You might have heard that the European cannabis landscape is going to be worth about €123 billion by 2028. Since the cannabis industry is just emerging in Europe, you might be tempted to get a head start by founding your own cannabis business. Now, you are possibly wondering, what does it take to get a cannabis growing licence in Europe? There is definitely no simple answer to that question. Each European country follows its own rules and regulations when it comes to cannabis plantations.
In fact, in most EU member states it’s extremely difficult to receive a cannabis growing licence. For example, in Germany and Greece, only a handful of licences are granted each year, and multiple experienced cannabis companies bid for each one.
Cannabis growing is labour-intensive and often incredibly expensive to start. That’s why only EU member states that inhere a cheap labour force and or permissive cannabis-growing legislation made this list. Let’s take a look at some of the best EU member states you can start a cannabis growing company in, and the steps involved in the process.
If you want to grow cannabis in the UK, you need a licence from the Home Office. To get such a licence, you need to provide your contact details along with the field location numbers, names and or grid references, the field’s hectarage details and a farm map that has a marked growing area.
Last but not least, you also have to specify the seed type you’re about to plant and the plant’s THC content. Additionally, you have to confirm whether or not the type of seed you’re planting is approved in the EU.
To file your application, you need to pay £580 for a new licence and £326 to renew a licence. You will also have to undergo a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) control to be eligible to apply.
The Home Office might request to screen your crop or to locate your field to ensure it’s not in the vicinity of schools or public areas. You must also inform the local police that you’re going to plant hemp on a specific plot of land.
In the UK, hemp-growing licences last for a single growing season, and you must renew your licence before planting the seeds for the following season.
If you want to grow cannabis in Denmark, you have to receive an authorisation from the Danish Medicines Agency (DMA). You must submit a standardised registration form to the DMA at least 60 days before you plan to start your company’s activity. The form has a part that addresses companies that wish to produce cannabis in Denmark. Note that the DMA only issues authorisations to companies that are registered in Denmark.
For a new authorisation, companies have to make sure that the site, facilities, equipment, procedures and processes that are about to be used for cannabis cultivation are ready for inspection. The DMA will inspect the premises and only issue an authorisation if it’s satisfied.
Your company will also have to delegate a competent person and a safety responsible person to represent it. The competent person has to provide a CV that lists his or her relevant experience, courses, etc, a diploma or a training plan. The competent person can also be a consultant collaborating with your company. The security responsible person’s responsibility is to prepare and implement safety measures to make sure that the cannabis-growing process goes smoothly.
Last but not least, your company’s manager, along with the safety responsible person will have to fill out a consent form allowing the DMA to obtain information about them from the Danish Police.
If the Danish Police does not issue a certificate of good conduct about these persons, the company will have the opportunity to correct the matter (usually by appointing other people) before a decision is made.
All these papers are then examined by the DMA, who will accept or reject the company’s inquiry within 60 days.
In Bulgaria, the cultivation of industrial hemp is controlled by the Narcotic Substances and Precursors Control Act (NSPCA). The NSPCA allows the cultivation of cannabis that has less than 0.2% THC content.
According to the NSPCA, people or companies who are registered as farmers and have no previous crimes related to the production, distribution or marketing of drugs have the right to grow industrial hemp.
But, in order to grow hemp, farmers have to receive a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (MAFF). If you want to become a hemp farmer, you will also have to obtain and provide proof of a clean court record and declare that you will not separate, use or process different parts of the hemp plant. If the farmer is a legal person, the entire management board has to provide clear court records and declarations.
The application file is then considered by a committee and is admitted or rejected within three months from the application. This procedure is free of charge, and the growing licence is valid for three years.
While the application process might seem complicated in Bulgaria, investing in this country’s emerging cannabis industry might be a good idea because Bulgaria could be the first EU state to allow the sale of CBD on the open market.
Romania was one of the largest exporters of hemp in the world before the fall of communism in 1989. From 1990 to the early 2000s, the crop was forgotten and almost nobody grew it any longer.
Nowadays, Romania has legalised medicinal cannabis (even though there are no companies operating in this sector of the industry) and welcomes foreign investments in agriculture. A North American company is planning to cultivate medical cannabis in the historical region of Transylvania, which could trigger the emergence of a cannabis industry in Romania.
Companies that want to grow industrial hemp in Romania are welcomed to do so. In order to get a licence, companies have to provide a lab analysis report for the hemp seeds they are about to plant, a proof that they own the land that’s about to be cultivated and a contract for the hemp products they are about to produce (before producing them).
Now, the only authorised ‘hemp seed multiplier’ in Romania is the Agricultural Research and Development Center in Secuieni. Fortunately, the centre provides lab analysis reports for the seeds it sells. And local companies, such as Canah, are usually more than willing to offer contracts for future hemp products.
Once you have all the documents that you need, you have to submit them to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD). If the documents are approved, you also have to inform the Organized Crime department of the Internal Affairs Ministry that you are going to plant cannabis on a plot of land.
The Organized Crime department will only allow your company to grow cannabis if the plot of land that it is going to cultivate is secured by a tall fence or by a full-time security service, and if your company’s administrators have a clean criminal record.
Notable mentions outside of the EU
Northern Macedonia & Switzerland
Northern Macedonia is the only country in its region that has legalised cannabis cultivation and the production of cannabis extracts for medical purposes. The Northern Macedonian cannabis industry is slowly but surely becoming more sophisticated as more local and international companies are investing in this sector.
A legal entity that wants to grow cannabis in Northern Macedonia has to obtain a permit from the Ministry of Health (MH). If you want to produce cannabis extracts, you will also need a separate permit of production.
Switzerland is now renowned for having a permissive cannabis legislation. The legal situation of cannabis in Switzerland convinced many entrepreneurs to invest in this industry, making Switzerland one of the best European countries for cannabis businesses.
Legal entities that want to grow cannabis in Switzerland have to receive a permit from the Federal Office of Public Health. Your company has to meet the Swiss safety and security criteria for cannabis cultures and agree that the entire production will be subject to rigorous controls.
In Switzerland, every phase of the production cycle is considered legal only if the farmer submits a formal application. As a result, starting a new plantation, sowing the mother plant, destroying the vegetable residue at the end of the harvest season and so on all need separate applications.
The bottom line
Getting a cannabis growing licence in Europe is a complicated process. However, the potential of the European cannabis industry is undoubtedly worth the hassle. And you don’t necessarily have to wait for the European cannabis market to reach its peak to see a great return on your investment.
With multiple Canadian cannabis companies looking to expand to Europe, owning a cannabis plantation might be a rewarding way to attract profitable partnership deals.