Investment Manager at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Michael Prytz, charts the rapid development of the medical cannabis market in Europe and provides a look at the Danish model in this vein
The European medical cannabis market is developing rapidly. The dominos are falling – more and more countries across Europe and the world are adopting medical and cannabis programmes.
Europe has a unique chance to legislate from the top down and provide meaningful and transparent programmes that serve the patient population while providing the pharma industry with pharma-grade input extracts.
This coherent strategy has eluded North America. The U.S. has no federal legislation, though multiple states have medical and recreational programs in place. In Canada, it was a prolonged legal battle and a Supreme Court ruling that finally made cannabis available to patients. In both countries, the adoption of medical cannabis flourished through the grassroots level and legislators have struggled to keep pace.
The world is relying on Europe to get medical cannabis right. As a first step, we need to get cannabis out of the shadow and destigmatised. It needs to become a true pharma product that the pharmaceutical industry can engage with, and healthcare professionals can prescribe with confidence to patients. To achieve this the industry needs to grow up, sustain trust and follow the same rules and regulation as any other company in the pharmaceutical industry.
Danish cannabis model
The Danish model is based on a pharma paradigm that requires serious planning to achieve minimum standards, with clear requirements and a transparent regulatory framework. The Danish programme requires producers to follow procedures to the highest pharma standards both for cultivation and processing. These standards have been established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and The European Medicines Agency. For cultivation, Good Agricultural Collection Practice (GACP) is required, while post-harvest Good Manufacturing Processes (GMP) serves as the minimum standards for production in Denmark. GACP and GMP are production concepts that are in place to secure the highest possible degree of patient safety and minimise any risk associated with the production of pharmaceutical products. In Denmark, these standards are enforced in a strict yet predictable approach that prepares industry participants to meet European and global standards for medical cannabis.
Denmark launched its medical cannabis program on Jan 1st, 2018 and is on track to be one of the world’s largest GACP cultivation nations with more than 3 million SQF of cultivation on track to be built out. Additional announcements are made regularly.
Going forward, Denmark will sustain its leading position by way of several structural competitive advantages beyond its unique legislative framework for medical cannabis. This includes low energy prices and secure access, 72% renewable energy, competent workforce and a foundation of experience and expertise in horticulture and pharma. As a launchpad for entering the European market, the availability of a strong business ecosystem offers investors a plug-and-play model for establishing and rapidly scaling up in the pharma oriented European market. This includes experienced project design and validation expertise, deep pools of Quality Assurance professionals and a specialised set of suppliers that can meet the highest standards for planning through to construction, process optimisation, facilities management and beyond.
These structural advantages are based on a competitive pharma value chain that is nevertheless cooperative in terms of collaboration and partnerships. This is reinforced by a stable political system and active support for the medical cannabis sector by local and national political decision-makers.
While the Danish advantage was initially created by embracing the top-down regulatory opportunity that has eluded other jurisdictions in Europe and North America, the next phase of industry development will be created by the same factors that have created a strong pharma presence overall – among others a competitive but collaborative value chain, reliable business inputs, high but predictable quality standards, tradition of industry engagement with science and research and access to a highly competent workforce.
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