All Eyes on Europe!

Stephen Andrews
27 Oct 2021

The cannabis movement has been gaining momentum in continental Europe in the last few months. The medical sector is the main driving force behind the growth of the budding industry, nevertheless, a number of countries are considering upgrading their adult-use legislation as well. Exciting times are ahead across the pond!

According to some estimates, by 2025, Europe's cannabis market could be valued at €3.2 billion ($3.7 bn). The European Cannabis Report suggests that approximately 60,000 people were able to access pot medicines for the first time in Europe during 2020. The continent served roughly 185,000 medical patients throughout the year. 

The same report says that the value of the European pot market will hit € 406 million ($471 million) by the end of 2021, an approximate growth of 75% compared to last year. Over the next four years, the medical sector is projected to exponential growth, as well as the continent's commerce of recreational pot goods.

Last week, Luxembourg, only a tiny spot on the map of Europe, announced its new decriminalization laws that will benefit the country's population of roughly 600,000. Luxembourg is one of the six founding members of the European Union, and it's set to become the first government within the union that will have a fully legal cannabis market and allow homegrowing up to four plants for personal use. 

While the Luxembourg market might be minuscule, big European countries like Italy and Germany might join the club very soon! Decriminalization sparked nationwide debates in Italy over the last couple of years. The country is set to decide whether there will be full decriminalization likely in a referendum early next year

In Germany, the country's major political parties, which are due to form a new government coalition, have nodded to the idea of softening regulations and allowing personal use as per fun and recreation. Germany is also one of the rare European countries where patients can get reimbursements for purchasing cannabis medicines. Germany will constitute at least half of the European pot market by 2024, with an estimated worth of €850 million or almost $1 bn.

Four other European countries also boast progressive drugs policies. Cannabis remains technically illegal in the Netherlands, one of the world's most attractive cannabis tourism destinations, however, Dutch police do not use enforcement for consumption and sales. In Spain, cannabis is allowed for homegrowing, although, the country still has an active ban on trade and commerce. Home cultivation is also permitted in the Czech Republic. However, this only applies for medical reasons, and a special license from the country's State Institute for Drug Control must be obtained. Last but not least, cannabis is considered legal in Portugal too, if prescribed by a medical practitioner and dispensed by a pharmacy.

With many sunny days throughout the year, Mediterranean countries such as Spain and Portugal have the perfect conditions to cultivate potent high-grade cannabis for both medical and recreational use. Overseas investors have long eyed these territories to begin farming crops.

Snoop Dogg in business attire.
Snoop Dogg in business attire, attending the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2015. The iconic US rapper extended his cannabis operations to Europe recently. Photo source: TechCrunch at Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

The Portuguese startup AceCann, which focuses on farming organic medical marijuana, became the first business subject to get funds from Casa Verde earlier this month. Casa Verde is the VC fund co-owned by cannabis connoisseur Snoop Dogg and granted $15m to the Portuguese startup. It's the first time the American rapper bankrolled in continental Europe. AceCann will use the cash to build an innovative production facility near Lisbon, an amenity forecasted to generate up to €20 million ($23 million) annually by 2024.  

Medical cannabis is also legal in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Croatia, Cyprus, etc. Outside the EU, patients can access medical cannabis goods also in pharmacies in North Macedonia and Turkey. 

The United Kingdom has its own reasons to brag. UK's regulatory bodies such as the Home Office and the Foods Standard Agency have managed to successfully tailor what some say is "the most evolved framework in the world for CBD." The island is currently one of the biggest global suppliers of CBD medicines such as Sativex and Epidiolex, drugs used in the treatment of Multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Manufacturers British Sugar and GW Pharmaceuticals were supplying 44.9% of all medical cannabis in 2018. 

Of course, there are some blind spots. Even within the EU itself, there are countries where drug regulations are so harsh and retrograde that cannabis is not even distinguished from hard drugs such as heroin, cocaine, or ecstasy. Getting caught with a single blunt in a country such as Slovakia may cost a person several years into jail. 

But all summed up, Europe is currently a great place for international financiers to think what is it that they want to roll out next and perhaps hatch a business plan. Whether investors are looking for small islands to expand their franchise or want to go big in some of the grander countries, there's something for everyone. A few years from now, cannabis will transform the economy of the "old continent," and things will never be the same again!

Stephen Andrews