Cannabis Europa: Money x Medicine x Mary Jane

Let’s just be very candid: the cannabis industry is actually proper nuts.

By
Dave Barton
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Let’s just be very candid: the cannabis industry is actually proper nuts.

Let’s just be very candid: the cannabis industry is actually proper nuts. As in literal crazy ‘nuts’. In the best possible ways. 

And no: that’s not an external observation. That’s coming from someone who’s spent the last year or so trying to embed themselves into its sprawling international community.

Nowhere is the vast eclecticism of the sector more evident than at Cannabis Europa. 

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve got a lot of love for the mayhem. And this year’s event was a smasher – polished, progressive programming, with everyone from Big Narstie to Professor Mike Barnes giving their (often mutually aligned) perspectives on the future of cannabis, and overcoming the obstacles the sector seems to face at every single freaking turn. 

But the fact the event was held in London and had a pan-European focus, was no mere symbolic gesture. It was evidence enough that Britain wants a stake at the cannabis table – and sees its relationship with ‘the Continent’ as mission critical in achieving this.

                                        Centre: thermidorks< Dave and Jamie mean business…

The Place To Be & Be Seen

With Tower Bridge a stone’s throw away and the Shard looming right across the river, the setting for this year’s Cannabis Europa couldn’t have been any more indicative of the UK capital – or of its past, present, and future.

There are few venues more ‘London’ than Old Billingsgate; a once-thriving fish market right on the banks of Old Father Thames – which for two days in 2022, played host to a very different affair.

Looking around the event, it was clear that there were three key ‘happenings’ (for want of a better term).

  1. Trade Show Territory – From Storz & Bickel demoing their medically-approved range of delights to a top notch security firm flexing their marijuana muscles, the smattering of stands were buzzing with interest from curious delegates.

  1. Deal Discussions – You didn’t have to stroll too far to notice groups of suited and booted parties speaking intensely in hushed tones; pretty much across every conceivable corner of the venue. 

  1. Speaker’s Showcase – Here, the great and good of the global cannabis industry took to the stage in a series of seminars and debates. From medical cannabis patient advocacy right the way through to what the future holds for recreational cannabis in Italy – the panels and presentations at this year’s Cannabis Europa did not disappoint.

       Centre: Rebecca Allen-Tapp opens up about her own experiences as a medical cannabis patient.

While there was some degree of curiosity around the divide between patients and purse-string holders, it totally made sense that both had a place at Cannabis Europa – for the moneyed to get the full spectrum, if nothing else. Where else would they meet the marijuana sector’s momentum-focused movers and shakers? 

Being a relative newcomer to the sector, I took it upon myself to quiz a contact of mine about the nature of courting investment. Surely, I posed, the prospect of investor matchmaking was a simple exercise? One party has a business ready to scale, the other wants a seat at the table. Job done.

However, it was explained to me (most eloquently, I might add) that given the level of risk involved in what’s essentially still a burgeoning sector, the actual courting process can take a significant amount of time. Several years, in fact. 

Investors want to check in with companies – to meet the wider team; to witness progress being made; to assess plans and review traction being made… before they’re anywhere near prepared to consider handing over a single penny.

Whether this is standard practice in other sectors where attracting investment is concerned, well, I couldn’t tell you. But it goes to show that, while opportunities abound in cannabis, caution is being well and truly exercised.  

Helping UK Cannabis Make Its Mark

It’s no surprise that, when contrasted with the excitement around Germany’s move on the rec market, Switzerland’s adult use trial, and Spain’s medical market opening up, it doesn’t feel like there’s much cannabis-specific ‘Best of British’ news to celebrate per se.

However, research released by Cannabis Europa’s organisers, Prohibition Partners, shows that the UK medical market could be worth nearly half a billion by 2026 – almost a quarter of the total European market.

Yup, Boris and co. were to fully legalise cannabis this year – and get recreational sales up and running by 2024 – we’d be banking an additional £627m by 2026.

Which begs the question… so why the heck aren’t we doing it? 

Many reasons it seems (not least because Priti Patel is too busy shipping refugees off to Rwanda to amend a single line of legislation allowing GPs to prescribe life-saving medical cannabis).

So we took it upon ourselves to probe further, and ask some key players from the UK and Europe who were at the event if they thought the UK could be a leading light in the global cannabis sector?

As our vid shows, most were resoundingly optimistic. 

Caption: Could the UK be a leading light in the global cannabis sector? TL;DR – Yes, but…

(Big up to our interviewees: Matt Freemantle, Olivia Davis, Dr Callie Seaman PhD, Lily Temperton, Rebecca Allen-Tapp, James Smith, Leonid DéWarrior, Chris Day and, of course, Prof. Michael Barnes.)

Different Perspectives, Shared Goals

Overall, more than 1500 delegates attended from over 30 countries. All doing their darndest to be heard and make their points – outlining the challenges they face and the opportunities that abound. 

If there’s one key takeaway, it would be that, ultimately without patients, there can be no medical market. And without a buoyant medical market, there’s very little chance there’ll ever be a recreational market. And without a recreational market, investment opportunities become rather limited.

No-one understands this better than Professor Mike Barnes (as per our video above), who as a key figurehead for UK cannabis has a very balanced perspective.

“There’s lots more the government could do to make it easier to invest. We’ve got a very solid scientific community. We’ve a very solid medical community. And we have now, and should have, a better legislative framework in the future. 

“We’re in a position now to learn from the countries that are ahead of us. We can learn from their mistakes and develop this into a great UK industry.”

No further questions, your honour.

Blog Author
Dave Barton
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