The state of the international cannabis industry shows us that in January 2019, a total of 19 countries in the European Union and/or the Council of Europe have legalized some type of cannabis growing, production, sales, and use. Cannabiz Media is actively adding international cannabis licenses into the Cannabiz Media License Database, including licenses in Europe.
The 19 European countries that have legalized some form of cannabis use and/or sales are:
- Czech Republic
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
Research from the Brightfield Group reports that legal medical cannabis sales in Europe during 2018 totaled $316 million, and that market is expected to grow to nearly $8 billion by 2023 with the fastest growing markets projected to be the United Kingdom and France.
The European cannabis market is still small in comparison to U.S. and Canadian markets, but it’s poised for significant growth. Of the medical cannabis sold in Europe during 2018, 76% of those sales came from Germany, followed by Italy (16%), The Netherlands (4%), and all other countries in Europe (3%).
Cannabis Imports and Exports in Europe
Imports and exports are still the norm in Europe. The largest producer of medical cannabis sold in Europe in 2018 was The Netherlands (61%), followed by Canada (35%) and Italy (4%).
The four companies supplying the majority of cannabis to countries in Europe are Aurora Cannabis, Canopy Growth, Tilray, and Cronos Group (all out of Canada) as well as Bedrocan (the only grower in The Netherlands).
For example, in 2018, Germany (the largest European cannabis market) imported the majority of the medical cannabis flower sold in the country from Bedrocan, followed by Canopy Growth, Aurora Cannabis, and Cronos Group. In fact, the vast majority of medical cannabis flower exported from the Netherlands goes to Germany (73%), followed by Italy (20%) and all other countries (7%).
Cannabis Sales in Europe
While Germany won’t have a domestic harvest until 2020, that hasn’t stopped sales. In 2018, more legal medical marijuana sales occurred in Germany ($73 million) than any other European country. The Brightfield Group estimates that legal medical cannabis sales in Germany will reach $2.7 billion by 2023.
Italy ranked as the second largest medical cannabis market in Europe in 2018 based on sales, but most of the cannabis sold within the country is imported, primarily from The Netherlands.
Interestingly, the cannabis market in The Netherlands is still quite small, but the country is testing legalization of recreational marijuana. Brightfield Group estimates that the domestic market could grow to $1 billion by 2023.
The Czech Republic ranks as another large European cannabis market. Only one small cultivator is in operation, so the country relies on imports to satisfy demand.
With all of the importing and exporting of cannabis happening in Europe, Portugal is gaining traction as a key distribution hub according to the Brightfield Group.
The Future of the Cannabis Industry in Europe
All signs point to significant growth of the cannabis industry in Europe, but with that growth will come changes.
In February of this year, the European Parliament approved a motion for resolution on cannabis for medicinal purposes that would prioritize scientific research of cannabis and have the members of the European Union reconsider domestic legalization.
In terms of importing and exporting, the picture of the cannabis industry will change when Germany begins harvesting its own cannabis for sale. In The Netherlands, the country is working to increase medical cannabis cultivation by creating a cultivation application process, which could end Bedrocan’s monopoly.
In the meantime, the big Canadian players are buying land in strategic European locations in order to expand their own operations in the region. Canada’s Aurora Cannabis and Aphria were two of the companies chosen to grow cannabis in Germany for a period of four years. Berlin-based Demecan also received a four-year contract to grow cannabis in Germany.
According to The European Cannabis Report, 4th Edition by Prohibition Partners, there is a 60% to 70% chance that cannabis will be legal in Europe within the next three years with the majority of Europe projected to legalize cannabis by 2020. The market sizes of five key European cannabis markets by 2020 (post-legalization) are estimated in the report as follows:
- France: €18.6 billion (€9.5 billion medical and €9.7 billion recreational)
- United Kingdom: €18.4 billion (€8.8 billion medical and €9.6 billion recreational)
- Germany: €16.2 billion (€7.7 billion medical and €8.5 billion recreational)
- Italy: €15.7 billion (€7.5 billion medical and €8.2 billion recreational)
- Spain: €8.3 billion (€3 billion medical and €5.3 billion recreational)
Key Takeaways about the European Cannabis Industry
Growth potential – that is the key takeaway when talking about the European cannabis industry. Whether you’re referring to cultivation, production, distribution, or sales, the reality is that the potential for growth in the European cannabis market is significant.
If you’re interested in connecting with European cannabis license holders to leverage the opportunities in this part of the world, schedule a free demo of the Cannabiz Media License Database where you can find all of the data you need to make it happen.
Susan Gunelius, Lead Analyst for Cannabiz Media and author of Marijuana Licensing Reference Guide: 2017 Edition, is also President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company offering, copywriting, content marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, and strategic branding services. She spent the first half of her 25-year career directing marketing programs for AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more as well as small businesses around the world. Susan has written 11 marketing-related books, including the highly popular Content Marketing for Dummies, 30-Minute Social Media Marketing, Kick-ass Copywriting in 10 Easy Steps, The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing, and she is a popular marketing and branding keynote speaker. She is also a Certified Career Coach and Founder and Editor in Chief of Women on Business, an award-winning blog for business women. Susan holds a B.S. in marketing and an M.B.A in management and strategy.