On November 5th, 2019, Cannabis Europa arrived in Toronto for the first time.
Hosted at the iconic Fairmont Royal York, set against a stunning urban Canadian backdrop, the conference opened up the conversation on how to achieve greater transatlantic cooperation and equipped North American firms with practical insights on how to capitalise on the burgeoning European market.
Attended by leading policymakers and legislators from European governments and leading companies such as Lift, Nesta, Canopy, Aurora, Supreme, and more, the day brought together key stakeholders to examine the biggest questions facing how North America’s and Europe’s cannabis markets interact; addressing partnerships, politics and transatlantic deal flow.
EUROPE IS OPEN
During the Welcome Address, Co-Founder and CEO of NOBL, Stephen Murphy, shared his vision for the future of Transatlantic partnerships. There may be a lot of promise in the European cannabis market, but it also takes seamless transatlantic cooperation between science, politics, finance, healthcare and business to navigate the hurdles.
Murphy spoke of the European media’s increased interest and support for the topic of legalisation, and how this has been a huge goal for the cannabis industry.
“The European media is becoming more receptive and recognizing this as a legitimate industry.”
SHARING DIRECT ROUTES TO MARKET
The importance of events such as Cannabis Europa was highlighted by the strong political presence at The Transatlantic Forum, including MPs and government trade delegations looking to secure direct investment from foreign states.
The appearance of high profile politicians began during the Political Address with the Deputy Chief Minister from the States of Jersey, Senator Lyndon Farnham. He delivered a keynote speech breaking down why Europe is now officially, ‘open’, and how the States of Jersey is pioneering medical cannabis production, research and commerce, to become a leading centre for cannabis investment in Europe.
ENSURING A SAFER INDUSTRY
During the Political Will panel at The Transatlantic Forum, General Counsel at The Supreme Cannabis Company, Sony Gokhale, spoke of significant strides being made in medical cannabis in Europe in the last year. She said that the trend of cannabis decriminalisation and pilot projects across Europe are a sign that “cannabis legalisation isn’t a what if – it’s happening”.
In particular, regions such as Germany, Denmark and Portugal have been spearheading the move towards cannabis legalisation across the continent. Sony shared that as part of Supreme Cannabis’ own work to establish its operations in Europe, the company has consulted with regulators to ensure its entrance into the market is carefully planned out.
“Without having a thorough understanding of the regulatory regime, we can’t be responsible participants in this industry,” Gokhale said.
Latham French, from the UK Department of International Trade pointed out the regulatory response that has been deployed thanks to the explosion in consumer demand.
“CBD use has exploded in the UK and the Government is taking note and looking to quickly follow with policy and regulation to manage increasing demand.”
Dr Marcus Schmidt from Germany Trade & Invest shared optimistic messages from Germany’s booming market; the largest on the European continent.
“Approval rate for patients looking for prescriptions in Germany is 60 -65%. We are expecting lots of growth in patient numbers for years to come.”
“Last year, Germany imported three tonnes from Canada, this year it will be six plus tonnes.”
MP at the French Assembly, Emmanuele Fontaine-Domeizel, stated that:
“In France, medical cannabis has been gaining traction but recreational use hasn’t seen the same growth due to a lack of cultural acceptance of adult use of the drug.”
BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE SUPPLY CHAIN
During the Infrastructure and Supply Chain panel, leaders from the European and North American market shared insights on the best routes to market, why large scale infrastructure is crucial for the growth of the European market, and what firms should focus on in order to advance trade in Europe.
To start off, CEO of Vanguard Scientific Systems, Matthew Anderson, pointed out that “Cannabis Europa is bringing together global thought leaders and giving the industry an insight on what stage each country is in it’s cannabis life cycle, and where the opportunities exist.”
The conversation continued with Hannah Skingle, COO of Dragonfly Biosciences, commenting on the economic benefits the burgeoning industry is bringing to European states: “Cannabis is bringing new technology and a SMART economy to emerging markets such as Bulgaria.”
Skingle said that she thinks that as the market for CBD grows in the UK, a fad of more “bizarre” products will open the door for therapeutic CBD goods to find footing in the UK’s wellness space.
Lyphe Group’s Managing Director Jonathan Nadler, explained that the race to cultivate is nearly over.
“There are too many cannabis growers in the world. Instead, people should focus on ancillary services, and the cultivation space needs to consolidate.”
DRIVING AWARENESS & CHALLENGING MISCONCEPTIONS
The road to recreational cannabis legalisation will be a long and twisted one in Europe, said CEO and Founder of Botanic Lab, Rebekah Hall during the Startup Ecosystem panel, but CBD wellness could lead the charge for acceptance of the drug across the continent.
Contrastingly, CEO and President of Canopy Rivers, Narbé Alexandrian said:
“The startup ecosystem has yet to fully appreciate the opportunity that exists with plant science and exploration of cannabis. Distribution is king in cannabis. It’s one thing to own a few stores to sell your products, and another to have access to several different stores across a market. Vertical works for now, but long term a horizontal layout, like the one used by big tobacco, is coming.”
Founder of cannabis beauty start-up HO KARAN, Laure Bouguen, said:
“In Europe we define ourselves as a wellness company, not a cannabis company as we understand the consumer still have a narrow view of the potential of cannabis as an ingredient.”
IDENTIFYING TRANSATLANTIC PARTNERSHIPS
The Danish Case Study panel was a masterclass in how certain European states offer the perfect foothold for North American business looking to enter Europe. MPs, government trade delegations and CEOs shared insights on how the political, regulatory and social environment in Denmark makes it the ideal entry point. From large scale data gathering through innovative clinical trials to safe access to products for patients, they discussed why the Danish landscape is attractive to the private sector right now.
CEO of Atlas Growers, Sheldon Croome, said the company is using Denmark as a “launch pad” for the rest of its EU operations. Croome said Denmark’s regulatory framework has made it an attractive market in Europe.
THE CANNABIS BUSINESS IS THE POLITICS BUSINESS
During the Transatlantic Partnerships panel, industry experts shared first-hand advice on how they built global partnership deals and expanded operation trasnataltncially: what the process is, local customs, and who to consult.
Will Stewart, the CEO of Harvest One started off discussions by stating the pivotal nature of local politics in every different location.
“If you’re in the cannabis business, you’re in the politics business.”
On a company partnership level, Steph Sherer from the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institute said that many North American companies are now partnering with European operators, but the focus must be concentrated on how to work most effectively during the post-acquisition phase.
CCO of Tilray, Andrew Pucher said that Tilray’s focus is on leveraging expertise from native teams and keeping it’s eye closely on cultivation opportunities.
A FAST-MOVING, HIGH-GROWTH MARKET
Our esteemed panellists discussed why Europe is well-positioned to take a considerable market share of the global cannabis space in the next few years during the Raising & Tapping Into The European Market panel. Stephen Murphy, CEO and Co-Founder of NOBL, said the European market is fast moving, both for companies and at the political level:
“When we first started talking about the European markets, there were six markets that were technically legal. Today, it’s just under 20. And that’s in a three and a half year period,” he said.
CEO of Leafly, Tim Leslie, commented that:
“Investors should consider that the cannabis space in Europe is still years away from seeing real growth, but those that invest now could be buying into the Amazon or Google of cannabis.”
From an investment perspective, Murphy said you have to go where pockets are deepest – Frankfurt, London and Paris.
THE FUTURE OF LEGALISATION
To round-off a thought-provoking day of strong opinions and intercontinental collaboration, industry legend Chuck Rifici, Founder and CEO of Nesta and George McBride, CEO of Hanway Associates took to the stage during In Conversation: Legalisation 2.0, to analyse the future of the industry and discuss Canada’s upcoming legislative changes.
Keynote Speaker & Founder of Nesta
“I think the industry has done extremely well in delivering against very difficult legislation.”
“Over a thousand new product requests have already been submitted to Health Canada, we’re innovating fast!”
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 Transatlantic Forum 2019 in Toronto. 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.
In February 2020, Cannabis Europa takes its thought-leadership to Madrid, to tackle the most pressing issues in the European market and disc the most promising industry in the region, Spain.
Join us for the first-ever Cannabis Europa Madrid, on 5th February 2020. Tickets available now.