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German cannabinoid sales climb to €15 million in March

German cannabinoid sales climb to €15 million in March
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Health insurance cannabis sales in Germany soared in Q1 2020, reaching a new record high of almost €15 million in March, more than 50% above the €9.5m of a year before.

The last data release by GKV, the public insurer reaching 90% of the German population, comes to confirm the ascendant trend of the German medical cannabis market, which has been doubling every year since it was legalised in 2017.

However, the exceptionally good results in March 2020 may reflect some patients redeeming their prescriptions earlier to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, similar to the stockpiling seen in North American markets during March, before sales returned to their trend.

Evolution in Q2 will bring a more complete picture of the coronavirus effects over medicinal cannabis sales, despite the main distributors stating that no supply breakdowns had occurred before June 2020, when exports by the Dutch supplier Bedrocan were halted.

Growth was driven, primarily, by a rise in cannabis flower sales. While the first sales of domestic cultivation are not expected for a few quarters, the German government declared that 6,714kg of dried flower was imported in 2019, a 100% increase from the 3,129kg imported in 2018. Only limited amounts were re-exported to other European countries.

Flower still represents more than half of the cannabinoid sales in Germany if we include both unprepared flower and flower used in magistral preparations. However, it is declining as a share of the German cannabis market due to the rise of dronabinol and full-spectrum extracts, to the detriment of magistral extraction, conducted from flower at the pharmacy.

The shift towards extracts is a trend that has been observed in more mature markets of North America and Europe: oils and capsules are preferred over flower by the medical community, due to being more familiar formats and allowing easier and more precise dosing. The upfront costs of using dried flower, implying the purchase of a vaporiser or high pharmacy fees involved in magistral extraction, are also an important factor driving extracts over flower.

Regarding pharmaceutical cannabis, while Sativex continues increasing its penetration in the German market, imported synthetic drugs like Canemes and Marinol lose ground in the face of competing plant-based drugs.

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