Those with an appreciation of design know that the Danish create objects as beautiful as they are practical. Their innate knack for problem solving goes beyond industrial design, Danes seem to excel in metamorphosing complexity into simplicity. The result being just right in a zen-like way.

Medical cannabis is a complex problem and the Danish have found an elegant solution.

Most healthcare systems around the world are struggling to find a way to integrate a substance (cannabis) with multiple active-compounds, in varying ratios, that can treat multiple conditions into a model that uses single-compound drugs to treat single conditions.

This complexity is compounded due to the fact that cannabis use is prevalent in society without the rubber stamp of the medical community. People, some of which are chronically or terminally ill, turn to cannabis for its perceived therapeutic properties. In the absence of any regulated distribution they turn to illicit sources.

As this props up a criminal market it becomes a law and order issue. When people get arrested for growing or procuring dried flowers to treat their terminal illness it gets negative headlines increasing the pressure on politicians to find a solution. Who in turn towards the healthcare establishment. Who would say that there is not enough clinical trials to integrate cannabis into the healthcare system like ‘any other drug’.

The thing is, cannabis is not like ‘any other drug’. People do not grow their own ‘any other drug’, nor do they buy ‘any other drug’ (for therapeutic use) from neighbours or from criminals. And they will not stop doing so, as the perceived benefit outweighs the risk of criminal prosecution. If anything this trend will continue on its upwards trajectory.

As you would expect from the nation that brought the world Lego, the Danish solution is reasonable, simple and effective.

Denmark’s four year medicinal cannabis pilot, which commenced in January 2018, works like this. Companies can get a license to cultivate, process and distribute cannabis in Denmark. Any doctor can prescribe cannabis for any condition. Educational material is available for doctors to learn how best to manage this distribution, which is their responsibility. Patients are monitored as to the effectiveness of their treatment.

As a result, patients are given access to a safe supply of cannabis, criminals are denied a revenue stream, the Danish healthcare system is given the data it needs, papers don’t contain headline stories of patients being arrested and politicians avoid pressure as a result. You could say that everyone’s a winner.

“It has been an interesting journey to pass legislation concerning the Danish pilot scheme. All parties of the Danish Parliament were in agreement. For the time being hundreds of patients and MD’s have experience with either using or prescribing medicinal cannabis, which is a far greater number than expected,” explains Jane Heitmann, a Danish politician and MP for the Liberal party.

The benefits go beyond the Danish border. Someone with experience of large scale cannabis grow operations for the medicinal market needs to build and run the cultivation facilities that can now operate. North American firms have been jumping at the opportunity.

“Denmark was the perfect country for us to invest and build our facility to serve the whole of Europe,” explains Sheldon Croome, CEO of Atlas Growers, a Canadian firm that has been growing medicinal cannabis for the Canadian market for the last four years. “We toured Europe, visiting Italy, Spain, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland to find the best location. In the end Denmark was the obvious choice. Their excellent medical cannabis pilot offers us an opportunity to serve their cannabis patients and use the knowledge and experience we’ve built over the last four years to take things to the next level.”

Atlas Growers purchased an enormous facility that once served as a mushroom farm near the city of Odense. Denmark’s sustainable and relatively inexpensive energy costs are ideal for an indoor grow facility, which gives Atlas god-like control of their facility down to the individual table. This is needed to ensure the consistency required for GMP certified medicinal cannabis, which must have a stable profile with only a fluctuation of within 10% of the stated cannabinoid content.

Lessons learnt over the previous years enabled Atlas Growers to build a facility “5 times the size at only double the cost,” of their Canadian facility. It’s in the process of being retrofitted and they expect to start the first grow towards mid 2020. Ultimately, they expect to be employing a workforce of up to 150 to run the operations providing a much needed boost to the Danish economy.

The headstart the Danish pilot is giving Denmark makes the country a hotbed of medical cannabis production with other established players such as Atas, Aurora, Canopy Growth’s Spectrum and others moving in.

This inward investment and their logical pilot solution are catching the attention of the rest of Europe. The Centre for Medicinal Cannabis, a UK based cannabis trade body, has produced a proposal for a similar pilot to operate in the UK which is tailor made to integrate into the National Health Service. Other countries too, such as France, will have eyes on the release of the mid-pilot results (in January 20190) as they put together their own pilots. So far things seem to be a success with 429 doctors writing 9,490 prescriptions for 2,104 patients within the first quarter of 2019 with no adverse effects being reported.

Jane Heitmann MP and Sheldon Croome will be participating in a panel at Cannabis Europa in Toronto and will be sharing Atlas’s experience alongside Danish Health ministers.

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