said Malchow, adding that the country already sees enough trouble from “legal but dangerous” alcohol. It does not make sense, he argued, to “open the door to another dangerous and often trivialized drug” such as cannabis.

And Rainer Wendt, the chairman of Germany’s second police officer’s union DPolG, said that legalizing cannabis will lead to an increase in traffic collisions.

“It would be the beginning of a stoned future instead of the launch of a modern Germany,” he said.

The post New German Government Plans to Legalize Cannabis appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Marijuana in Germany: Will Weed Finally be Legalized?

Throughout its history, Germany has held conservative laws around cannabis. But with recent election results, weed might finally be legalized. The country recently had its election in September, where the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), Germany’s centre-left party, won over the Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU). The CDU is the nation’s centre-right party and has […]

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Exploring Cannabis Culture: Berlin

‘All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!’ – John F. Kennedy

In the latest article in our series on cannabis culture around the world, we’ll be flying over to Berlin. As you may know, we define cannabis culture as the way that cannabis can be perceived and treated within a society, city or country.’  Of course this doesn’t just mean Cannabis alone, but also includes all of the separate cannabinoids that we find in the Cannabis plant – CBD and THC for example – So polish of your lederhosen, find your 99 red balloons and prepare to ‘sprechen sie deutsch‘ as we jet over to the capital city of Germany and investigate the weed culture in Berlin.

Cannabis is gaining popularity across the globe. In Europe, the laws are still a bit more strict than in the United States, but in many regions, recreational marijuana use is quickly becoming the new norm. To learn more about changing regulations and emerging trends, make sure to subscribe to The Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter, your hub for all things cannabis-related, including more articles like this one and exclusive deals on flowers, vapes, edibles, and other legal products.

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Berlin 

Berlin is located on the river Spree in the North East of Germany. A large city, with a lot of history, its population is nearly 4 million, making it the biggest city in the European Union, though not in Europe. Founded in the 12th Century, Berlin has seen its fair share of historical events. Under Frederick the Great’s rule it became the centre of the Enlightenment, it was also home to the expressionist movement and of course was integral both during and after World War Two. Famously being split between the West, a more liberal and capitalist city and the East, part of the USSR where life was a lot bleaker and tough. The Berlin wall became an iconic, but tragic reminder of the differences between the East and the West especially during the war. It prompted artworks and songs, such as Lou Reed’s Berlin:

“In Berlin, by the wall

You were five foot ten inches tall

It was very nice

Candlelight and Dubonnet on ice”

Since the fall of the wall, Berlin has now become one of the most lively and happening places in Europe and is full of famous clubs, bars and sights to see making it an unmissable stop on anyone’s road-trip through Europe and it’s attitude to Cannabis and drugs has lead to it becoming a mainstay on any drug trip around Europe too.

Here are some of the top places to visit in Barcelona, the beautiful horizon, some famous sites and scenes to see.

The Berghain 

Arguably the most famous club not just in Berlin, but in the whole of Europe, the Berghain has become a icon of exclusivity. People call it a church, a way of life, an institution. It’s near impossible to get in as the bouncers will assess everybody and only allow those deemed to have the right vibe are allowed to enter. Once inside an incredible, techno dream awaits, where liberal attitudes to sex and drugs keep the party going from Saturday to Monday… If you can get in, it’s worth the wait.

The Reichstag

The seat of the German government, this building is an iconic symbol of what Berlin has been through. It’s been re-built, it housed the Nazis, it was bombed and now, with its glass centre, it’s a must visit part of the city. Make sure you book a trip to the very top of the glass dome for a view over Berlin.

Cannabis in Berlin

So, what is the cannabis culture like on the streets of Berlin? It appears that Berlin’s relationship with Cannabis dates back quite far. An urn from around 500BC was found containing Cannabis plants and seeds, suggesting that the city has an ancient connection to Cannabis. It is not a rare sight to see and smell people smoking cannabis around the city and the attitude towards drugs in general in Berlin is quite relaxed. However, the possession and selling of Cannabis in Germany is illegal. This doesn’t stop the millions of Germans from smoking Cannabis, Statista found that Germans were the joint tenth highest population in Europe, and other studies have shown a general increase in young people smoking cannabis in Germany and in Berlin too, so let’s examine the laws in Berlin in a little more detail.

Is It Legal?

Simply put, no… Cannabis possession and selling is not legal in Berlin or Germany. The German Federal Narcotics act made sure of that. If caught in possession of any drugs, including Cannabis, you could face up to five years in prison. But, whilst possessing the drug is listed as an offence, using it isn’t. If someone is caught smoking Cannabis, the punishment isn’t always that severe. Germany use a ‘treatment over punishment’ approach which means you’re more likely to get a telling off than a severe prison sentence if you’re found smoking cannabis. What’s more, the law actually says that if you’re caught with a ‘small amount’ then you’re not really committing an offence. The term small amount varies from region to region in Germany, but in Berlin it is up to 15 grams, the highest amount in the whole of Germany, again making Berlin the hot spot of the country.

Illegal

So possessing a small amount of cannabis is legal, but what happens if you’re caught with more than 15g in the city. The punishment for the possession of drugs can range from a $30,000 fine, to up to two years in prison. Under the Narcotics Act, Cannabis is listed as Appendix 1, what this means is that it’s in the least severe category of drugs, but still if found with a large amount, a prosecution can occur. Even though it is illegal, anecdotal accounts of smoking Cannabis in Berlin is that often the police don’t take notice, or if they do you are more likely going to be asked to give up the cannabis rather than being directly punished, much like in London and Barcelona too.

Legal 

Some forms of Cannabis consumption are actually legal in Germany and Berlin. As stated above, having a small amount of the drug means you’re likely to escape prosecution, but there are also other forms of legal cannabis you can acquire in the city. As with all members of the EU, the use and sale of CBD is totally legal, and there are loads of great CBD shops around the city offering all sorts of useful CBD products. Also, medical Cannabis has been legal since 2017. Medical Cannabis is available to pick up from the pharmacy with a prescription for patients on chemotherapy and with certain disorders and diseases, such as multiple sclerosis. This was pushed through after lobbying from the Left and Green parties in the country and shows the forward thinking attitudes towards the benefits of Cannabis in the city.

The City’s General Attitude to Cannabis 

Even though the laws are a little tough on drug use, Berlin has become famous for its relaxed nature around them. People go to Berlin to rave and party and it is very easy to acquire drugs in the city. There are a number of parades hosted in the city, such as the love parade and the hemp parade that celebrate the city’s attitude to drug culture and party lifestyles. 

The Love Parade

The Love parade started in 1989 as a political protest against the Berlin wall, but quickly ended up being one of the most famous celebrations of rave culture in the world. People openly smoke cannabis and take drugs in this marching celebration of all things rave, that makes its way through the city.

The Hemp Parade 

As the English homepage for the event states: The Hanfparade (“Hemp parade”) is the largest and most traditional march for Cannabis as medicine, natural resource and recreational drug in Germany.” The march celebrates Cannabis for all of its glorious reasons. Thousands of people protest in the city for the legalisation of the drug and enjoy music, food and all the fun of a festival whilst also raising awareness of the properties of the cannabis plant. Again, this shows the fun loving attitude and relaxed, positive view of Cannabis in Berlin.

The Hemp museum

In the centre of the city you can even find a hemp museum, celebrating the multitude of uses the plan has, from pharmaceuticals to medicines, the museum showcases just how brilliant the Cannabis plant and its products are and offers an optimistic view of a future that focuses on getting the best from Hemp and cannabis.

Conclusion

Berlin is a beautiful city, full of history and fun-loving city members. It’s seen its fair share of hardship over the many years of its existence, but now seems to be in a cultural glory decade, hosting some of the most famous clubs, the largest Cannabis marches and the most open minded attitude of most European cities. With the legalization of medical Cannabis, we can hope that over the next few years, the already relaxed attitude will grow even more so. Remember that if you visit the city, a ‘small amount’ is pretty much legal, but still do be careful as there’s a little way to go before complete legalization. Auf Wiedersehen… for now.

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How Will the German Elections Impact the Recreational Cannabis Market?

The German national election is over, and the results are in. The Cliff’s Notes version of the same is that there has been an upset in the German electoral map in a way that is still reverberating in political circles as coalition talks about which parties will form the new government get underway. 

There are a few issues that most of those parties, which saw the greatest gains this time around all agree on. And the good news for the industry, patients and those who want a recreational market is that this inevitably spells more cannabis reform.

It is for precisely this reason that the German cannabis question is currently all abuzz in the industry domestically because everyone knows that the status quo will not stand. The medical industry has been hamstrung by quality and production issues. Beyond this, there are numerous burdensome insurance requirements and the general refusal of doctors to engage with the same—just on a financial level—let alone matters of efficacy.  

Then, of course, there is the famed German common sense that has begun to filter through the debate, starting with the fact that there have been a few too many high-profile flubs of late—including one of the largest German grocery chains (and one of the top grocery retailers in the world) being raided in August, by the police. All developments are signs that the status quo will not stand much longer. 

There is already a lawsuit now pending, and from the business community, about the classification of CBD—and the need to remove it from the German Narcotics Act to bring this into line with the decision on a European level last year that this cannabinoid is not a narcotic.

However at this juncture, change beyond just CBD is also clearly on the cards.

According to Christian Lindner, the FDP’s power broker, known for his election slogan of wie est ist, darf es nicht bleiben (things cannot stay the way they are), the legalization of cannabis is the issue that will bring the new ruling coalition together.

What is Likely to Happen in the German Market

While any speculation about who will make up the ruling coalition, much less specific policies likely to come of the same at this point is just that, there are a few trends, if not statements, that are likely to drive a coalition of several parties on broad issues. 

Given this as well as suitably vague comments from those doing the brokering, it is also likely that the SPD, which won just under 26 percent of the vote, will partner in a coalition government with both the FDP (economic liberal party) which also gained significantly in the elections (11.5 percent) and the Greens (14.8 percent). 

Regardless of what happens specifically, all parties with the exception of the extreme right wing Alternativ für Deutschland or AfD (which lost votes nationally this time) have a much more progressive outlook about cannabis than the CDU. This means, generally, it is also safe to assume at minimum that decriminalization is on the agenda for sure within the next several years, and potentially recreational cannabis trials too (see Switzerland if not Luxembourg not to mention developments in Portugal and Holland at minimum). 

The second discussion is going to be a much harder fought battle at least politically, but it is also clear that it cannot be avoided completely anymore.

Things Cannot Stay the Same

This election is, absolutely, one of the most momentous in Germany, if not Europe, since the end of WWII. That is how long the CDU has been the ruling party here—and its defeat, even if by a whisker, as well as patterns of defections of voters to other parties tells its own story to those with an interest in German if not European politics more generally.

When it comes to cannabis specifically, it is clear that Germans generally, are fed up with the ridiculous nature of the mish mash of cannabis regulations that currently cause problems for everyone. Even GMP distributors have been raided. For the burgeoning CBD specialty market, a visit from the fuzz is almost a rite of passage. On the patient side of the conversation, jail terms for patients is not a conversation that wins points with many in the political class. 

Beyond this, it is also clear that Europe, if not the EU, is moving slowly to a more serious conversation about cannabis reform and of a kind that is a bit more momentous than just decrim.

The Swiss recreational trial is going to have an impact on the willingness of the German industry to push some kind of reform forward that might, depending on how active the advocacy and business community is, result in some kind of recreational trial in the nation’s largest cities. 

Germany is also no longer in a cannabis vacuum in Europe (not that it ever really was). Just across another border, Holland is getting a national market going within Europe. And no matter what the news coming out of Luxembourg of late (namely that they may delay their recreational trial because of a potential influx of cannatourists from neighbouring countries including Germany), this is not going to be delayed forever. 

While it is not likely that Luxembourg will delay their market until Germany moves on a recreational trial, what is entirely possible is that a softening of cannabis policy here will also allow other European countries to move forward with other kinds of change now clearly in the cards.

Beyond these developments as well as what is currently afoot in Switzerland, the news that the Czech Republic is reconsidering its discussion with cannabis (including allowing up to one percent THC in its hemp crops) has basically created a situation where the Germans are literally surrounded if not outnumbered by Europeans now agreeing to treat cannabis with low or no THC like any other plant, and cannabis with higher levels more like alcohol than a narcotic drug. 

The conversation just within the DACH trade alliance (Switzerland, Austria, and Germany) is also likely to be an interesting one.

Regardless, given the current untenable market conditions for most, the huge costs of a solely pharmaceutically inclined cultivation, production and distribution market, pent-up forces which have continued to push for reform, will be able to move the needle forward more than incrementally over the next few years.

How far, exactly, however, this is likely to go and how quickly is another question altogether.

Regardless, change is clearly in the offing—and further as a political issue with little negative impact and a whole lot of upside—namely creating a big “issue” that the majority of parties now likely to drive the political agenda can agree on.

One thing is for certain. Further reform of a federal kind in the U.S. will absolutely impact the conversation. And in the meantime, the European states are lining up to begin experimenting with full reform in a way that is starting to look very familiar to Americans with experience in both markets. 

The national change of power in Deutschland is only going to support such moves in this direction—both nationally and across the region. 

The post How Will the German Elections Impact the Recreational Cannabis Market? appeared first on High Times.

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.

Jamaican Cannabis Flower Now Available in Germany

Australia-based Cannim is partnering with Germany-based Cantourage to help bring Jamaican cannabis to German pharmacies.

Cannim is one of the leading cannabis cultivators in Jamaica, which plans to utilize Cantourage’s Fast Track Access Platform to sell its flower product, called Lumir, in Germany. The platform offers what Cantourage calls an “end-to-end solution.” While Cannim focuses on cultivating a high-quality product, Cantourage will control everything related to importation, manufacturing and pharmacy distribution abroad.

Although Jamaica is well-known for both its historical roots in cannabis, as well as its unique cannabis products, it isn’t commonly found outside of the Caribbean country. Cantourage Co-CEO Philip Schetter is proud to help bring a potent Jamaican cannabis product to medical patients abroad. “We are delighted to offer patients in Germany this unprecedented opportunity by bringing medical cannabis from Jamaica into the fast-growing European medical cannabis market for the first time,” Schetter said in a press release.

He continued, “We are excited to offer Cannim’s high-quality indica-dominant Lumir flowers in Europe and to further create access to the European market for medical cannabis from across the world through our platform. Cantourage continues to provide innovative cultivars and a safe, diverse supply for patients.” Lumir’s indica-dominant flowers are available in German pharmacies starting today, August 19.

Cantourage launched its Fast Track Access Platform in June 2021. In a press release, Schetter noted that the European market is dominated by just a few companies that have been able to clear all of the hurdles required to sell medical cannabis in that region. With Cantourage’s platform, Schetter hopes to help the pool of options for medical cannabis patients to expand—and more competition will also help make cannabis medicine more affordable for patients as well. Now, over 14 cultivators are using the Fast Track Access Platform.

Cannabis intended for patients in Germany must meet many regulations, and Lumir fits the bill. Cannim’s Chief Commercial Officer, Stuart Marsh, is equally honored to be approved to sell Lumir outside of Jamaica. “Germany represents an exciting opportunity for Cannim,” Marsh said. “Our ability to cultivate high quality, medical grade Jamaican cannabis that meets the strict standards of the German Pharmacopoeia is testament to the experience and expertise of our team in Jamaica.

“With our 500-acre plantation and over six cultivation circles per year, Cannim ensures continuous supply of medicinal cannabis all year round. Our partnership with Cantourage allows us to introduce our products to the European market and provide new therapy options for patients,” Marsh concluded.

The Lumir product line is named after Professor Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, an analytical chemist from the Czech Republic whose experience in cannabis research began nearly 50 years ago. One of his most famous contributions to the cannabis world includes isolating the endocannabinoid known as anandamide. He has also published his findings in numerous scientific studies on cannabis topics, and has written 16 cannabis-related articles as well. These research efforts have earned him multiple awards, the most recent being a Lifetime Achievement Award at CanEx in Jamaica in 2018.

The Lumir product line will consist of sending “Lumir flowers to pharmacies in Germany, giving German patients and doctors reliable and ongoing access to the natural, high-quality Jamaican product.” The press release confirms the transportation of cannabis flower, but does not verify if Cannim will eventually offer its line of three different 30mL tincture blends, which are currently available in Australia: The “10:10 Balanced” product that contains 10mg THC and 10mg CBD, “THC 27” that contains 27mg THC (and less than or equal to 1mg CBD) and “CBD 50” with 50mg CBD (and less than or equal to 1mg THC).

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