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The Cannabis Report: ICBC Takeaways

This month Maple Tree Consultants headed to Europe’s largest and longest-running cannabis B2B event, the International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin. 

Here we’re sharing some of our key takeaways:

Germany could pave the way for wider reform in Europe

Following the landmark passing of the CanG bill in Germany on 1 April, inevitably much of the topic of conversation was around the country’s phased approach to the legalisation of adult-use cannabis.

Under Pillar one, individuals are permitted to carry up to 25g of cannabis for personal use and grow up to four plants at home. Pillar two will see the roll-out of a limited regulated market for adult-use sales, which will be closely monitored by researchers under a pilot study model.

Experts have predicted that this move could pave the way for wider reform of cannabis laws across Europe, with several major countries also examining different forms of legislative changes. 

Positive changes for patients and doctors 

The new law will also have positive effects for those prescribed medical cannabis in Germany. Cannabis will no longer be classed as a narcotic, making it more accessible for patients and meaning less bureaucracy for doctors.

It is expected that the change in law will also contribute to a reduction in stigma and an increase in prescribing among doctors, with medical cannabis no longer considered a last-resort therapy. Some sources suggested the number of prescriptions has already risen in the last few weeks.

Examining the future of cannabis-based medicines

During discussions around the future of the medicinal cannabis industry, panellists explored what the best and most effective route was for the production of science-driven cannabis-based medications. 

Some panellists argued that the isolation of compounds and development of more unique APIs (and as a result IP) is the only way to win over the pharmaceutical industry. But Tjalling Erkelens, founder and chairman of the board at Bedrocan, said he firmly believes that the “value lies in the whole-plant”.

Athanasia Kanli, market development manager at DSM-Firmenich, added that there is space for “all these segments”, as long as companies are clear about “the need they are trying to meet”. 

The recreational vs medical debate

Speaking on the same panel Erkelens described the overlap between medical cannabis and  recreational as “heart-breaking”, stating: “I believe rec should be rec, and medical should be medical.”

Expanding on this, he highlighted the challenge of trying to convince doctors that cannabis can be a safe and effective medicine. While he has no problem with recreational use, he urged the industry not to confuse patients with [recreational] consumers — “these are two unique groups”. 

Medical cannabis Down Under 

Australia was highlighted as “one of the fastest growing medical cannabis markets in 2023”, despite the challenges in accessing transparent data on prescribing. 

When asked about the key elements of the market’s success, Patty Holmes, executive manager of Medical Cannabis Industry Australia (MCIA), said products were accessible (the country already had Special Access Scheme in place for unlicensed medicines and there were no restrictions on the indications that were eligible for prescription), and crucially, doctors were also willing to prescribe.

But the government has also been supportive of the companies in the industry and in helping to build the evidence-base. MCIA works closely with the Department of Health and the Department of Agriculture and received a $250,000 grant to explore export opportunities for medical cannabis in Australia.

Meanwhile there is a generous tax incentive for companies who carry out research and development. Perhaps an approach the UK could learn from?

A quick look at Asia 

Japan and Thailand are two of Asia’s most notable medical cannabis markets, which have taken very different approaches to cannabis legislation. Thailand legalised recreational cannabis in 2022 — with little regulations or enforcement in place. With over 5,000 dispensaries throughout the country, the government now wants to roll this back and shift to medical access only.

In contrast, Japan is taking a much stricter and more conventional pharmaceutical approach. Following the approval of a medical cannabis bill in December 2023, access is expected to be in place by the end of 2024, but only for approved medicines.

An Introduction to Medical Cannabis now available to buy

Have you ordered our new publication yet?

Copies are available through our website for £15. For all enquiries, bulk orders, or further information, please contact us.

Look out for the upcoming release in the series, The Evidence Base for Epilepsy, which will expand further the understanding of the medical efficacy and potential of cannabis-based treatments for this condition.



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