On November 7th, 2019 Cannabis Europa arrived in New York for The Leaders Summit to help bring together policymakers, regulators and industry leaders from both sides of the Atlantic.
The intimate and exclusive meeting was held at the historic Metropolitan Club in New York City, frequented by the political and business elite, including founding members JP Morgan, James A. Roosevelt and William Kissam Vanderbilt. European governments and C-Suite decision makers gathered to discuss transatlantic cooperation joining the investors and financiers who turned out to access the inside track on medical cannabis’s most promising European opportunities.
Attended by leading policymakers and legislators from European parliaments, regulatory bodies and leading companies such as Barclays, EMMAC Life Sciences Group, Northern Swan, Columbia Care, Canopy, Artemis Growth, and more, the summit examined Europe’s burgeoning cannabis industry and how the investment world is reacting to the opportunity; addressing the best cities to raise funding, the key growth sectors, and how to maximise early investments in the market.
COMMANDING INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION
During the Welcome Address, Co-Founder and CEO of NOBL, Stephen Murphy, discussed the rapid growth of the European cannabis market, how it will surpass the US in ten years, and how the industry continues to gain legitimacy on the international stage.
Stephen gave a deep dive into the medical cannabis investment landscape in Europe and North America, stating that over the last 24 months, the European cannabis industry has emerged from the shadows to command the attention of the international market. Twenty countries have now legalised medical cannabis in some shape or form and analysts expect the European medical market to be worth up to €58 billion by 2028, becoming one of the largest markets in the world by value.
“When we started Cannabis Europa, you could put the whole of the European cannabis industry in a room one fifth the size of this one. Three years ago we never could have imagined we’d be here in this venue overlooking Central Park.”
IN NEED OF REGULATION WITH TEETH
The In Conversation: Trends & Hype panel saw experienced operators wade through the murky waters of the commercial market, determining which trends are here to stay and separating fact from fiction, hearing from Gaurav Jain from Barclays Investment Banks, Tim Leslie from Leafly and George McBride from Hanway Associates.
The panel discussed how the vaping crisis might get worse before it gets better and how the market is crying out for increased transatlantic collaboration. They debated why the European medical cannabis environment is so attractive to the investment sector right now, as growth in North America slows down and firms are looking for new markets to boost their profits and build sustainable business models.
CEO of Hanway Associates, Goerge McBride said that he’s “in support of regulation with teeth”, highlighting that with better regulation comes a preferential environment, which investors will feel buoyed to enter.
CREATING AN INDUSTRY FOR ALL
During the Political Will panel at The Leaders Summit, Austin Bernstein, the Director of the Alliance of Attorney Generals Cannabis Project and Natalie Fertig, cannabis Journalist at Politico, gave a federal overview of the US and transatlantic landscape, highlighting the pressing need for consumer education programmes.
Bernstien talks to 42 Attorney Generals across the country and said that implementing a safe and fair environment in which sustainable business can thrive is crucial to the future of the industry.
Natalie Fertig stressed the need for political intervention to make the cannabis industry more accessible. She recommended how the “Safe Banking Act would help minority business owners, especially women of colour, who statistically do not get as much of venture capital or private investment in the industry.”
INCREASING TRANSATLANTIC COLLABORATION
During the Transatlantic Partnerships panel, leaders from the European and North American market shared insights on the biggest trends driving investment in Europe, and where and how they’ve built success with European firms.
To start off, President and CEO of MPX International Corporation, Scott Boyes stated the need for consumer, doctor and patient education, and shared his macro view on cannabis investment: “It will change, it will be gradual, and it will change faster than most of the investment community thinks it will. The domino effect has already started around the world, even in Thailand and South Korea. The dominos started to fall years ago.” […] We’ve had great success in Europe for fundraising. In the last 24 months, almost 80% of our funds came from Mayfair in London.”
The conversation continued with CEO from Northern Swan, Kyle Detwiler, commenting on the nuances of doing business in different countries: “A big difference between the US and Europe is the approach taken by governments. When you’re in Portugal, they treat you like any other pharma company; I can’t say the same about Massachusetts.”
Rod Stephan from Altitude Investment Management explained that: “In the US, regulation started from the grassroots movement. In Europe, we are seeing more of a top down approach from the regulators, which is why it’s taking a bit more time. UK banks were actually the most difficult for us, we talk to 20 before we secure one.”
Benedikt Sons from Cansativa GmbH shared the secrets to achieving a transatlantic partnership in Europe, in particular, how to certify a facility in Germany: “It took 9-18 months, but if you have a local team, my brother realized a GMP certification in four and a half months. They have some guidance and rules, but they are not the enemy, and doing it fast is only possible with local partners. One, don’t do it from the US where it is illegal, two, start early and three, have a European partner who will coordinate the process.”
READY FOR DIRECT FOREIGN INVESTMENT
Foreign Investment differs hugely from country to country, and this panel brought together the best of Europe’s trade delegations to outline to main opportunities and pitfalls for North American businesses looking to enter Europe. The importance of Cannabis Europa was highlighted by the large turnout of government trade delegations who attended to communicate the size of the opportunity in their home territories. Panellists included Portugal Global, Malta Enterprise, Germany Trade & Invest, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Professional Hemp Union.
Michael Prytz from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs shared that “US companies have a great advantage over Canadian companies when it comes to Europe, as they are used to dealing with multiple regulatory bodies.”
Marion Zammit from Malta Enterprise highlighted how activity is already well underway in European states, and with the increased support of regulators, the market will grow exponentially: “While we wait for Brussels and the EU to get ready, we are seeing health and drug regulatory from individual countries work together, whilst they wait for the support of the EU.”
CAPITALISING ON THE INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY
During the Investing in Europe panel, CEO of Vanguard Scientific Systems, Matthew Anderson, commented that, “we should take the word ‘recreational’ out of our mouth; it’s not useful for advocacy. ‘Adult use’ on the other hand is going to be really big when people start spending their luxury dollars on cannabis. In Europe, there’s a much more serious tone to the conversation.“
The panel explored the opportunities and barriers when investing in Europe. Hannah Skingle, COO at Dragonfly CBD shared that she believed the UK to be a key market for investment. Catharine Dockery, founder of Vice Ventures predicted that Spain will regulate on a federal scale while Lorenza Romanese from the European Industrial Hemp Association believed that Romania, Poland, Bulgaria and the UK would be markets to watch from a recreational standpoint. We’ll be watching this space closely – but the message to investors was clear – the time is right.
EUROPE IS DRIVING INNOVATION
During the The Startup Pitch, industry experts shared first-hand advice on how they built global partnership deals and expanded operations internationally; what the process is, local customs, and who to consult.
It was clear to see how entrepreneurs are driving innovation for scientists, doctors, patients, and the industry at large. Jonathan Nadler from the LYPHE Group spoke from personal experience: “Regulators are playing catch up. Last week we had to go on a commercial airline to personally pick up a prescription in The Netherlands, there is major infrastructure that needs to be built.”
Investment fund manager Jeanne Sullivan from the Arcview Group shared her positive experiences investing in nascent industries. “The West coast has made amazing progress and there is solid trust with the consumer. One reason is this happened through citizen ballot initiatives, while we as East coast states are legislatively bound, just like Europe. So is there hope?”
George Kruis, Professional rugby player on the English national team and founder of fourfivecbd shared the need for attention to detail with Europe’s nuanced infrastructure:
“When it comes to transporting goods around Europe, for some countries you need to change packaging according to regulations to reach compliance, while balancing to have enough stock. So that’s a learning experience for us.”
Founder of French beauty brand, HO KARAN, Laure Bouguen, highlighted how savvy, entrepreneurial founders are being stymied by outdated European laws:
“The law forces French hemp farmers to throw away the flower because the state is afraid of extraction from flower. So I am forced to import CBD, although France is the world’s third largest hemp producer. It’s crazy.”
“You will get advocacy from your users if your product stands to your brand. We use broad spectrum hemp extract, but what we discovered in the US market is that high quality CBD is used for the product, but the rest of it less of a priority, so it ends up tasting disgusting. So we focused on using high-quality sugars and using natural tastes.” Melanie Goldsmith, Founder, Smith & Sinclair.
William Muecke, Co-founder of Artemis Growth Partners said, “It’s a tough market, but the quality companies rise to the top. The question will be pricing. Plus, there is so much time spent on educating the marketplace.”
THE CEOS LOOKING AT EUROPE
To round-off a thought-provoking day of strong opinions and intercontinental collaboration, the CEOs looking at Europe joined forces to share their ‘view from the top’ with our investment audience, giving guidance on future headwinds. CEOs from EMMAC Life Sciences Group, Columbia Care and Fotmer Life Sciences were joined by Forbes Journalist Sara Brittany Somerset, to discuss the key factors investors and decision-makers must consider now to achieve transatlantic success as the European market expands in the forthcoming years.
Our esteemed CEOS discussed how to position a North American business in foreign markets to gain new investment and benefit from high-growth environments. Nicholas Vita, CEO of Columbia Care shared success stories of how he just acquired the largest state operator in Colorado, and commented how the European market is moving fast, but is still transitioning from disillusionment to wide-scale adoption.
“You cannot have a sustainable industry unless you have a number of successful stories, Europe is yet to get there, but it will.” Nicholas Vita, Columbia Care.
CEO of EMMAC Life Sciences Group, Antonio Costanzo, highlighted how the cannabis industry now actually offers CEOs and investors more stability than the technology unicorns that were dominating VCs and Silicon Valley just five years ago:
“Working in Uber and working in cannabis I’ve come to expect people to have a preconceived idea about what I do and the industry I work in, but that is changing to cannabis. Uber? Less so.”
CANNABIS’S FOREMOST ARENA TO SHARE KNOWLEDGE
Thank you to the speakers, partners and delegates from the worlds of politics, finance, healthcare and science who gathered at Cannabis Europa: The Leaders Summit 2019 in New York City. We value each and every one of yours support, and look forward to welcoming you at the next Cannabis Europa.
Join us at the next #CannabisEuropa: https://cannabis-europa.com.