Another issue in Europe is regulation – still a major stumbling block for all cannabis players. In Germany, medical cannabis is legal. In Denmark, tough restrictions on manufacturing and production remain. Some countries, like Switzerland and Portugal, are in the process of changing their cannabis laws, but others are yet to do so.
“In the European market it is the laws that are the issue, it remains so restrictive right now,” says John Lucas, of Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies, a UK-listed pharma company developing cannabis-derived drugs. It is backed by Casa Verde, the investment fund of US rapper Snoop Dogg, and tobacco giant Imperial Brands.
In Britain, medical cannabis might be legalised but gaining an import licence from the Home Office remains complicated. “It’s tough just to get a licence to do R&D using cannabis so companies have been hamstrung from doing basic research,” says Paul Airley, partner at law firm Fladgate.
Avihu Tamir, chief executive of medical cannabis company Kanabo, which listed in London in April, believes it is no longer a question of whether medical cannabis should be legal in Europe, but when. “Investors didn’t have much choice two years ago but risk profiles have changed, the market is consolidating and there are now many reputable listed and private companies,” he says.
“Some say it’ll take eight years. But when I started the process of listing Kanabo on the LSE two years ago everyone looked at me like I had landed from outer space, now no one is thinking that.”