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When you think about people who influenced the cannabis industry, you probably think of Seth Rogen, Snoop Dog or Wiz Khalifa. However, while their contribution to the cannabis world is undeniably significant, their audience is predominantly North American and not European. But who are the most influential cannabis entrepreneurs in Europe?
The European cannabis market also has its fair share of influencers. Albeit not so famous, these people helped change the mentality of the European public towards accepting cannabis as a medicinal tool and helped European lawmakers understand that the cannabis industry can boost the region’s income.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 10 most influential cannabis entrepreneurs in Europe you should know about.
1. Justin Gover — GW Pharmaceuticals
Justin Gover has been the CEO of GW Pharmaceuticals since the company’s foundation more than 20 years ago. Even though he’s largely unknown, you could say that Mr Gover did more for the global cannabis industry than any other entrepreneur. Under his guidance, GW Pharmaceuticals became the first company to develop prescription medicine extracted from the cannabis plant.
In 2010, Sativex was approved as a botanical drug for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) in the UK. Then, in June 2018, GW’s Epidiolex was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for seizures associated with two rare and dangerous forms of epilepsy — Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.
With Justin Gover as its only CEO, GW reached a market cap of $4.3 billion (€3.89 billion) in August 2019. The company’s value should increase even further, as GW is supposed to launch Epidiolex in Europe in late 2019. GW also employs close to 550 people in Europe as well as around 250 people in the U.S, and it’s currently one of the leading companies in the cannabis industry.
2. Henry Vincenty — Endoca
Henry Vincenty is the CEO and founder of Endoca, one of the most popular cannabidiol (CBD) companies in the world. Mr Vincenty has a background in science and used his knowledge to develop hemp extracts.
Endoca produces its hemp extracts out of 100 percent organic plants. In addition, the company started moving towards sustainability by implementing the process of capturing the CO2 particles in the ambient and turning them into a natural plant wash. CO2 washing is a relatively new pollutant-free technology that should help the company produce high-quality extracts.
3. Skirmantas Nikstele — Agropro
Up until 2013, Skirmantas Nikstele worked as a lawyer. When new laws made hemp cultivation legal in Lithuania, Mr Nikstele used his own capital to launch a cannabis business. He successfully negotiated a joint hemp farming venture with the largest farming operator in the Baltic States and planted cannabis on 107 hectares of land.
Mr Nikstele was also the one who convinced organic farmers in the region to start growing hemp, a move which lead to Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia becoming the most important states in the European cannabis industry, after France.
In 2017, he played a key role in convincing local authorities to allow the transition from a single-crop hemp farming system — one that allowed growing the plant for its grain — to a dual-crop farming system — this allowed growing the plant for grain and leaf/flower. This move prompted farmers in the Baltic States to enter the rapidly expanding medicinal cannabis market.
During this time, Mr Nikstele founded the Fiber Corp farmers Association, an association dedicated to helping hemp growers in Lithuania.
4. Antonin Cohen — Harmony
Antonin Cohen is the founder of Harmony, one of the fastest-growing European cannabis businesses. Mr Cohen started studying the benefits of hemp back in 2008 when he co-founded the first non-profit organisation focusing on cannabis in France.
After many years of researching and collaborating with scientists, activists and other cannabis entrepreneurs, he launched the first Harmony CBD product in 2014. Harmony is now present in Barcelona, Paris, Lima, London and, of course, online.
Mr Cohen is a regular speaker at international cannabis conferences, and he is the Director of Compliance at ACTIVE, the first European trade association that focuses on CBD and terpenes.
5. Constantin Marakhov — Hempfy
Constantin Marakhov founded Hempfy in 2017 in Duillier, Switzerland. This cannabis company develops cannabis infusions that combine the flavours found in the cannabis plant with those of other herbs.
Mr Marakhov believes that, as more and more European consumers stop smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, they will start looking for healthier alternatives. Hempfy’s cannabis tonics are rich in phytocannabinoids and organic terpenes, but they do not contain any traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or alcohol.
Since Coca Cola expressed its interest to invest in cannabis beverages, it seems that cannabis drinks will be a profitable segment of the industry.
6. David Henn — Cannamedical Pharma
David Henn founded Cannamedical Pharma back in 2016. Under his leadership, Cannamedical quickly became one of the largest wholesale cannabis distributors in the European Union.
This cannabis company sells everything that’s related to the medical cannabis industry, such as cannabis oil, cannabis buds, patient ID cards and more.
In January 2019, Cannamedical raised €15 million from North American and European investment firms to extend its European operations. As Europe’s medical cannabis industry grows, Cannamedical will surely grow with it.
7. Stephen Murphy — Prohibition Partners
Stephen Murphy is a cannabis specialist who founded Prohibition Partners, a cannabis consulting firm, in 2017. Mr Murphy is a co-founder of Europe-based cannabis investment group ECH, and he’s also a founder of Cannabis Europa, the first medical cannabis conference organised on the continent.
Prohibition Partners quickly became one of the best sources of intelligence and independent data focusing on the European cannabis industry. Their reports help entrepreneurs and investors understand the potential of the European cannabis market, and they are considered authoritative sources within the industry.
The consultancy firm works alongside investors and regulators to identify the untapped opportunities of the European cannabis industry across different jurisdictions.
8. Marguerite Arnold & Martin Weller — MedPayRX
Marguerite Arnold and Martin Weller founded MedPayRX in 2017. This MedTech company aims to make cannabis prescriptions more accessible to the general public.
MedPayRX is a mobile app that connects patients, medical insurers, pharmacies and medical cannabis doctors in Germany. The app aims to help those in need of a medical cannabis prescription get hold of their medication without being delayed by paperwork.
This company wants to reinvent the European cannabis service model by simplifying prescriptions and processing insurance payments as well as by guiding patients to friendly pharmacies and doctors.
9. Andreas Troger — Hanfgarten
Andreas Troger established Hanfgarten in 2015. Nowadays, the Austrian online shop is a one-stop destination for those who want to buy high-quality cannabis products. The online retailer is currently one of the largest distributors of hemp-derived products activate in the European cannabis market.
Hanfgarten sells everything that’s hemp-related, including hemp seeds, whole plants, CBD oil, cannabis teas, cannabis wines and accessories. The company distributes its products across the continent, as long as CBD is legal in the buyer’s country.
10. Niklas Kouparanis — Farmako
Niklas Kouparanis founded Farmako in 2018, and the company is now active in all European countries that have legalised medical cannabis. Farmako focuses on researching and developing new medical cannabis products for European patients suffering from chronic pain, AIDS or cancer.
In late 2018, this cannabis company received funding for its first patent, which should be ready in 2019. According to the company’s website, Farmako has the vision to provide approximately 75 million Europeans with pharmaceutical cannabis products.
The bottom line
Unlike their American counterparts, influential cannabis entrepreneurs in Europe are not famous. However, their industry knowledge and timely investments often changed the legislative landscape for future investors.
As the European cannabis market gets more sophisticated, entrepreneurs willing to invest in cannabis businesses will continue to shape the industry. More European countries are legalizing cannabis as a medicinal tool by the year, so the work of the entrepreneurs you read about in this article might have played a crucial role in driving that change.