The European Union is planning on adopting Germany’s approach to medical cannabis regulation, according to the European Medicinal Cannabis Association (EUMCA).
The move is in keeping with the United States and Canada’s wave of cannabis legalisation in recent years, which has resulted in a huge spike in tax revenue.
“Our main priority is informing national and EU institutions about the opportunity that this treatment is offering,” said Sita Schubert, secretary general of EUMCA.
“The use of cannabis for medical purposes was forbidden for so many years due to the strong national laws on narcotics that there was no opportunity of gaining experience with cannabis,” she added.
Medical cannabis is already available in a few EU countries, however differing laws surrounding cannabis throughout the EU makes it complicated for patients to have legal access to their prescribed medicines when travelling to countries with dissimilar rules.
The United Kingdom, the Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Italy and Malta are a few of the other EU countries which have currently enabled medical cannabis to be available for the treatment of a small number of medical conditions.
Analysts have also now suggested that “four or five” cannabis companies could be publicly listed on the European Stock Market in 2020.
“I think there will be four or five companies quoted in twelve months’ time”, Nikolaas Faes, an analyst for Bryan Garnier told Reuters on the sidelines of a cannabis industry conference.
The interest in the cannabis industry from the EU has almost come too late, as the North American market experienced a “green rush” at the beginning of the year, when a number of states decided to legalise weed along with Canada making it legal for recreational use.
Stock markets in the EU missed out on the earliest growth stages of the cannabis industry and could now be entering the market at a stage where growth appears to have stagnated, mainly due to a variety of issues including oversupply of product, job losses and licensing not moving fast enough to enable strong growth.
Canadian cannabis conglomerate Aurora Cannabis owns the subsidiary Aurora Europe which was established in 2017 and is based in Berlin. The company is now seeking to reform the medical cannabis market within the EU and supply medical cannabis across the continent.
Across the EU, cannabis has been being utilised within the medical field at an increasing rate over the past year, with Germany remaining at the forefront of the movement with more than 142,000 prescriptions being issued for cannabis-based medicines since the country enabled them to be a viable option for health professionals to prescribe in 2017.
In Germany cannabis is legal for medicinal use, although recent statements from Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party has surprisingly suggested that it should be legalised and decriminalised for recreational use.
“Cannabis could be freed for personal use, of course with controlled production and distribution,” said the CDU interior policy spokesman Marian Wendt. She added that “the resources freed in the police and judiciary should be used to fight the illegal trade”.
Under the current German narcotics laws (Betäubungsmittelgesetz) it states that despite possession and purchasing drugs being a criminal offence that can carry up to five years in prison, authorities are not required to prosecute for small quantities of narcotics for personal consumption, unless the case disturbed ‘public interest’, for example if the use was in public or near minors.
The offences also depend on what type of drugs are involved and the quantity, with most states (Länder) in Germany having their own definition of what is classed as a small quantity, with cannabis varying from around 6 grams in most states to 15 grams in Berlin.
Under German laws the consumption of any narcotics is not illegal, and cannabis has been viewed as a casual topic for a few years within the country, where the Global Marijuana March has been taking place since 2011 along with The Hanfparade (Hemp Parade), a hemp legalisation demonstration which has taken place every year since the late 90s.
The move to allow for medical cannabis in 2017 is heralded as a success by both those in the health field and individuals utilising the prescriptions, and the success shown may be contributing to convincing other EU countries to follow suit.
Before the legislation was passed, only 1000 patients in Germany had been prescribed medical cannabis. Now the national cannabis association Deutscher Hanfverband (DHV) has estimated that around 60,000 health insurance patients are currently being prescribed medical cannabis.
The accelerated rate at which German citizens are utilising the benefits of medicinal cannabis has put Germany at number three on the list of the top largest markets for cannabis-based products outside North America.
This is why the EU is so keen on taking a leaf out of Germany’s book, especially in light of the Eurozone crisis and economic downturn that the European Union has seen in recent years.
Mounting debt in countries like Cyprus, Greece and Spain has impacted the whole of the EU, with bailouts in the billions being commonplace over the past decade. However, with Europe being twice the size of the United States in terms of population, a move to legalise cannabis, even at a medicinal level, could well spur economic growth and investment.
Malta is a prime example of how a tiny country with a population of 500,000 can become an industry leader in emerging fields.
The Mediterranean island off the coast of Sicily is forecast to see its GDP grow by 6.4% over the next year, beating every other EU nation.
Maltese Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Business, Chris Cardona, stated that in just six months the European cannabis industry has grown more than it did in the previous five years, and that in ten years it could be worth a staggering €55 billion.
“The biggest mistake we can do is to underestimate the scale and the potential of this market,” he added. “We only have to look at how the market is growing in Canada, in the States and China. There is predominance of Chinese patents, suggesting that pharmaceutical science is evolving quickly in China, outpacing Western capabilities.”