Ask Our Experts 4/28/2019: What did I miss at this month’s International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Berlin?

By Beau Whitney, Senior Economist and VP, New Frontier Data


Q: With New Frontier Data having participated at this month’s International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) in Berlin, what did I miss?


A: It was a great event and opportunity. With some 1,200 attendees from 62 countries, it definitively had an international flavor to it. Naturally, it was really focused on the European market, and the conversations there are different. For perspective, in our new Global Cannabis Report: 2019 Industry Outlook (available for preorder here) New Frontier Data forecasts that the global market overall is worth $344 billion, of which $68 billion (nearly 20%) is associated with the European Union (EU).

In some ways, the EU market is quite advanced, yet in other ways it remains in a stage of infancy. Medical cannabis is already accepted as having a value in the market; Germany, for example, allows for insurance reimbursement. Given how generally accepted medical cannabis is throughout Europe, interested countries from each Africa, North America, and Latin America are gearing up efforts to try and enter that EU medical market.

The EU’s lack of maturity within the industry resides in the sense that — despite Europe’s robust medical markets — its member nations are still trying to figure out how to effectively regulate the market. Given that the EU is made up of more than two dozen different countries, significant regulatory differences exist between them. Adding to the complexity, the EU has a governing body which sets the tone at the union level. Similar to how the U.S. federal government sets laws that govern every state, the EU can set policy across all its member countries. One particular example of policy imposed by the EU was its designation of CBD in its Novel Food Regulations, mandating that foodstuffs with CBD must be authorized by the EU for legal sale. The regulation has caused many countries to pull their inventories from shelves out of fear of losing their licenses. A lack of clarity about the status of CBD and other hemp-derived products has left consumers unable to access CBD, with producers unable to sell products for up to 18 months while awaiting authorization.

A unique dynamic at the Berlin conference was that — rather than talking about how to create businesses in the cannabis industry — conversations tended to gravitate towards the mechanics of doing business in the space: How to import, how to get certified for EU good manufacturing practices (GMP), how to sell, how to be awarded contracts, etc. Hearing the questions about machinations inspired an appreciation of just how keenly that sound data and insights are valued as cannabis reform proceeds to other parts of the globe. It was very informative to experience, and New Frontier Data is grateful to have been invited to contribute.