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Why Europe Needs To Standardize Its Cannabis Regulations

Cannabis reform continues to march across the European continent and it’s creating tremendous opportunities in the legal cannabis industry.

No other large industry on the planet is growing at the rate of the emerging cannabis space, and there’s no end in sight — especially on the European continent.

Europe’s legal cannabis industry is based primarily on medical cannabis.

However, that will change in the coming years. Several countries are poised to legalize cannabis for adult use, including commercially, and legal European cannabis sales will explode once that happens.

Switzerland is already providing a glimpse into how commercial legalization will look.

Low-THC cannabis products are already legal in Switzerland and have been on sale since 2017. 

Even with a limited amount of products to offer, sales are substantial and increasing every year. This was an intense topic of discussion during our International Cannabis Business Conference Global Investment Forum in Zurich in September.

Can you imagine when legal sales are expanded to include all cannabis products across the entire continent?

An Often Overlooked Sector of Europe’s Industry

Let’s put Europe’s cannabis industry hype and potential aside for a moment. It’s worth noting it will only reach its full potential when sensible rules and regulations are in place, and they are as uniform as possible across the continent.

Right now, Europe’s cannabis industry is governed by a patchwork of laws and regulations that differ from country to country.

That is particularly true for packaging and retail. Every country in Europe has its own set of rules for both packaging and retail, which creates many headaches for entrepreneurs and investors looking to operate in multiple countries.

When most people think about entering the cannabis industry, they think of cultivation. However, there’s so much more to cannabis than producing harvests.

Post-harvest involves several steps, including compliant packaging and transportation to the point of sale. Navigating from harvest to sale can be frustrating from an industry regulation standpoint, primarily when crops are exported throughout Europe.

A More Homogenous Approach to Packaging and Retail

Some countries in Europe, such as Germany, sell medical cannabis via pharmacies. Others, like Spain or the Netherlands, have a more disjointed approach to sales.

In the future, cannabis will be sold across the European continent via a buffet of options, including delivery, brick and mortar, and by mail, like they currently do in Canada.

When that happens, Europe’s cannabis industry will finally reach its full potential. But, that will only occur after packaging rules are uniform across Europe.

If a company has to make different packaging for every country, it drives up costs, leading to high prices in the legal marketplace. That expense could result in customers turning to the unregulated market.

If the legal cannabis industry is ever going to compete with the unregulated market, retail options have to be robust.

Europe will greatly benefit from the economic boost, job creation, and tax revenue that a thriving cannabis industry can provide.

However, that will only happen if the people in power take a sensible approach to package and retail regulations.

This article first appeared in the fall 2021 issue of Cannabis & Tech Today. Read the full issue here.

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