Rise of European Cannabis Trade Groups Underscores Growth of Legal Markets

cannabis trade europe

By Oliver Bennett, Special Contributor to New Frontier Data

As the European legal cannabis industry becomes increasingly organised, several bodies have been established to represent various interests within the sector, projected as the world’s largest combined legal cannabis and hemp market. Some are member or trade organisations, while others are lobbying and advocacy bodies; some operate within specific industry subsectors (i.e., hemp, medicinal, CBD or legalisation). Some combine each of those interests.

The latest body to emerge in the United Kingdom is the  Cannabis Industry Council (CIC) – a trade organisation representing cannabis businesses and working groups, and aiming to become “the first representative cannabis body dedicated to advancing the U.K.’s cannabis sector”. Among its various aims, the CIC hopes to reduce bureaucratic red tape for the industry, set standards, and drive changes for medical cannabis and CBD. With about 100 members, it hopes to set the agenda in an often confusing regulatory and consumer landscape – and to do so, it has reached out to the government and the public sector (from the Home Office and Department of Health to NHS England) in hopes of forging stronger links between industry stakeholders and policymakers. Chaired by Professor Michael Barnes (whom New Frontier Data recently interviewed  about the medical cannabis trial Project Twenty21), it is shortly to convene a round table discussion in the U.K. to discuss patient access to cannabis, as well as how it might be leveraged to stimulate the post-pandemic economy.

There have been organised cannabis bodies before in the U.K. CannaPro has been dubbed the trade association for the U.K.’s cannabis, CBD, and hemp businesses. Offering a certification scheme and advocating for businesses it is backed by CLEAR Cannabis Law Reform, the U.K.’s longest-standing cannabis policy group.  Then there is the Centre for Medicinal Cannabis (CMC), the U.K.’s only industry membership body for businesses and investors in the medical cannabis market, which aims to direct medical cannabis policy and enable better patient access as well as promulgate primary clinical research.

Thus, the U.K. is quite well served by organisations devoted to cannabis, and unsurprisingly, there are similar bodies in other European countries. In Denmark, Cannabis Danmark aims to help patients gain legal access to medical cannabis and to promote knowledge while moving the industry away from the illegal market – all pitched as a knowledge source, rather than being an industry body. Among other niche organisations in that cannabis-friendly country, the Netherlands has an actual government department – the Office of Medicinal Cannabis (OMC) – responsible for production of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes.

In Germany, one of Europe’s largest markets for cannabis, the Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft (i.e., German Cannabis Business Association) aims to represent all parts of the legal cannabis industry via a program of lobbying, public relations, and education as in its own words, “the voice of the cannabis industry in Germany”. Managing Director Jürgen Neumeyer has said that it focuses on key sectors: medical cannabis, industrial hemp, CBD, technology, and trade and services, all with intentions for lobbying the German government, offering business networking, and educating the public. Formed in 2019, it claims being the first full industry body for the cannabis sector in Germany, while noting that a predecessor Deutsche Hanfverband, focuses on legalisation. As with the CIC and Cannabis Danmark, its key aim is to ease the vexed passage between medical cannabis and patients, working to make supply-chain issues like insurance more navigable.

The organisations collectively demonstrate that Europe is gaining ground on North America in terms of cannabis research, advocacy, and education. As their cannabis economies grow, European countries sorely need to establish good regulatory structures, and to give their cannabis industries stable ground.

Indeed, a handful of pan-European organisations include the European Industrial Hemp Association (EIHA), which claims to be the “only pan-European membership organization in the industrial hemp sector”. Founded in 2005 with offices in Belgium and Germany, it now represents 25 EU states and 12 additional countries (including North American and APAC members), all working on advocacy for hemp and challenges like the Novel Food Regulation, THC limits, and environmental impacts.

Another Europe-wide body is The Cannabis Trades Association (CTA), claiming to be Europe’s largest trade body representing the interests of the cannabis and hemp industries. It began in the U.K. in 2016-‘17, evolving as an organisation that by late last year represented some 400 members in 23 EU nations.

The Association for the Cannabinoid Industry (ACI) is a membership organisation for cannabis businesses across the U.K. and Europe, offering consultancy and expertise to “balance the conflicting goals of stakeholders and the resulting demand for a strong European cannabis association”.

The rise of all these bodies testify to a maturing business environment and the pressing need – articulated by yet another group, the European Cannabis Association – to harmonise the regulatory environment for cannabis across the continent. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the cannabis industry offers hope for economic reconstruction, creating economic environments where previous regulatory obstacles seem particularly moribund. Meanwhile, they are cooperatively helping to push awareness of the burgeoning industries forward.