The rising demand for medical cannabis in Europe, driven primarily by maturing markets such as Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, has opened the door to new sources for medical cannabis across the continent. As the market develops, we break down the international trade routes appearing across the region.
August 14th, 2020
The Dutch government, through its sole cultivation contractor Bedrocan, has recently supplied the majority of medical cannabis for European access schemes, but the landscape is getting more and more diversified. Since 2016, Canadian LPs have been able to ship product to Europe, and in 2019 Tilray’s facility in Portugal came online, followed by numerous other smaller operators.
In the last year, countries in Latin America and Oceania have begun supplying Europe with medical cannabis, and a few African nations may follow suit. However, the share of cannabis-based medicines being produced in Europe is also on the rise. Portuguese and Spanish growing facilities have already gone commercial, while Germany, Denmark and Greece are all expected to commence sales in the coming months. The Netherlands and the Czech Republic are planning an expansion of their growing capabilities, and countries like Israel, Luxembourg, Malta and North Macedonia are also looking to develop cultivation capacity for exportation over the next two to three years.
Portugal has, for now, emerged as an interim winner in the race to become the largest European producer, and is set to surpass the Netherlands in cannabis output during 2020 if growth rates continue. Institutional and political factors have contributed to its position as a regional leader. Unlike the change in government last year in Greece, the turbulent political situation in Malta or the regulatory issues in Israel, the Portuguese socialist government has remained stable since 2015, and companies have managed to receive full regulatory approval in under two years. Coupled with stable climate conditions suitable for cheaper outdoor production, licensed cultivation farms in Portugal have enough planned capacity to supply the entire European market in the coming years, and are already shipping large quantities to Israel.
However, Southern European countries risk being left behind due to its sole focus as a provider of raw materials. Neither Portugal, Spain or Greece have implemented widespread domestic access schemes for the medicinal products they are supplying to other countries. Apart from disparaging domestic patients and advocates, many of these countries risk being economically short-sighted in their approach to cannabis, seeing it as a way to attract short-term foreign investment, instead of striving to develop the full cannabis value chain, driving sustained economic growth, high-value jobs and tax revenues.
To generate this assessment on the international trade of medical cannabis in Europe, Prohibition Partners has compiled import-export data for the first 8 months of 2020, as well as extrapolated data for the rest of the year based on official deals, tenders and government agreements. Only medical cannabis is comprised, with trade of GW Pharma’s Sativex and Epidiolex, or dronabinol trade from Austria, not being included in the graphic. Production in Slovenia of hemp-derived medical cannabis products by MGC Pharma has nonetheless been included. Imports to be reexported without transformation, such as Aurora’s supplies from Germany to other European nations, are shown as a direct import from Canada. However, imports of cannabis to be further manufactured, like shipments from Uruguay to Portugal that will be reexported to other European nations, are shown in separate lines. For further information on the data you can contact our consulting team at firstname.lastname@example.org.