The introduction of medicinal cannabis has been instrumental in shaping its image in Europe. Veering from the ‘stoner’ stereotype, cannabis, especially in the form of cannabidiol (CBD), has now found a new home in wellness and self-care. Marketed as a therapeutic solution to maladies such as anxiety, muscle pain and even epilepsy, popularity in cannabis is growing quicker than ever.
Related: CBD for Wellness – Viable or Hoax?
Cannabis is getting a facelift
Cannabis is enjoying a revelatory moment in North America, too. From Canada to a number of states in the U.S., the entire plant is being touted as the cure-all remedy for many of society’s woes. New products, like infused pasta, bath bombs, and other topicals, are also finding eager customers.
Naturally, such popularity has only been made possible by positive legislation. It has offered legitimate businesses to spring up, with the most successful soaking up a highly-curious new clientele. Soccer moms reticent to toke up in the garage are now offered beauty baskets with myriad cannabis-based products. Those interested in protecting their lungs are now offered oral drops, oils and various edibles.
Instead of being enjoyed clandestinely, cannabis is now riding the wellness wave all over the world. The Editor-In-Chief of Green Market Report, Debra Borchardt, told European CEO that ‘the dispensaries often look like spas or health food stores with a clinical vibe. I think since medical marijuana was the way legalisation was promoted, it has shifted the way people think about cannabis.’
Although Europe has been slightly less liberal in its regulatory approach, the introduction of medicinal marijuana has already enjoyed quick uptake. Before legalisation in 2017, roughly 1,000 patients had access to cannabis in Germany. This figure ballooned to nearly 60,000 a year later with experts citing more to come. Alongside the medical industry, retailers are also now offering citizens the non-psychoactive component of marijuana, CBD.
Prior to legalisation, no one had heard of CBD. These days, buyers are hard-pressed not to find imbued gums, chocolates, face masks, creams and other beauty products at their local grocery store. Europe, at large, has taken note of this trend, too. It is predicted that the already $318 million CBD market will continue to grow over 400 percent by 2023 according to market intelligence firm, Brightfield Group.
The European landscape in detail
The shift in marketing approach, more liberal regulations and a hefty bounty for successful startups have all equated to a booming cannabis industry in Europe. Countries of note include Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Spain and Austria. France, too, has been one of the largest industrial manufacturers of hemp.
For now, CBD and medicinal cannabis are the focus on the continent. Part of this has to do with the huge sums dished out within the European healthcare system. Another data company focused on cannabis, Prohibition Partners, indicated that Europe’s total healthcare spend touched €2.3 trillion in 2018 and covered a population of 743 million members.
Introducing legalised medicinal marijuana into the mix means that these cannabis products are now exposed to deep pockets and millions of buyers. Many insurance companies in Germany, Italy and Denmark are also covering these costs upfront for patients. Unfortunately, getting a medical prescription is still cumbersome.
In Germany, patients are typically only prescribed cannabis as a last resort. This means that all other treatment avenues have been thoroughly vetted. The same is true in Austria, but the country has further issues with meeting supply. As such, synthetic alternatives, which have little to do with the cannabis plant, are supplanted. This leaves CBD, which has little to no laws barring its use, sale or cultivation.
Nordic Oil, a company considered to be among the top CBD companies in Europe, whose products are also sold in German and Austrian pharmacies, has been enjoying steady growth in the European market. With so many products vying for attention in Europe, the company has distinguished itself via concise information and high-quality customer service. It is this combination of education and a varied product line that has the firm enjoying waves of eager customers.
‘Interest in CBD is significantly rising on the European continent. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of unanswered questions, which is why we decided to focus on education and customer support since our earliest days’, explained Nordic Oil founder Dannie Hansen in a recent interview with me. ‘Although CBD may come with many medical benefits, research is still not fully concluded. We see it as an obligation to manage expectations and provide science-backed information only.’
From creams and salves to oils and even the whole flower for smoking, the non-psychoactive components appeal to a much broader demographic. This could range from athletes, CEOs and working parents to students. Nordic Oil even offers CBD products for cats, horses and dogs to help relieve stress, anxiety and pain in the animals. The company’s traction in Europe also means that it will be expanding into the competitive American market.
There is still a long road ahead for cannabis products to truly enter the mainstream consciousness. Europe, with all its dynamism and open-mindedness, appears to be the most dynamic competitor in the non-psychoactive sector. This is, in part, due to its successful history in the retail of wellness items. Adding CBD, along with all of its healthful benefits, thus seems like a natural fit.
Pratik Gurnani, a consultant at Persistent Market Research, explained that ‘the growing popularity of consumer products containing CBD is due to the belief that it can treat a range of health problems.’ He further added that the region has ‘launched the most hemp-based products in the world and experienced the second-highest retail sales for health and wellness products in the world.’
Market demand has, however, met head-on with some esoteric regulations, the most notable being the European Commission’s Novel Food definition. This document outlines a list of food items that have not demonstrated a history of consumption in the region. Thus, CBD products were recently included in January 2019.
As a side note, this is not a law, but it has, historically, helped countries position themselves in regards to marketing and selling products found on this list. It is a sort of legal grey area based on recommendations. This can restrict supply chains and must undergo an intensive application process; countries are less likely to open the floodgates to products that haven’t received a formal stamp of approval from respective agencies.
The subject will inevitably conclude following a thorough investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The agency will authorise a product in question insofar as it has been defined as safe, not misleading, and has no negative effects on a user’s health.