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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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Maine Cannabis NewsMarketingMediaSpotlight

Studio Linear: Customized Cannabis Branding, Packaging, & More

terry roston

Studio Linear is a female-owned creative design firm in Maine that specializes in the cannabis and CBD industries. From marketing, brand strategy and messaging, web design, unique product packaging, photography, and even typography, Studio Linear brings a powerhouse team of creative professionals who work together to bring cannabis brands to life and set them on the path toward a successful future.

Company founder Andrea Beaulieu says she first started Studio Linear as a side hustle, working hard out of her own kitchen in the evenings after the kids had gone to bed. Her continued dedication to the project had built a strong foundation for the company when it officially launched as a full-time agency in 2018. The company started out working for brands across a wide variety of industries—early clients included record labels, musicians, and food and beverage companies—but in 2019, Studio Linear took on its first cannabis client in Garden Remedies, a Massachusetts-based dispensary.

That project won the gold in Integrated Marketing Campaigns at the Broderson Awards (an annual creative design awards show). Following that successful experience working with the cannabis industry, Studio Linear decided to shift gears in 2020 and work exclusively with cannabis and lifestyle brands.

“We found that this was the one industry that allowed us to be as creative as we could possibly imagine and love the process,” said Andrea Beaulieu, Studio Linear’s founder and creative director. “We love package design and dreaming up unique experiences for consumers. That magical unboxing moment is huge and we love dreaming up that experience for our clients.”

When taking on a new project, the team starts their process with a discovery call to chat with and understand their client’s vision. They conduct a brand audit and discuss brand strategy, identity, design goals/possibilities, and more. Ultimately, Studio Linear promises to establish (or reestablish) a full branding package including logos, fonts, custom illustrations, brand guides, and more.

The team also considers the vision and creative input they get from clients and works to ensure they have some personal experience with the brands they represent.

“We love trying the products our clients create, from new CBD oils to tasty THC-infused lemonades,” Beaulieu said. “We truly have the best job in the world!”

While the firm is based in Maine, Studio Linear is digitally mobile and works with cannabis brands from around the country. They guarantee all brand packaging and marketing campaigns are appropriately compliant with each operator’s local market regulations. Studio Linear also collaborates with other top, female-owned photography firms throughout the U.S. and can make professional recommendations for product photography whenever said products are unable to cross state lines.

To learn more and/or get in touch, visit StudioLinear.com.

Underground Dispensary
Author: Graham Abbott

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Cannabis Industry NewsFrom Our WritersLegal IssuesMarketing

Federal Judge Rules Cannabis Logo Infringes on Kool Cigarette Trademark

terry roston

A federal judge on Monday permanently blocked a cannabis vape company from using a product logo featuring interlocking “OOs” after a legal challenge by Kool cigarette brand owner ITG Brands, Law360 reports. ITG claimed, successfully, that Capna Intellectual had violated its trademark by using interlocking OOs in the branding for its Bloom brand.

ITG called the Bloom logo a “blatant ripoff of [its] valuable trademarks.”

The order from U.S. District Court Judge Otis D. Wright permanently prohibits Capna from using the logo “or any other marking containing interlocking OOs and/or circles.” The decision follows a preliminary injunction in June that temporarily prevented Capna from using the Bloom logo. The order also requires Capna to notify all of its retail distributors about the decision by November 15 and give them the option to return any materials with the logo in exchange for new ones.

The decision also requires Capna to destroy any products and materials with the interlocking OOs by December 31 and “use its best efforts” to remove any materials that are later found to have the logo, the report says.

Kool has utilized the interlocking OOs logo for more than 88 years. When implementing the original injunction, Judge Wright said he expected ITG Brands’ claim would be successful because both products are smoking-related.

The Bloom Brands website is currently logo-less but features a banner stating: “Bloom is working on a new look! Stay tuned for a major announcement.”

Underground Dispensary
Author: TG Branfalt

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