MCN speaks to Jürgen Neumeyer, Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft Managing Director, about the German cannabis landscape.
Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft, the German Cannabis Business Association, aims to represent all segments of the legal cannabis field in Germany through lobbying, educational programmes and public relations.
MCN publication speaks to Jürgen Neumeyer, Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft Managing Director, about the German cannabis landscape.
How did the Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft come to be founded? What are your key goals?
We are quite a young organisation – we were formed around the end of December last year – and we focus primarily on lobbying here in Germany. We have established partnerships with four key focus sectors: medical cannabis; industrial hemp; CBD; and technology, trade and services. Our overall goal is of course to lobby the German government on behalf of the industry; we also provide business to business networking; and we aim to offer information about topics related to cannabis topics for members of the public and industry stakeholders.
Before Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft was established there was not really an industry body for the cannabis sector in Germany: Deutsche Hanfverband did some work on behalf of the business side, but their main focus is legalisation. We saw that there was a necessity for the cannabis business here in Germany to have a voice in order to ensure and maintain good business regulation, to support quality standards and cover the key aspects of growing a new industry.
What are the main issues or challenges facing the cannabis industry in Germany today?
We had a good head start in Germany: the use of medical cannabis was legalised in 2017, but there have been a lot of bureaucratic issues surrounding it and there should be ways to handle the process more smoothly. Doctors must fill out a lot of forms and they have to declare that all other forms of therapy, including opioids, have been exhausted before they are permitted to prescribe medical cannabis. Not everybody is allowed to get their medicine – only two thirds of patients are able to receive medical cannabis through public health insurance. When a batch of medical cannabis is delivered to a pharmacy, the pharmacist must open the packaging, test the product and then replace it in the boxes. That makes it quite expensive for the insurance providers and for patients who must pay for their own cannabis medicines; and it is just one example of the things we should be concerned about in our work and in looking to the future here in Germany.
We also need broader cannabis education for doctors and pharmacists: knowledge about cannabis as a medicine is growing, but there is a lag because some people – especially outside cities, in the rural regions of Germany – cannot find a doctor who will prescribe it.
Germany is one of Europe’s largest markets for cannabis. Could other European countries learn from Germany in introducing medical cannabis regulation?
Countries which have public health provision or insurance systems similar to Germany’s should try to induce public insurance bodies to agree to pay for cannabis as a medicine. Another issue – and we have to do this in Germany as well – is that we have to conduct more scientific evaluation and research. North America and Israel are well ahead in terms of cannabis research; and we have to work to catch up, both in Germany and in Europe as a whole. It could be a good idea for countries hoping to move ahead with medical cannabis to liaise with their national treasuries, with universities and with the companies which can provide the money to conduct research: combining those resources would enable more research to be done on cannabinoids, terpenes, the medical use of cannabis. It would also pave the way for wider industrial hemp production and the regulation of cannabis-infused food products.
How do you see the medical cannabis industry evolving in Germany in the future?
German medical cannabis is still in the early stages of development: we’re just at the beginning point, and I am very optimistic for every aspect of the industry – medical, industrial, cannabinoids, terpenes, growing, industry support and so on. The field of medical cannabis is growing and I see a good future: Germany has a lot of fields and rural landscape which would be ideal for cultivating cannabis and hemp plants if state funding were made available. Germany had to import 6,513kg of medical cannabis in 2019; and this is expected to increase in 2020 – the first harvest of homegrown German cannabis is expected in the final quarter of 2020, but German cannabis production is currently limited to three companies each harvesting a maximum 2,600kg per year.
The main focus in Germany at the moment is on further development: conducting research, finding skilled staff; on the medical side there are several companies already working on ways of creating new medical cannabis products. While the future of German cannabis looks positive, it is still necessary, both in Germany and throughout Europe, to establish a good base of regulation for this to be a success. This is what we work for: a good regulatory platform to support the industry.