Category: Germany

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Legal Woes: German Marketing of Medical Cannabis

terry roston

The German medical cannabis market is one of the largest in the world. Indeed, as of 2021, it is not only the largest market in Europe, but also responsible for driving cultivation plans across many sunnier and lower labor cost locales. This is true of both countries in the European Union (EU) and further flung spots, all hoping to export cannabis to a country, which so far has not, by design, been able to domestically source the medical cannabis consumed in the country. 

All well and good—but this is the good news. 

In fact, the pharmaceutical infrastructure that faces medical cannabis companies is far from either clear cut or easy to navigate. Here is why.

Cannabis is Defined by Law as a Controlled Narcotic Drug

The first issue facing all distributors in the German market, is that cannabis, legally, is defined as a narcotic at a federal level. To date, despite a decision on the European level last fall, this also includes low THC hemp—which has led to a number of lawsuits and embarrassing contretemps of late even on the non-medical, commercial level

Beyond this, however, cannabis as medicine is clearly now present in the system—but merely importing and or registering strains and brands (no matter who makes them or where such flower or products come from) is far from enough to get sales.

Unlike the U.S. (for example), pharmaceutical drugs may not be advertised directly to potential consumers (also known as patients).

As a result, cannabis specialty, just like general pharmaceutical distributors, must engage in a strange, highly inefficient and expensive, three-step process to obtain prescriptions that starts but does not, by any means end, with what is euphemistically called “doctor education.”

Step by Painful Step

The first pre-step is actually still quite difficult for all nascent distributors who are not in business at all and wish to jump directly into the cannabis specialty business. Namely, before they can obtain their final licensing and approvals, they must identify a qualified supplier. As there is only one distributor in the country that handles domestically grown cannabis, this means that everyone else has to find companies who want to work with them. 

Five years ago, this meant one of two things. Find a Canadian company who wanted to expand to Europe and Germany or go to Bedrocan, the Dutch cultivator right across the border. As a result of the early rush, Bedrocan also began to limit both the amount of cannabis it was willing to sell, per distributors this way, and then limited the number of distributors it was willing to work with.

The Difficulties and Dichotomies of German Cannabis Prescriptions

Once a distributor has at least one offtake agreement with a certified company and all its licensing and approvals in place, the real struggle begins. To get your strain or brand of cannabis sold in German pharmacies, distributors must do several (expensive and time consuming) things beyond just obtaining the licenses required and obtaining the product. They must educate doctors about their strain or product and find patients to advocate for their brand when they do get in front of a cannabis prescribing doctor. 

For the privately insured, finding a doctor is not a big issue anymore, particularly in the larger cities. “Schmerz zentrums” (pain clinics) are staffed by doctors who are usually sympathetic to patients with a provable, pre-diagnosed condition. If one has private insurance, it is also not necessary to get a referral by a general practitioner. That said, both the doctor visit and the cannabis must be paid for, out of pocket and up front, by the patient. 

For those on statutory or “public” health insurance, the battle is even tougher, starting with finding willing doctors. Once found, however, it is at this point that the doctor must work with the patient to fill out forms and wait for the approval from the regional approvers (not even individual health insurers). Once that approval happens, patients can then ask for the brand of cannabis they want. Assuming the doctor is sympathetic and does so, they must then take this prescription, with the specific brand written on the paper itself, to a specialist pharmacy. These days, such pharmacies can order overnight.

Regardless, none of this is easy. So far, distributors have relied on a variety of methods (including free press, hiring pharma representatives and sponsoring events) to try to reach both the public and prescribing doctors. To add even more complications, the availability of doctors and their willingness to prescribe also varies by state.

For example, the Frankfurt city agency responsible for training new cannabis doctors will not give out the names of doctors they have trained. Further, as admitted to High Times, they understand that most doctors who work with statutory health insurance patients in the state of Hesse are refusing to take on more than two cannabis patients per practice.

The Future of Generic Extracts

Given all of these problems, not to mention the markup that is available, liquid dronabinol, the global generic, 96 percent THC extract, is highly popular in the German market these days. The reason? It is easier to market to both doctors and patients, not to mention obtain approval via health insurance (because of the “generic” designation).

That said, most patients do not want to take this extract, preferring other medications or treatments.

Patient Outreach Remains Critical but Hard

Every distributor in Germany maintains online patient outreach. Indeed, Facebook and other social media groups for patients are relatively widespread. However, this is far from a panacea. As dedicated as patients can be to specific brands, they are most dedicated to finding a regular supply and source of their drug.

This remains, by far, the hardest hurdle to broach, sadly, in a country with insurance coverage of cannabis at least by statute, but where it also took until late last year for the first patient to secure a guaranteed yearlong prescription.

Until any of these dynamics change—via legal challenge or greater statutory reform—marketing any kind of cannabis, and via any source, traditional or not, is an uphill challenge.

The post Legal Woes: German Marketing of Medical Cannabis appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Marguerite Arnold

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German State Invests €800K into Hemp Startup

terry roston

The German state of Baden-Württemberg is funding hemp supplier Signature Products with about €800,000 ($938,983 USD) for the development of a regional hemp protein value chain, EU-Startups reports. Signature Products is one of the largest ‘Made-in-Germany’ hemp suppliers in Europe.

Signature Products Managing Director Florian Pichlmaier described the state committment as a signal toward sustainable, plant-based productsespecially for hemp.

“We are already looking forward to job creation, joint development and research with the University of Hohenheim, as well as the delicious regional consumer products, which we hope will soon be found in food retailers.”Pichlmaier to EU-Startups

Signature Products focuses on hemp raw materials such as seeds, protein, extracts, and cannabinoid extraction. The company has launched over 40 private label customers in Germany and is currently expanding into Spain, France, and other European Union countries, the report says. Its BUDDY brand serves as a market research brand to help Signature better understand its customers and their needs.

The company plans to develop protein-rich foods using hemp, including pasta and tofu, using hemp cultivated in the region. The project aims to creates regionally produced food that is more sustainable, increasing the self-sustainability of Germany, while creating agriculture and food production jobs, the report says.

The investment by the state is part of the BIPL-Innovation funding program.

Underground Dispensary
Author: TG Branfalt

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Jamaican Cannabis Flower Now Available in Germany

terry roston

Australia-based Cannim is partnering with Germany-based Cantourage to help bring Jamaican cannabis to German pharmacies.

Cannim is one of the leading cannabis cultivators in Jamaica, which plans to utilize Cantourage’s Fast Track Access Platform to sell its flower product, called Lumir, in Germany. The platform offers what Cantourage calls an “end-to-end solution.” While Cannim focuses on cultivating a high-quality product, Cantourage will control everything related to importation, manufacturing and pharmacy distribution abroad.

Although Jamaica is well-known for both its historical roots in cannabis, as well as its unique cannabis products, it isn’t commonly found outside of the Caribbean country. Cantourage Co-CEO Philip Schetter is proud to help bring a potent Jamaican cannabis product to medical patients abroad. “We are delighted to offer patients in Germany this unprecedented opportunity by bringing medical cannabis from Jamaica into the fast-growing European medical cannabis market for the first time,” Schetter said in a press release.

He continued, “We are excited to offer Cannim’s high-quality indica-dominant Lumir flowers in Europe and to further create access to the European market for medical cannabis from across the world through our platform. Cantourage continues to provide innovative cultivars and a safe, diverse supply for patients.” Lumir’s indica-dominant flowers are available in German pharmacies starting today, August 19.

Cantourage launched its Fast Track Access Platform in June 2021. In a press release, Schetter noted that the European market is dominated by just a few companies that have been able to clear all of the hurdles required to sell medical cannabis in that region. With Cantourage’s platform, Schetter hopes to help the pool of options for medical cannabis patients to expand—and more competition will also help make cannabis medicine more affordable for patients as well. Now, over 14 cultivators are using the Fast Track Access Platform.

Cannabis intended for patients in Germany must meet many regulations, and Lumir fits the bill. Cannim’s Chief Commercial Officer, Stuart Marsh, is equally honored to be approved to sell Lumir outside of Jamaica. “Germany represents an exciting opportunity for Cannim,” Marsh said. “Our ability to cultivate high quality, medical grade Jamaican cannabis that meets the strict standards of the German Pharmacopoeia is testament to the experience and expertise of our team in Jamaica.

“With our 500-acre plantation and over six cultivation circles per year, Cannim ensures continuous supply of medicinal cannabis all year round. Our partnership with Cantourage allows us to introduce our products to the European market and provide new therapy options for patients,” Marsh concluded.

The Lumir product line is named after Professor Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, an analytical chemist from the Czech Republic whose experience in cannabis research began nearly 50 years ago. One of his most famous contributions to the cannabis world includes isolating the endocannabinoid known as anandamide. He has also published his findings in numerous scientific studies on cannabis topics, and has written 16 cannabis-related articles as well. These research efforts have earned him multiple awards, the most recent being a Lifetime Achievement Award at CanEx in Jamaica in 2018.

The Lumir product line will consist of sending “Lumir flowers to pharmacies in Germany, giving German patients and doctors reliable and ongoing access to the natural, high-quality Jamaican product.” The press release confirms the transportation of cannabis flower, but does not verify if Cannim will eventually offer its line of three different 30mL tincture blends, which are currently available in Australia: The “10:10 Balanced” product that contains 10mg THC and 10mg CBD, “THC 27” that contains 27mg THC (and less than or equal to 1mg CBD) and “CBD 50” with 50mg CBD (and less than or equal to 1mg THC).

The post Jamaican Cannabis Flower Now Available in Germany appeared first on High Times.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Nicole Potter

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