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What’s In Store For The European Cannabis Industry In 2023? (Part 2)

You can read Part 1 of our 2023 predictions here.

Enexis AB

According to the cannabis investment firm Enexis, economic pressures will mean capital available for the European cannabis industry will be ‘scarce’ in the first half of 2023; however, it predicts that this will begin to ‘rebound thereafter’. 

When capital does begin to become available again, Enexis believes a larger portion of this will be from ‘American investors’, who it expects will begin allocating more capital to Europe throughout the year. 

As we saw last year, the medical cannabis industry is predicted to continue growth throughout Europe in 2023, with the focus falling on increased ‘doctor-patient education’. 

The firm also echoes other contributors in its prediction that Germany’s adult-use legislation is likely to ‘suffer delays and will not be enacted until after 2023’, but it will continue to attract a great deal of attention throughout the year. 

Despite this, Enexis believes adult-use cannabis reform will continue to grow across the EU, with ‘at least two other’ countries expected to announce legislation. 

Luc Richner, CEO, Vigia AG / Cannavigia

2023 will be a path-breaking year for the European cannabis market, where industry players still have the chance to shape the regulatory framework of the future and support policymakers in their decisions. It will be crucial for the industry to organise across countries and even continents so that we have a louder and more powerful voice that is heard. 

All eyes are currently on Germany, but we should not overlook the many other countries that are moving towards legalisation. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the Czech Republic or Portugal. They might overtake Germany and have a great impact on the legalisation framework and process in other European nations. However, once more, I would like to see an increased collaboration between industry players and their associations in the different countries. 

There is much to be learned from one another as well as from other markets, such as the one for medicinal cannabis and the harmonised standards they are striven to achieve. It is also important to remember that the UN has clear guidelines that the future market for legalised cannabis should not be a speculative growth market. It will therefore be interesting to see how the pilot projects in the Netherlands or Switzerland develop in 2023, as they take a more gradual and more structured approach to test legalisation. 

The Swiss will be able to purchase the first legal cannabis in Europe when the pilot project starts at the end of January. An exciting moment for the entire industry as well as for us, since we are the trusted partner of the Federal Office for Public Health and the city of Basel for the trials and provide our software to the producers, project managers, dispensaries and regulators involved. I am looking forward to what 2023 will bring and we are ready to play our part to help shape this thriving market with great potential.

Mike Morgan-Giles, CEO, Cannabis Industry Council

Over the past year there has been significant movement on cannabis law reform in countries such as the United States, Germany and Thailand. However, despite the UK being the world’s largest producer and exporter of cannabis, without corresponding regulatory reform, we risk losing this status.

Stringent licensing rules mean the UK is reliant on imports for our own domestic market, while tough laws around finance make it difficult for us to bring in direct foreign investment. Furthermore, the potential environmental benefits from hemp, such as energy production and helping the construction industry decarbonise, have yet to be realised.

The Cannabis Industry Council hopes to see movement in the coming period in respect to the above matters, and also in developing the medical market.

There is a significant amount of real-world evidence on the benefits of medical cannabis for patients. It’s now time that the medical profession takes this on board, and embraces important reforms, such as the ability of GPs to prescribe cannabis medicines to their patients, who they know best.

Finally, the industry needs to become more streetwise. Rather than red-flagging perceived issues with anyone who will listen, there is a need to understand that nurturing our still nascent industry will ultimately benefit everyone. This is not a zero-sum game.

Melissa Sturgess, CEO, Ananda Developments 

I think 2023 will see the European medical cannabis space continue to evolve in an active and dynamic way. It is clear we are past the point of no return in terms of medical cannabis across Europe, and it seems that in many jurisdictions we are reaching the same inflection point for recreational cannabis.

In particular I have a feeling we may see the UK space offer up something transformational, as we did in 2018 with medical cannabis legalisation. Most of us didn’t see that coming. We thought medical cannabis legalisation was still a couple of years away. 

During the latter part of 2022 we have seen patient numbers increase; we have learned there is a desire for specialists to prescribe from their own practice rather than necessarily via a cannabis clinic; we have seen the MHRA make clear statements about the path to regulated UK-manufactured medical cannabis products, and we have seen the NHS make a clear request to its clinicians to report cannabis prescribing to its own registry. 

Patients and advocacy groups are also well organised and working to maintain pressure to bring medical cannabis to patients who need it. I would not be surprised if we see a regulatory change in 2023 which helps to clear the path to making medical cannabis a better recognised, more readily prescribed medicine in the UK. 

Neil Cartwright, Global Director, Mull Cafe (Releaf Group)

Releaf Group, including its subsidiary MULL, is the largest cannabis dispensary chain in Australia and is launching in Thailand during 2023. 

This year’s federal election was a watershed moment in Australia. The grassroots ‘Legalise Cannabis Australia’ party managed to achieve an impressive 501,421 votes (16m eligible voters). Meanwhile, thanks to Australia’s PR system, the Green Party (which advocated drug reform in its manifesto) now holds the balance of power in the Senate. While we won’t hold our breath, 2023 should see more pressure within the Senate to reform a failed drug policy and consider legalising recreational use.

Meanwhile, on the medical side we expect to see the extraordinary growth in patient numbers continue. Over 172,000 Australian patients have been approved for access to medical cannabis – contrast this with the UK, which has approximately 30,000. This is due, in part, to the fact it’s simply more straightforward to obtain a cannabis prescription in Australia than in the UK because patients don’t have to show it’s a medicine of last resort. 

Thailand decriminalised cannabis on June 9 and subsequently witnessed an explosion in cannabis businesses. Bars, clubs and mobile vans now sell cannabis throughout Thailand – you can even buy it at the airport. In 2023, we expect the Government to exert more control over the market and enforce stricter regulation as the country seeks to become a global hubspot for medical tourism and wellness, or, as it terms it, ‘Health for Wealth’. 

Our forecast is that the Thai market will be worth US$1.2bn by 2025. However, we also expect the rise of ‘Cannabis Tourism’ to put pressure on neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Cambodia and Vietnam, which recently voiced various intentions to either expand medical cannabis or consider a recreational market.

Cefyn Jones, Hemp Hound Agency 

I believe there’s all the chance for the MHRA to become more active in the CBD industry in the next couple of months to protect the interests of those applying for licences for growing unlicensed cannabis for medicinal use.

This is backed up by the TIGRR report which states the intention of making the UK a powerhouse for medicinal CBD and cannabinoid based products.

Due to the amount of medicinal claims on untested food supplemental products, I’d be shocked if the MHRA didn’t step back in, but I also think their silence over the past two years is telling.

As the MHRA’s former head of the Medicines Borderline Section Dr Chris Jones said in 2018: “We’re just waiting for the consumer to view your products as medicinal, that’s when we’ll jump in”.

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