Conor O’Brien, Lead Analyst at Prohibition Partners, author of the European Cannabis Report: 7th Edition took the stage at Cannabis Europa last week to review some of the reports key information and provide updates since publication.
The medicalised nature of cannabis distribution in Europe means the balance of patients who are using for purely medical purposes rather than mixed medical/adult-use is lower. More familiar product formats such as oils and capsules are more common in Europe than most other medical cannabis markets. Here we provide one of the most comprehensive views on the characteristics of medical cannabis patients and products available anywhere.
The key message to the industry was to recognise the “size of the opportunity to help millions of patients around the continent, and the immediacy of this opportunity”.
Germany has the biggest market for medical cannabis in Europe, the most patients and they’ve made some of the they’ve made the most progress.
2020 to 2021 saw around a 43% increase in the amount being sold to pharmacies, representing considerable improvement in the situation for thousands, if not tens of thousands of patients.
Italy has an old system of medical cannabis access in the country, but they haven’t really progressed in the way that they should, with only a 13% increase from 2020 to 2021 in the amount of cannabis distributed. O’Brien suggested this is because of the ‘monopoly of control that the government keeps over the supply of cannabis in the country’.
With 11 out of 25 municipalities in the past 60 days having shortages. O’Brien stressed that the reality is that ‘if you’re a patient in Italy, it means you can’t rely on a single product being available to you throughout the year’
The UK has been slow in improving access to medical cannabis . Providing exclusive data from the NHS O’Brien noted the number of unlicensed medical cannabis products being prescribed in England last year was a ‘750% increase on the year beforehand.’ Thanking groups like DrugScience for facilitating patient access.
“What that means to me is 40,000 times where patients didn’t have to go to the street, didn’t have to grow in their home, where they got a fully safe, regulated product. And this is, you know, this is the goal that we wanna see spread across all of Europe.”
In the Netherlands access hasn’t really progressed since about 2017 since a negative recommendation from a national healthcare Institute. Similarly in Austria, conservative drug policies means that patient access hasn’t really progressed,
France is conducting a pilot trial, where they allowed 3000 people access on a, on a trial basis. With the government set to review the data after it is completed.
In Spain they are set to open up access to magistrate cannabis, hopefully by the end of this year, thanks to advocacy groups, like the Spanish cannabis observatory..
O’Brien explained that this new country data alongside any political or regulatory changes shifts the reports initial predictions. Here are the key figures:
In 2022, around 350 million Euro worth of unlicensed medical cannabis products will be sold, and could grow to about 2.2 billion by 2026.
Flower is still the most popular product across European markets
Most cannabis has historically been from the Netherlands or Canada but this situation is changing rapidly.
Amongst messy EFSA regulations they CBD grey market is still thriving
The presentation provided additional insight into the adult-use market, focusing on Switzerland, The Netherlands and Germany. Noting that there are important changes coming in Malta Luxembourg, Denmark and Portugal too
In Switzerland, the government has opened up policies to allow for private groups and also research institutions to set up their own experimental schemes where they can supply 5,000 participants per scheme. In the next few years O’Brien expects to see a diverse range of schemes saying ‘we’re gonna see legal coffee shops. We’re gonna see legal social clubs. We’re gonna see illegal pharmacy dispensaries’. The first fully legal sales are expected by Q3 of this year
In The Netherlands a single pilot scheme where the government is allowing 10 producers to produce cannabis for coffee shops in 10 municipalities, plus one or two big cities. Current information indicates that in about Q2 of next year, we might see some sales.
In Germany the ruling coalition promised at the end of last year that they’re going to legalise adult use cannabis in Germany. The latest information from those politicians are that they’re going to finalise their bill this year, but O’Brien hammered home that ‘really there is so much uncertainty around when this bill will be put into action’.
“I hope that I’ve kind of impressed, the size of the opportunity that’s facing this industry to help millions of consumers and patients across the continent and the responsibility that comes along with that to serve them as well as we can. I hope that in five years we see this lesson that we’re learning in the UK, with 40,000 transactions taken off the streets and put into the clinic. We want to see that replicated across all of Europe and hopefully get to a point where there’s not one single patient that’s being prosecuted for using medical cannabis, and instead supported in the way they deserve”
You can review the key trends, opportunities and challenges within the European cannabis market with The European Cannabis Report: 7th Edition and Premium Packages (including market sizing forecasts).
You can also check out the full programme of content from last weeks Cannabis Europa London, here.