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B.C. cannabis industry eyes newly opened German market

Decriminalization in Europe’s largest economy expected to increase medical cannabis demand and create opportunities for B.C. growers and producers

Cannabis growers and producers in B.C. are looking to enter—or expand their exports to—the German market following the country’s marijuana decriminalization law, which took effect April 1.

The new law legalizes possession by adults of up to 25 grams of marijuana for recreational purposes and allows individuals to grow up to three plants for personal consumption. The law also no longer classifies cannabis as a narcotic, which means that any doctor can now prescribe it.

“It definitely has a pretty significant impact on cannabis growers in Canada and B.C.,” said Deepak Anand, principal of ASDA Consultancy Services, a Vancouver-based firm providing consultancy in the cannabis industry.

Due to export restrictions, Canadian companies are not allowed to export recreational cannabis products globally, but many have been selling medical cannabis products to countries including Germany, which has a population of more than 84 million and is Europe’s largest economy.

The fact that marijuana is no longer considered narcotic in Germany has opened up the medical cannabis market for B.C. growers and producers, according to Anand.

“What that will result in is an increased set of prescriptions being made for it because now all doctors can prescribe this product.… So the percentage of the patient population that is currently accessing medical cannabis is going to be much greater than what it was in the past,” said Anand. 

“The medical cannabis market in Germany is expected to grow very exponentially.… That is probably the change that will have the biggest positive impact on cannabis cultivators, growers and businesses in Canada and B.C.”

Pure Sunfarms, a leading cannabis producer in B.C., has been exporting dried flower strains for medical use to the German market since 2023. In 2022, the company received European Union good manufacturing practice (GMP) certification, which permits companies to export medical cannabis to European Union markets.

“The German cannabis market is core to [our] international cannabis strategy. [Our] strains have been well received by medical patients in Germany so far, with demand continuing to increase month over month,” said Paul Furfaro, senior vice president of strategy at Village Farms International Inc. (NASDAQ:VFF), the parent company of Pure Sunfarms.

“As the German market grows, we’ll continue to grow with it, bringing our best strains to market.”

Since decriminalization, some B.C. cannabis companies have set their sights on expanding to the German market, including Herbal Dispatch Inc. (CNSX: HERB) which processes and sells cannabis products to Canadian and global markets.

“There’s a lot of interest now with the market in Germany. People are pretty excited,” said Philip Campbell, CEO of Herbal Dispatch. He said he is going to a cannabis conference in Germany later this month with the aim of securing some export deals. The company plans to sell to the market in the second half of 2024.

B.C. cannabis popular in global markets

B.C. cannabis companies are well positioned to take advantage of the opportunity for a much larger medical cannabis market in Germany, according to Anand.

“Because the costs of cultivation [in Germany] are quite high, I don’t see a huge number of products being grown in Germany, but I do see more products being imported from Canada,” he said.

“B.C. buds are well known across the world and that’s because our product is a very high quality. Five years post-legalization for recreational purposes, almost 10 years for medical purposes, we have a really skilled and competent group of individuals that are cultivating cannabis.”

Canada is already the largest exporter of medical cannabis to Germany. A total of 2,882 kilograms of cannabis oil and flower were exported to Germany from Canada in the first half of 2021. This was 45 per cent more than the amount delivered by the Netherlands—the second-largest exporter of cannabis products to Germany, according to Statista data released last June.

B.C. cannabis products have made inroads to other global markets, according to Campbell. Herbal Dispatch started exporting to Portugal and Australia last year and has seen its exports grow exponentially.

Last year, the company exported 500 kilograms of medical cannabis products, representing about 20 per cent of its total revenue. This year, the company expects to export 3,000 to 5,000 kilograms—up to 10 times its exports last year, and an amount that would account for 30 per cent to 40 per cent of total revenue.

“B.C. has a global reputation as a very high-quality producer of cannabis products. And the Canadian market is the most advanced from a global trade perspective, so it’s a strong competitive advantage in that sense,” said Campbell.

“We have a large number of licensed producers, a large supply and a lot of capital invested into the sector. It’s a very mature market in Canada compared to some of the emerging nascent markets that are still developing.… And the regulations are fairly business-friendly.”

The company is now looking to export to Germany, the Czech Republic and Thailand, and aims to secure a few export deals with German partners this year that will—if successful—account for 10 per cent to 15 per cent of total export sales, according to Campbell.

“I think it will grow into a larger amount,” he said.

Anand said there are many lessons Germany can learn from Canada on cannabis legalization. Its new legislation has opened up opportunities for collaboration and talent exchanges between the two countries, he said.

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