The past 24 months have seen the nascent European cannabis industry command the attention of the international market with analysts expecting the European medical market to be worth up to €58 billion by 2028. A total of 21 countries have now legalised medical cannabis in some shape or form and more countries are soon to follow. Yet, despite the industry spearheading reform and the public warming up to the use of cannabis for medical purposes, the debate surrounding its use is still in its infancy. As Europe’s first and leading medical cannabis conference series, Cannabis Europa aims to provide a platform for high-quality, groundbreaking content on science, policy making and business strategy where leaders in the sector can discuss the most pressing issues in the industry. Using our in-depth knowledge and expertise, we have summarised the three key things you should know about the budding cannabis industry in Europe.

1 Medical cannabis reform: softening attitudes.

Following the legislative progress in America and a softening of attitudes in the general public and media, European governments have continued to push towards the regulation of medical cannabis. Advocates, patients and medical researchers have been running awareness campaigns that have sent a clear message: medical cannabis is an effective and necessary cure that needs to become accessible to patients. As of now, 21 European countries have already legalised the use of cannabis products for therapeutic purposes. For example, France, one of the largest markets in Europe, launched a pilot programme for medical cannabis in September and, in June 2019, Luxembourg unanimously passed a draft law to decriminalise the use of cannabis for patients suffering from a variety of conditions, becoming the first European country to legalise adult-use cannabis. Yet, whilst some countries are spearheading reform, others are lagging behind. In fact, no current universal EU regulatory model exists, creating a confusing patchwork of legislation that hinders the development of a successful international industry.

2 Commercial investment: a rising demand for CBD.

More and more people support medical cannabis reform, with up to 66% of Americans supporting the legalisation of cannabis. Now, the broader public interest in this plant is driving an increased demand for CBD that is not only impacting both the pharmaceutical and health industries but also the food and beauty sectors. In the UK alone, 6 million people use CBD and in August 2019, Jersey became the first place in the United Kingdom to grant an extraction licence for CBD. The increased demand is also linked to a shift in consumers’ attitudes: people are now looking for sustainable, natural and alternative wellness products. However, despite the increase in demand, the EU Novel Foods Act adds a cost to companies operating with CBD, making it harder for small businesses to kickstart their enterprise.

3 Social and cultural shifts: female empowerment and sustainability.

The socio-political climate has been invested with strong and powerful women and advocates for feminist reform. Whilst on the business side, the number of female executives declined, the cannabis industry was lauded for having the highest percentage of female CEOs in the US in 2017. In fact, the medical cannabis industry is revolutionising the female healthcare sector with start-ups such as Daye, the world’s first CBD-infused female sanitary product that aims to tackle period pain at the source. A shift in consumer attitudes towards more sustainable and plant-based choices has also meant that people are now looking towards other viable natural alternatives; this has led European leaders towards looking at sustainability and adding hemp as another tool in the mission towards greener societies.

The budding cannabis industry is moving at a fast pace with countries such as Luxembourg and France at the forefront of legislative change. Yet, whilst the overall European market still remains shrouded by the uncertainty of missing regulatory frameworks, 21 countries have already legalised the use of cannabis in some shape or form for medical purposes, which denotes that the general attitude towards cannabis reform is changing. A shift in consumer attitudes towards alternative, plant-based and sustainable products has also contributed towards a more positive outlook on the use of cannabis; this is reflected by the fact that the word ‘medical’ is the most likely word to be mentioned alongside ‘cannabis’ on online search engines. To this date, the debate surrounding medical cannabis is still in its infancy and has not attracted the necessary political attention required in order to create a unitary European market. The future of this burgeoning industry now relies on European countries acting together in order to secure the legislative changes needed to sustain an international cannabis industry – something that our Cannabis Europa conferences seek to kickstart.

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