When I say the word cannabis, I bet you are thinking about joints and drug dealers.
But actually, the green flower has a huge unseen potential that we need to grow.
Within recent years cannabis has been widely accepted for its medicinal effect. It has been legalized for medical purposes in countries such as Denmark, Germany, Poland, Portugal and the Netherlands because it is believed that it can help reduce the pain for patients who suffer from neuropathic pain e.g., spasms from spinal cords injury or nausea caused by chemotherapy.
But the potential might be so much bigger. Researchers from all over the world are conducting studies showing that medical cannabis can have a positive effect on numerous conditions like anxiety, PTSD, and cardiovascular diseases.
In fact, this is already big business. In 2018, Europe's total medical cannabis turnover was 286 million euro, a number which in 2023 is expected to reach 7.2 billion euro. And by 2025 the European market is expected to exceed the North American.
But if this market is such a great success why am I writing this, you might think?
Well, if we do not embrace the promising research and back it up with EU regulation, we will make the industry go up in smoke harming businesses and patients all over Europe.
Today, it is considered a national matter to regulate the production of medical cannabis when legalization or trial schemes arise. I think that is a wrong approach.
In Denmark, several stakeholders demand joint EU regulation because the current rules are seen as a significant barrier to growth. At the same time the European cannabis industry is calling for better guidance on, and more clinical trials with, medical cannabis.
Harmonization of safety and quality standards is not only beneficial for manufacturers for export. It can also be beneficial for consumers, who will be able to gain greater clarity of what they can expect from a product.
By doing so, we will gain grater knowledge and we will create the best environment for production and innovation. These things have to go hand in hand with legalization of medical cannabis.
In 2017, medical cannabis was legalized in Germany which has rapidly developed as the biggest market in Europe. By 2018, Germany had a larger sale of medical cannabis than all other European countries - where medical cannabis is legalized - combined. This success is an efficient production together with the legalization.
In Denmark businesses have invested heavily in the production of medical cannabis since the introduction of a trial scheme in 2018. That scheme is set to expire at the end of this year, and the businesses are already feeling the consequences from the missing EU regulation as the uncertainty has already created hesitation in investing and attracting new businesses. We cannot let that happen.
That is why I have just sent a letter - co-signed by 20 colleagues - to EU Health Commissioner Stealla Kyriakides, urging her to establish a common EU framework to catalyze the obvious benefits - for people with severe disease challenges and for the export of safe, high-quality products.
We need to get high from the growth and not letting peoples dreams go up in smoke.