29 states approve the use of medical cannabis, and eight plus Washington D.C. have legalized recreational use. It’s easy to see why the industry is growing. But things are even farther ahead in Canada, where the regulations for production and sales have been in place since 2014, with the goal to have full federal legalization for lifestyle use in July 2018. According to a recent report from Deloitte, capacity in Canada – for recreational alone – is projected to reach “5 billion dollars per year to start.”
With the legalization date less than a year away, a lot of investors are focusing on the opportunities that will come with Canada’s upcoming legalization, as well as the investment potential in the United States. But the focus means that investors could be missing out on the growth of medical cannabis in Western Europe, which is where business is really booming.
While there are 35 million people in Canada and 325 million in the United States, the European Union is home to almost 510 million. Having just legalized medicinal cannabis in January, Germany is another growing market, with over 80 million people. The same goes for Greece, too, which also has a medical cannabis program that is taking off. That’s why the European markets are becoming increasingly important to the cannabis sector.
These two countries (and other European examples) show that traditionally conservative attitudes towards medical cannabis are shifting. But that also means investors, who focus solely on North America, are missing the huge potential in Europe.
Benjamin Ward, the CEO of Canadian medical cannabis company Maricann Group Inc., said in an op-ed with CNBC,
Those investors restricting their cannabis investments to this side of the ocean, and in the United States in particular, are left navigating an array of legislation on a state-by-state basis, prohibitive out-of-state investment regulations, and a prohibitive tax code.
These investors miss the boat as they churn through such choppy water. In Germany, cannabis will be produced by licensed producers and distributed to pharmacies like any other medication, with each prescription eligible for full reimbursement from health insurance. In their patient-driven markets, Germans, Italians and other Europeans are demanding the alternative of cannabis over opiates.
In our view, people who think opiates are the only answer to pain relief have a similar misperception as people who still think medicinal cannabis is nothing more than smoking up with their doctor’s permission.
Ward thinks “they are both wrong,” saying that “medical cannabis is about personalized and effective medicine. It’s not about getting high.”
The Europeans know that, as we do in North America. As Germany moves smartly down this path of medicinal cannabis, the rest of Europe will soon follow. And to ignore 500 million people in a stable economy is a mistake. We’re at the start of the global revolution. We all need to be looking to Europe next.