Hard as it is to believe as of 2020, that there was no European cannabis market to speak of just five years ago. How things have changed in a mere half-decade. Now there is not only a medical, THC leaded industry in Germany, the U.K., Italy, Poland, Denmark, Greece, Malta (not to mention, of course, other parts of the world) but a CBD industry to speak of. There is a “cannabis ecosystem” information – but have they gelled enough to become self-sustaining?
With “maturity” comes growing pains that have so far hit every single sovereign market as well as regulators at the E.U. level that have now begun to emerge in a “new normal.”
Beyond any one individual, company, strain of cannabinoid, let alone organized group, this also means that the industry itself is facing such issues head-on and as individual companies in part because so far, at least, there has been no national or regional industry association that has gained steam yet, let alone a European, cross border cooperation that has amounted for very much.
This is not an attempt to disparage any group currently in the mix and or trying to achieve this goal. There have certainly been attempts and still are. It is notoriously difficult. And for a variety of reasons.
Pay As You Play
For those in a position to do so (and euros in the bank to finance the same), lobbying is one way to change the rules to forward still needed reform and normalization. But this, so far, has had little impact on the nitty-gritty, nuts, and bolts of making sure the industry is moving forward solidly, rather than hitting wave after wave of setbacks.
Novel Food is just one aspect of this. So were the many complications of the first German tender bid that are still roiling the domestic market – and indeed, as a result, shaping a vast ex-im trade that has now begun to attract eagle-eyed attention domestically – starting with the fact that at least 80 German companies so far have access to the literally million euros it costs to start a narcotics, certified distribution company here, specializing in the same.
Because of the apparent proximity to cash in the room, some groups are also trying to create this kind of momentum for a group of self-identified producers. See the laudable efforts of the European Industrial Hemp Association or EIHA) as one example.
But so far, no effort has borne out longer-term fruit.
So what next?
Working Together On Common Goals
There are many ways to form coalitions or to advance basic causes – like final normalization. This does not always mean paying a membership fee to a group or portal. Indeed, some of the most successful campaigns to change the law in other places (read the U.S. or Canada) have come not through the legislature first, but action on the ground, by frustrated consumers whose only goal is not profit but basic access. Being able to tap into that is hard, but some companies (mainly from Canada) have certainly tried to link their brand names to patient efforts.
It can work; however, other issues do not lend themselves so easily to the cooperation between frustrated consumer and supplier company. Grassroots campaigns, however, do not just involve the dynamics between these two types of actors.
Here, however, is a list of efforts that everyday companies can cooperate in, as well as some of the early industry groups that are forming that also fall within the basket of what companies can do to obtain customers and even public awareness in a highly regulated market where advertising, generally, is still problematic. Everywhere. Yet if for slightly different reasons.
- Build relationships first. As with all forming industries, there will be a lot of business development required to obtain business. This includes online networking.
- Find ways to build a common dialogue. Even a company in direct competition with you will have a certain amount of common ground right now. The regulatory hurdles and bizarre shape of the entire market, no matter where you are, means that even you and your competitors have at least one problem that needs to be solved. Use this to form a connection with people who might help, together, move that issue which you both agree needs to be changed. Stranger things have happened.
- Industry groups need to work together. It is inevitable that, in a high volatility market, then toss and churn of industry economics also create highly competitive peers competing for eyeballs as well as sales. However, to the extent that industry groups have formed, they also need to work with other organizations. Even if they are also “umbrella” organizations. In the United States (for example), this is how regional organizations began to reach across the enormity of geography and state logistics to put pressure on federal legislators to change regulations on hemp in 2018. It is also how state campaigns began to learn from each other as recreational reform rolled out across the U.S. after Colorado and Washington State went green in 2014.
- More education and outreach are needed. There are so many needs right now; it is hard to begin to prioritize them. However, the demand for targeted, cannabis-friendly, authoritative information has never been greater or more imperative. This includes, of course, online and social media outreach. Still, it also includes, beyond the obvious B2C conversation, a deeper dive into how medical doctors perceive and use cannabis, how authorities interact with it on a municipal as well as state-level (particularly in Europe and even more importantly in Germany right now). A host of other issues that have barely been scratched across the E.U. One of the goals of the team behind this site as well as CannaClear, is to begin to help to congregate the same and in strategic ways. Stay tuned.
- It is way too easy to get carried away in fantasies that you are too sexy for this business. There is no such thing. If you make your living by being in the cannabis industry right now, you know and experience the many issues and problems that face every part of the value chain – from producers to patients and everyone in between. Creating coalitions and ecosystems, in the value, if not the supply chain, is the only way forward, not to mention speed up the time frame of normalization.