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In-Depth Coverage Of The Irish And European Markets

NEWSLETTER | 31 March 2024


Our round up of the recent headlines of interest from the Irish and European cannabis markets.

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A reminder of the low level of access that Irish patients have had to medical cannabis nearly 7 years after access was first granted under licence granted by the Minister for Health, prior to the introduction of Ireland’s more formal Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP). Both methods of obtaining medical cannabis in Ireland have been criticised for being too restrictive in that patients must first try conventional treatment and only a medical consultant (not the patient’s GP) can prescribe cannabis. These are among the reasons blamed for the low uptake of medical cannabis in Ireland.

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“In perhaps the most important vote on cannabis liberalisation in European history … The bill will legalise the possession of up to 25 grams of cannabis for adult-use. It will also enable citizens to grow up to three cannabis plants at home and have up to 50 grams of cannabis flower on their property. Cannabis cultivation associations would also be legalised, while public consumption will be allowed, though strict rules remain around where this is acceptable.”


For business and investors who hoped to participate in a fully legalised European cannabis market, Germany’s scaled back cannabis legalisation plans come as a disappointment. For German consumers, these legislative updates are quite attractive. Consumers in several other EU States, Ireland included, are hopeful that their government will be next to announce similar plans.

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Internationally known for its famous cannabis coffeeshops, some are surprised to hear that cannabis is illegal in the Netherlands and these coffeeshops have operated in a grey area, rather than a fully regulated one. The delays and obstacles that the Netherlands has faced in formally introducing its legal cannabis programme highlights the difficulties that countries face when trying to fully legalise and regulate their cannabis markets.

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“The timing of the purchase couldn’t be any more perfect, as Germany rescheduled cannabis and removed the narcotic stigma, paving the way not only for a German boom in cannabis but what will be the start of a global medical explosion in Europe. Joining the EU small club of verticals sets SOMAÍ up to partner with large US MSO’s looking to expand their footprints to Europe.”


Irish headquartered, Somaí Pharmaceuticals, makes further moves to solidify its status in the global medicinal cannabis market with this recent acquisition. This move promises significant business growth and a broader impact on the European cannabis landscape.

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“Germany has long been in Curaleaf’s sights, with it stating last year that it expected to begin selling in the market, which could soon significantly expand its cannabis industry, by the end of this year. The news comes just days after its international arm announced plans to expand into the Czech Republic, a new market for the company, through a new supply agreement with Astrasana Pharma s.r.o.”


Not long after the announcement of its acquisition of European cannabis company Can4Med, Curaleaf’s expansion into Europe continues, primarily driven by the recent regulatory updates proposed by Germany and the Czech Republic.

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“Tilray Brands, Inc., a global leader in the cannabis industry, has achieved a significant milestone in Portugal with the approval of its first medical cannabis extract, Tilray Oral Solution THC 5 CBD 20. This development marks a notable advancement in the availability of medical cannabis products for patients in Portugal.”


Tilray is also one of the producers that has its products available under Ireland’s Medical Cannabis Access Programme (MCAP).

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“However, a new campaign group, Rational Regulation (RARE), formed by a number of the country’s leading cannabis voices, is hoping to persuade both politicians and the public that a commercial market is essential to meeting the bill’s stated goals of harm reduction.”


For those who hoped to see a fully legalised and regulated cannabis market in the EU, all eyes are now on the Czech Republic. The thought of a fully legalised cannabis market in the EU was first presented by Luxembourg, who eventually scaled back their plans, instead settling on a decimalised market. A similar path taken more recently by EU powerhouse, Germany. The Czech Republic is leaving its options open for now. On one hand, pursing full legalisation, on the other preparing itself for a scaled back version of its plans, following Germany’s shortcomings in its recent quest.

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Having legalised cannabis for medical purposes, its pragmatic approach to Novel Foods Regulations and a growing number of domestic cannabis businesses, many saw the UK's potential to become a European cannabis powerhouse. Disappointingly, recent years have instead seen the UK Government double down on its tough on drugs stance.


The UK government’s recent position is particularly frustrating for UK cannabis stakeholders as post-Brexit, it is no longer bound by the shackles of the European Commission, which has been the primary blocker for EU State in their quest to fully legalise cannabis.

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One of the UK’s best known CBD brands, Love Hemp, has fallen into financial difficulties for the second time. The well-established CBD brand’s partnerships include heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua and premier mixed material arts organisation, UFC. The situation with Love Hemp is an example of the wider cannabis industry's difficulties in turning a profit in a market that is still finding its footing amidst fluctuating regulatory environments.

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"The initiative, “Canapa New Tech” (“New Tech Hemp”), is under the Sicily Rural Development Program (PSR), which invests in agriculture, forestry and environmental protection. PSR, which is jointly funded by the European Union and the Sicilian Region, has not indicated the level of investment."


Although the potential for hemp has been widely recognised, including at the United Nations level, Ireland’s hemp industry faces obstacles including access to the appropriate infrastructure to process hemp. This can, at least partially, be attributed to a lack of governmental support for the Irish hemp industry. Enterprise Ireland has, for now, ceased investing in hemp businesses due to regulatory uncertainty in the space, with institutional investors generally holding back for similar reasons.

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©2024 by The Cannabis Review

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