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Germany prepares to cultivate cannabis following government approval

By Jacqueline Havelka
Jan 31, 2019

Finally, Germany’s first crop of medical cannabis can be produced! If all goes as planned, the crop will be ready sometime in 2020. The German government has finally cut through months of red tape that have stalled any prospects for domestic cultivation.

Germany’s medical cannabis cultivation is regulated by BfArM, more formally known as the Federal Institute of Drugs and Medical Devices, which has been blamed for the delay. As Germany was first poised to begin production, BfArM put a halt to it to perform a protracted study of how other legalized nations cultivated cannabis. The country wanted to fully consider every aspect of cultivation operations, including cultivation standards, sales, lab testing, security, transportation, and other considerations.

Additionally, multiple lawsuits over cultivation and legalization, in general, have been tied up in German courts, and BfArM has rescheduled the cultivation license application deadline many, many times. However, progress is finally being made as BfArM created 13 cultivation licenses up for bid. Under each four-year license which will be awarded in 2019 Q2, a grower is allowed to produce 200 kilos per year. In all, the licenses will allow 10,400 kilos.

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While this is certainly a start, the amount barely scratches the surface of what German medical cannabis patients are demanding. Germany’s initial four-year plan involved only 6,600 kilos of production, but BfArM had to significantly increase plans after assessing the number of patients who currently have medical cannabis prescriptions.

The German cannabis market is potentially huge

Germans are not required to register with the government or to get a patient card to use MMJ, but pharmacies are the only entity that can sell it – and they do; The country’s 20,000 pharmacies carry a regular supply.

Even better, in 2017, German insurance companies began covering MMJ under the mandatory health insurance that Germany’s 70 million citizens are required to have, so naturally, the number of patients grew exponentially as a result.

While all eyes have been on Canada as the country has rolled out its legal recreational cannabis market, the German market is even bigger than Canada. Already the largest economy in the European Union, Germany is on the brink of becoming the world’s largest medical marijuana market. The forecast for Europe is that the EU medical cannabis market could reach €58 in the next decade.

Domestic cultivation is a step in the right direction, but Germany imports most of its cannabis from both Canada and the Netherlands, and it looks as if that will continue for quite some time. BfArM plans for Germany to continue imports for at least 10 years, if not more. The Netherlands has already doubled its annual exports to Germany to help meet demand.

Germany imports the majority of its MMJ from Canada to the tune of 169 kilograms – and that is just for oil.

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Countries like Israel, one of the world’s largest producers of medical cannabis, hope to cash in on the German market and play catch-up with Canada and the Netherlands; the Knesset Parliament just passed a law allowing medical cannabis exports, so Germany should see Israeli imports in the near term.

Meanwhile, BfArM has reported that nearly 80 companies have put in bids for the 13 slots, so competition is fierce in Germany. Recreational cannabis is likely on the near horizon for Germany, so it might make sense for BfArM to hold onto all those applications because Germany’s need for weed is only going up.

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