In the last while, I’ve seen tremendous changes to the U.S. cannabis market, thanks to the growth of technology. Specifically, nanotechnology has made it possible to offer multiple methods to consume marijuana, aside from the traditional way of smoking it. How that will impact the rest of the world, and in particular Europe, is an interesting question.
The legality of cannabis varies from country to country throughout Europe, which limits the technological advancement in cannabis consumption methods throughout the continent. In some parts of Europe, less than strategic decisions made have been made when it comes to cannabis consumption.
For example, Amsterdam, which is widely known as a mecca for cannabis, still has federal laws in place that make its use illegal. The only reason it is still available in shops and cafes is that the local government has eased its grip on the local consumption. With local shops and cafes being allowed to operate semi-legally, this leaves the market in disarray.
With that almost ‘under the table’ style of business, the possibility of innovation and creativity in terms of approaches to the market are far more limited. The selection of cannabis products for consumers is therefore restricted to inhaled options, with a little unprofessional dabbling in concentrates and edibles. The latter seem to be limited to the cakes that are made in someone’s kitchen!
Cannabis legalisation in Europe
How cannabis legalisation will evolve throughout Europe is the multi-million dollar question. I expect that the UK and Spain will expand their production and availability of medical cannabis. I would also hope that France would follow, being an ally of the United States.
Germany is a more conservative country, similar to our Southern states of Alabama and Mississippi, but I believe it only takes one to spark an interest. The spread of interest in the U.S., from state to state, might work similarly in Europe. With many countries within the European Community struggling for revenue, they will be looking at monetising cannabis rather than losing this revenue stream to a bordering country.
However, advances like the use of nanotechnology in the production of cannabis products could be a game-changer in Europe, possibly rendering it into a commodity that is dealt with like most any other.
Why is nanotechnology such a boon to the manufacturing of cannabis products?
Nanoencapsulation of cannabis allows consumers to experience the same high they would obtain from a smokable without actually combusting material three inches away from their throat. The standard edible cannabis converts through your gastrointestinal system, which takes time and is less efficient.
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Edibles created with nanotechnology allow the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to get into the bloodstream before it enters your gastrointestinal tract and even when it does, nanoencapsulation protects the THC molecule from converting into 11 Hydroxy — 11 Hydroxy THC is the first metabolite of THC which causes the more profound, sedative edible high on the body — before it hits the bloodstream.
The experience that nanotechnology can provide is very similar to smoking cannabis, which can be in cases uplifting and a little more euphoric and less sedative than most other edible cannabis products. The benefit to the consumer is that this provides a clean alternative to smoking cannabis while providing a quicker onset and similarly lasting experience as traditional inhalation methods.
Nanotechnology and Europe’s marijuana market
The European cannabis market is still very underdeveloped, in part because of the variation in the legal viewpoint, from country to country and even within countries, as I mentioned earlier.
From both a medical and recreational standpoint, the selection of cannabis is minimal and limited to inhaled products. But the opportunity is there, as Europe is already very experienced in innovating with the use of nanoscale of production. For example, many of the food preparations that leverage nanoparticles, such as emulsifications, originated in Europe.
I think Europe definitely has the capacity and opportunity to bring these products to market, however, I don’t believe that the markets are developed to the point where there is any real positive consumer attitude towards nanotechnology yet: it is all but unknown. After all, it’s still a new concept in U.S. markets too.
The methods of cannabis use that seem to be most popular with Europeans of late seem to stem from experiences people have when they come and visit the U.S. Vape pens are becoming more popular, for example. I think that’s the first step, just like it was in the U.S., for the European consumer to consider something other than standard inhalation of cannabis.
Beyond vaping, the immediate future of nanotechnology in Europe’s cannabis market could end up taking the form of drinkable products. These are self-made products where consumers will be able to add powder or liquid concentrates to their own preparations of alcohol, cooking, baking and so on. From this, I can see a new generation of edibles being created.
What the U.S. cannabis industry can learn from Europe
One key element that exists in Europe is the focus on acceptance, rather than straight-up prohibition. The latter always results — as it did in the 1920s with alcohol in the U.S. — in a virulent black market. Education is always at the forefront of how Europeans handle change, and it is likely to be the case for cannabis as well.
In the Netherlands, for example, it is considered to be impolite to be visibly high in public. Consumers go to their neighbourhood coffee shop to consume cannabis, then go about their day. The only people you usually see with red eyes and working off a high are the tourists!
It is my hope that we can learn from Europeans’ tolerance and acceptance of other people’s beliefs and ability to control their behaviour, being proactive about it rather than to continue to prohibit consumption and then pretend cannabis doesn’t really exist. That’s a ‘head in the sand’ mentality that has never worked.
The future for the cannabis market in Europe, and beyond
Many countries have accepted and adopted the medical use of marijuana. Now it’s time for recreational use to become part of the norm. I expect and predict that the understanding of cannabis and alteration of the social stigma around its consumption will be a fast-moving train, due to all of the information and innovations coming from the United States.
The genie is already out of the bottle, so to speak! It’s just a question now as to how individual countries react.
About the author:
Serge Chistov is a cannabis industry expert and Chief Financial Partner with Honest Marijuana Co. Honest Marijuana has been a leader in cannabis innovation since it’s inception with an organic approach to the growth, production and packaging of cannabis, the launch of the first-ever organic hemp wrapped machine-rolled blunts, the invention of Nanobidiol Technology, and the first company to bring THC-O-Acetate technology and products to market.