Barcelona Social Clubs - A certain future

Last week, one news item in particular was all over the global cannabis media: The unclear future of social clubs in Barcelona. This was prompted by the decision of the Spanish government in Madrid that Catalonia did not have the authority to decide on its own, one might dare to say independently, to regulate its social clubs.

Often, the wording was deliberately vague, stirring up uncertainty and panic: "What's the deal with the ban? Should I rather not fly to Barcelona this year or now more than ever? Is this perhaps the last opportunity? Will it ever be the same again?" The fatal prediction of the speaker of the Association of Catalan Cannabis Clubs, Eric Arsenio, that a large part of today's clubs can expect to close eventually, was also often quoted.

This certainly goes back to the lack of information, the unclear legal situation, as well as the divergent interpretation and implementation of the regulations, from which it is impossible to estimate the real impact on tourists. What actually happened and how are the individual clubs reacting to the worrying news so far?

We visited many clubs last week, talked to the operators about the more or less good old days, asked what they have done in their case and how they face future developments.

First changes are already (in)visible

When I enter the GWA Social Club for my interview appointment, after the usual warm welcome in the lobby, that I will come back to later, through the second door into the interior, I immediately notice that the showcase, where dabbing equipment, glass art, basecaps, masks, and other parafinalia are usually presented, had been completely cleared out to counter the accusation of advertising cannabis.

These are the three critical factors that the Spanish government criminalizes: The sale, the promotion and even the consumption. Therefore, according to the Growers With Attitude Club founder Sandro, known as DJ Konfa, they have decided to anticipate a possible control and even completely clear the sales counter and also remove all visible evidence of cannabis consumption. They independently take a step back, in order not to be pushed back by the authorities and, even if no one here would admit it, to signal a certain degree of willingness to cooperate and adaptability.

During his explanations, I let my gaze wander over the walls, which are seamlessly decorated with the breathtaking cannabis themed paintings by the artist Tera Drop, to the only filled display case at the counter, which, on the other hand, is shockingly empty. Here, countless cups, certificates and trophies stand so densely packed that it almost threatens to burst. Even without having to use one of the four languages of our conversation, DJ Konfa recognizes my questioning look and asserts that they want to avoid any visual reference to the trade and promotion of cannabis, but that they drew a line at hiding the trophies aswell. With such success, however, this is more than comprehensible.

Everything was fine, wasn't it?

Only at the beginning of the year, cannabis tourists had to deal with the plans of the mayor of Amsterdam to open coffee shops only for local residents in the future.

Due to the short stay of the passionate permanent or sometimes just the curious new customers and the literal coffee shop mentality, much larger amounts of cannabis can be turned over in Amsterdam than in the limited circle of club members of a Catalan Associatión. Again, I look around the club and I actually notice that we have been interrupted only a few times in the past hour by members waiting to be served. Hard to imagine, given the long lines that can be observed every weekend in front of the Coffee Shops along Haarlemmerstraat. Amsterdam's budtenders have to work non-stop. So please forgive them their notorious impatience and short answers. Anyone who has spent an evening near the counter or in the entrance area will have been amazed by the frequency of the couriers having to constantly maintain the stock quantity in the coffee shop of a maximum of 500g with their deliveries.

The news of the alleged imminent closure of the social clubs of Barcelona caused particular concern to some who had already turned their backs on Amsterdam, whether for the lack of atmosphere, the comparatively high prices, or because the model of the Catalans has largely proven to be the most desirable for the growing number of influential legalization advocates from media and politics, who are in doubt about its practicability and could now be confused by the news.

The phenomenon of social clubs in regional, national and world politics

Since this assumption was often voiced for obvious reasons, I also asked the club owners each time whether the sudden revocation of the rules could be utilized as a signal to tourists who, at each supposed end of the pandemic, already pack their bags to come back again. However, this was consistently denied. Taken separately, both issues already pose more than enough challenges for the parliament.

However, the current developments beyond the notorious double doors give the public a very revealing impression of the major role cannabis has now taken in the political debate in the Spanish parliament itself, but especially in its relationship with the Catalan government. The fear of many is that the regulations will now be increasingly linked by both sides to an uncertain and currently unforeseeable independence of Catalonia.

The opposing side, in this case, the people on the opposite side of the table, argue that just such a relevant issue as free individual self-determination, in the form of cannabis consumption and cultivation, would be another reason to finally separate from the Spanish government for good. In a way, cannabis serves the Catalans as an identification and expression of their particular regional culture. It is no coincidence that cannabis plants are watching over the city from the column commemorating the start of Christopher Columbus' expedition.

If the fronts between the two capital metropolises of Madrid and Barcelona harden again, progress in the regulation of social clubs will also be postponed.

The conversation ends abruptly, DJ Konfa had to move on before I can ask my last questions and inquire about the actual progress of the measures. So I turn to the group of surrounding entrepreneurs, canna content creators and activists to inquire about their impressions. In the course of the day, I got to know another tourist who was a bit worried because of the news, but still had no problems whatsoever to become a member of various clubs.

What did the now overturned regulations mean?

The previous set of rules was created in 2014 and was enforced by the authorities until 2017, or put into practice in cooperation and consultation with the clubs. Its main purpose was to control the number of already over 600 Associatiónes, and their 165000 members, as well as to maintain a minimum distance of 150 meters from surrounding cannabis social clubs, schools and churches.

For this purpose, a virtual net was stretched over the city, which is now completely filled with about 230 officially licensed clubs. Whereas these licenses were initially sold for a few tens of thousands of euros, today the owners are probably paying ten times that amount to the next tenant.

In the interest of the club operators were also the then new regulations, as well as the better legal protection of the distribution, production and transport of cannabis and extracts. Furthermore, it was required that the interior of the club has to be kept hidden from the street by a separate reception area. This provides employees with additional control over entry and security against robbery, but was, according to popular opinion, required primarily to keep minors and conservative tourists from seeing the actions inside, in order to counteract the increasing convergence towards Amsterdams coffeeshop culture.

However, the most of the rules are made up of purely logistical requirements for accessibility, an adequate ventilation system and specifications on statics, room size, rental conditions, sanitary facilities, safe installation of electrical equipment, and so on The reference to these rules was considered a theoretical legal safeguard in the event of an inspection and threatened closure, which now seems to be lost. When asked, however, some club operators assured me that they had long been aware of the questionable legitimacy of the regulations.

I say goodbye to continue the conversation the next day after a relaxing and revitalizing session of ganja yoga with a cup of CBD tea and a CBD joint with activist and cannprenneuse Fahi Shark.

The first rule of the Cannabis Social Club

The current developments are seen as bad news mainly by the kind of clubs that have set up their branches in the region in order to secure a piece of the pie of the seemingly never-ending hype. However, these are also the clubs that, by their affiliation with major brands alone, seem to make no secret of the fact that they would prefer to bring in their business model that is already running successfully in the Netherlands or the USA and merely combine it with the benefits of Catalan regulations.

Since these companies often also run clothing brands, music labels and social media campaigns, their brand name often makes them the first choice for tourists who are either specifically looking for a particular experience for a nice evening out with their friends, or are merely so dazzled by the logos that they mistake a big name, celebrity advertising, and high prices for quality.

It is precisely this type of weekend membership that determines a large proportion of those registered and increasingly blurs the line between guest, member and customer. Although the actual participation in the operation of the association is also limited to a contribution of a financial nature for most of the regular members who live here aswell, the steep admission fees make the targeting of tourists in a spendy vacation mood worthwhile.

Simply Associatión by definition

Another group of cannabis social clubs, which see themselves more as institutions of cannabis culture and meeting places for activists, patients and cannafugees from all over the world and whose success is also clearly evident to anyone from the amount of trophies and competitions won, avoid the practices just described in order to secure themselves in the best possible way. Avoidable risk factors are located in the constant fluctuation of members and the associated communication, registration, ignorance of the rules of conduct in the club, as on the street and being overwhelmed by the unfamiliar quality of the cannabis products offered.

What gives these clubs an almost unfair advantage over the competition and the justice system is that they are real clubs, Associatión by definition, that is, a community of people who come together to share and exchange cannabis and cannabis knowledge. The club is untouchable, so to speak, because at its core it consists of intangible values that a group of people share. This is not tied to real estate, a brand, stock shares or a license.

According to groworganics research, some clubs have even decided to take the radical step of not accepting any more members until the fall of 2021, when the renegotiation of the situation by the Spanish government is expected. Upon further inquiry, most operators expressed general concerns, but have currently decided not only to continue, but to offer members additional incentives and cultural value beyond their cannabis products in the future with glass events, dinner nights, live music and art, and to continue to signal strength, optimism and perseverance.

An unknown problem, with a well known solution

Whether it is actually the international brands whose increased appearance worries the government, or whether it is rather the kind of clubs that have positioned themselves at the complete opposite end of the glamour scale, but are non the less commercially oriented, that are responsible. This surely offers a lot of room for interpretation in current discussions and attempts to blame someone.

The reason for the re-evaluation was the approval of a venting system with an exit to the street instead of the roof, as the previous regulation had provided. In the course of this process, the Spanish government took the opportunity to deny the legality of the entire set of regulations. Catalonia does not have the authority to independently establish regulations for a form of drug trafficking, the reasoning goes.

This formulation alone is seen as an affront to club culture, because no one in the social clubs has anything to do with drug trafficking. On the contrary, they have led to a massive reduction in street dealers, who had previously had a negative impact on the city's image. A drug law seems conceivably unsuitable to adequately counteract the emergence of potential problems.

The feeling of safety and security that international visitors in particular associate with the social clubs was certainly never shared by the founders and operators. There have been too many sad stories about arbitrary authorities and brutal closures over the past years. That is why I always ask carefully. After all, in my mind's eye I have the images of raids, battering rams and confiscated plantations. This image is only partly true, as I am taught. In fact, most clubs are rather afraid of a commissioner of the city administration, who checks with a list for so far uncertain parameters and possible illegalities and, if necessary, can order an immediate, temporary closure.

What is the current situation in Barcelona?

To conclude, I would like to summarize again that there is currently no reason to cancel a planned trip to the Costa Brava or the city of Barcelona, within the framework of current regulations to contain the pandemic. Those who previously had the impression that cannabis had long been legal in Barcelona have now been proven wrong. It is just as illegal today throughout Spain as it was five or ten years ago.

The existence of a law and its actual enforcement do not merge in the way that one is used to in other regions of the world. The city of Barcelona will continue to adhere to the social club model. Especially this year, many businesses rely on the social club visitors who peacefully stroll through the city with full wallets and insatiable hunger.

People here like to claim that there are already more grow lights and fertilizer in the Catalan polices evidence room than there are in use in the rest of the country. Hopefully, the fight against the windmills seems to be becoming more and more evident in the government and Guardia Civil circles as well.

Those who arrive respectfully, discreetly and with the necessary attention should still have nothing to fear and will have a great time in Barcelona. Only the Insta-stories of the bulging glasses full of sparkling flowers and the colorful displays, which always exuded a hint of an American dispensary, must be postponed in some places.

This is the status at the time of publication of this article and as soon as new facts emerge, we will inform you. Feel free to follow us on Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram.



1: Eric Arsenio expects all clubs to close eventually:

2: Article in the guardian about the regulations:

3:  Amsterdamer Coffeeshops in Zukunft ohne Touristen:

4: Instagram profile of Grow Organics:

5: Article about the catalan rules by the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies:

6: Documentation from Vice Magazine about raids in social clubs:

100 000 000 $ for californias cannabis industry - smoke, mirrors and big numbers

California has just approved 100 Million $ to help the struggeling local cannabis industry

Looking back, every decade is characterized by its trends and this is not different in a culture as versatile as cannabis. While hash from areas of the Middle East that had advanced to legendary status, such as the afghan hindu kush and Lebanon, as well as hand-rubbed charras from India and nepalese temple balls, were still in high demand among european hash connoisseurs in the 1970s This changed in the following decades more into an increased demand for moroccan dry sift hash.

Then the focus of the press and the increasing number of consumers shifted from processed, imported cannabis products to the import of dutch genetics for home growing and ultimately to radically cheap outdoor flowers from Albania and rural to urban indoor plantations. Unfortunately, the size was mostly disproportionate to the lack of knowledge and efforts regarding cultivation, storage and processing. The classification as professional plantations was only made by law enforcement and certainly did not coincide with the high expectations of an experienced grower towards professionality.

"Zurprize in a mylar" - way too many glossy packs

In the past ten years, so-called cali strains have been increasingly offered, traded and celebrated with an unprecedented collecting craze. While at the beginning there were isolated small, personally imported quantities of the coveted, colorful bags, you could quickly get your mylar bag, hopefully originally sealed, without even having to ask for it in the smallest towns for the appropriate money. The flowers and extracts offered set new standards for many in terms of the resin content, the terpene profile offered and the blossom-white appearance of the ash, which the usual commercial cannabis can no longer stand up to.
But the first association many central europeans have with the term "cali weed" is the much higher price, the reason is often not entirely understandable and offers a new opportunity for even bolder scams. The influence of these counterfeit goods on the european and asian cannabis markets, should not be part of this consideration and is therefore ignored for a better understanding.

Quite a few smokers completely renounced their old sources simply out of build up discontent of the poor quality and compensated the increased costs per gram with an adapted, lower consumption. Others, however, only now began to consume more regularly due to the more pleasant taste and reliable effect.

Therefore, the headline might shock many people, who were already convinced that with their collection of cookie seal stickers, they had renovated entire streets and schools or at least supported the local producers and dispensaries from Venice Beach to San Francisco financially. How can the cannabis bred and grown there, be so popular and at the same time cannabis economy is even in the big cities and world-wide known epicentres of the culture more and more in economic danger.

Wird die nächste Generation in einer besseren Zukunft aufwachsen?
Will the next generation grow up into a better tomorrow?

The long way after legalization into a legal state

The main reason that licensing is running so slowly is that most cities and counies do not employ enough staff in the relevant authorities to adequately examine the existing local companies. Companies that have the necessary capital, can afford to hire private experts and proactively submit the required forms when handing in the application, while most companies submit the application with the motive of saving a high position on the waiting list of the completely overloaded state test authorities of the respective administrative district.

This round, melodious sum could already make many skeptical, as it does not look like the result of a negotiation of the usual agricultural subsidies, which are often determined relative to sales and expected tax revenues as a share of a larger budget.

Unfortunately, it was chosen for one purpose in the first place. To sound good, to be easy to remember and to express sheer size. It is supposed to be a signal that California is now sending out into the world. We got it: Cannabis from California has become a global brand, we welcome this development, want to develop the current economic policy further on and see great potential for the future.

In the heated debate about which upcoming steps can strengthen companies most sustainably and to what extent the money is subsequently reinvested, it is only from a distance and from the point of view of the rest of the world, which is still plagued by prohibition, that the current developments even by conservative media houses have not been discussed as a question of health, crime fighting or drug policy, but rather be treated as a purely economic debate.

The admirable thing about this news is that California recognizes its brand and demands the economy accordingly, while in Germany, even the most exemplary cannabis companies, such as hanfnah in Lahr, the winner of the Entrepreneur Award Baden-Württemberg, are harassed and hindered in their growth.

The round sum may sound a little larger than its effect will actually be

And this is not only due to the decreasing value of the US-Dollar. According to California Governor Gavin Newsom, the money is primarily to be used enabling companies with non-permanent business licenses to take on the extremely costly process of obtaining permission to operate a permanently licensed dispensary or production facility.

The invested tax money flows back into the municipalities, but is redistributed in the process.
The fact that the licensing behind forest fires, corruption and the incessant prosecution at the federal level is only one of the problems that the companies that are to be helped are confronted with this must not be lost in mutual pats on the back and amazement at the beautiful, round sum.

Police units in many communities have a tradition of enriching themselves with goods confiscated from raids in order to counter budget cuts, for example in the context of the current demand for "defund the police" and the first pertinent resolutions, with targeted actions.
If instead of an armed cartel, a cannabis company with an expired or questionable license is in the crosshairs, the profits from the confiscation of new cars, state-of-the-art technology and pre-packaged, tradable goods are associated with a significantly lower risk and effort of police use . It is to be hoped that the subsidies will make such measures obsolete in the future and will finally result in a rethinking of the police and the judiciary, as well as an end to this morally highly reprehensible approach.

Focus on the tip of the iceberg - The really big market remains uncertain and invisible

California has long since established itself as the largest cannabis market in the world and has retained its pole position to this day. The entire economic performance of the federal state alone makes it one of the most profitable economic areas in the world and, according to a survey by the World Econonic Forum, is currently in sixth place ahead of India and France and behind Great Britain and Germany.

But when even the world market leader is doing so badly, the only conclusion is that the critical flaws must lie in the system itself. The fact that cannabis products are still incredibly successful as an economic asset certainly does not need to be explained again at this point. Skeptics from outside the industry will be aware of this fact at the latest on the basis of the reports on records on the stock market, which were set by cannabis companies, such as, at times in the business section of many newspapers.

Which aspects will shape the future of cannabis production?

Sustainability threatens to be ignored again

The 100 million that have now been reinvested in the country's top-selling agricultural product, which is known to have been recognized as the "new billion dollar crop" by Popular Mechanics Magazine  "new billion dollar crop" as early as 1938, can be assessed much better when compared to the billion in tax revenue the the billion in tax revenue that was reached after about two years after legalization in January 2018. In the wake of the pandemic and the devastating forest fires, the total income could still grow at an unchanged rate to $ 1.4 billion. According to Proposition 64, which was successfully resolved in 2016, these were invested in the elimination of environmental damage caused by illegal plantations in addition to educational projects and social housing.

In this context, the actual damage caused by the plants of a guerrilla grow is less often referred to, but above all the improper disposal of waste by the workers, the clearing of protected wild areas and, last but not least, the destruction as part of the police measures when the plantation is discovered. Manufacturing companies continue to tend to dispose of their commercial waste away from the locations of the unlicensed production facilities in order not to attract unnecessary attention, which could be drawn, for example, from repeated, appropriate recycling of the corresponding packaging materials.

Although these measures are intended to benefit nature conservation, environmental groups such as Defenders of Wildlife are right to criticize that they take effect too late. Only retrospectively and corrective rather than preventive. From their point of view, the renewed postponement of the deadline, as well as the announced investments, are nothing but a short-sighted tactic that postpones a complete re-regulation of licensing, while companies that continue to operate illegally, waste resources and dispose of them wildly are not opposed with the long-required determination. These aspects came up primarily when the Californian Senator Anna Caballero submitted the proposal to issue provisional licenses with a term of six years in the future, in order to avoid bureaucracy and, above all, the processing of a long overdue debate and instead choose the path of least resistance.

After the license is before the license

According to widespread fear, even this help comes too late, since many companies that decide to apply for the subsidies are very likely to be too slow to train and hire new test staff, either until 01.01.2022 or until the fourth deadline, on July 1st, 2022. It is unlikely, that a full tax audit, will have been granted, let alone the desireable license for the year that will probably have ended by then.

Companies that continue to apply for an extension of the temporary license, as was the case with 82% of the reported companies according to a federal survey in April, will continue to grow and produce during this time, with new products to determine the direction of the market and thereby themselves generate an advantage over future state-funded companies. The companies that operate without a license also benefit from this compulsory break, chosen by necessity, for a large number of up-and-coming regional competitors. Many of these companies, which currently either want to directly establish products on the market themselves or are merely suppliers to manufacturing companies that are also still struggling for their place in this changeable industry, could therefore find themselves in the predicament of either running out of resources to have to resort to the black market or to turn to the established producers and thus subordinate oneself to the competition for the time being in terms of pricing policy, working methods and product design, which could consolidate the already lacking dynamism of the market.

Does the money get to where it is needed most?

As usual, this cash hits the strongest muscle of the industrial organism: On the one hand, there are companies that have escaped illegality into a more or less regulated market in recent years and already have established product lines were able to position themselves firmly in the market in order to be able to concentrate on saving with state help in the licensing of their subcontractors for specific parts of the market. On the other hand, these companies come exclusively from the well-known boom regions on the same Cali cannabis map and another opportunity was missed to offer smaller communities an additional incentive to start licensing for the first time. Especially since the process itself has not been simplified and democratized as hoped.

While $ 22 million has already been budgeted for the expansion of the necessary administrative apparatus in Los Angeles, it will mainly support places whose names are already inextricably linked to the production of world-class cannabis. First and foremost Long Beach, San Francisco and Oakland.

Furthermore, a distorted image of California persists from a distance. The fully legalized, most populous state, in which in your mind's eye, between the old hippies in the Golden Gate Park of San Francisco, via the young trimmer on Murder Mountain in Humboldt County in the north, a continuous cloud of smoke and a blanket of hemp leaves of Yosemite National Park, to the metropolises of Los Angeles and San Diego on the border with Mexico.

In the sober factual situation, only a third of the counties and municipalities have made it possible for commercial cannabis companies to open dispensaries, farms and production facilities there.

black market still has, even in a rough estimate, four times the volume of the legal market for commercial cannabis products. Many companies have fallen victim to fraud in the burocracy of their licensing process and are now faced with the choice of discontinuing their business or of being legally prosecuted at the risk of continuing to manage what they have already built up, their customer base and their mother plants to maintain constant care, to maintain cooperation and to participate as comprehensively as possible in innovations on the market.

After a painfully long wait, relocation of company spots and the sad habit of raids and harassment by the DEA, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, they are finally in the best place at the best time to contribute their part to the status of the world market leader and to get back a share of the resulting growth of the industry for it in the foreseeable future.

Such toxic perceptions of their own culture quickly consolidates, including the myth of the survival of the best and the image of the relentless grower and selfless entrepreneur who is expected to work as a socio-political activist alongside his job. As if everyone with a clear mind, a vision and decades down this career path, doesn't see the slightest reason to stop now. All of this is done in the once silent and now louder and more desperate hope that the licensing process will be made more accessible in order to get fair opportunities to participate in building the world's top-selling cannabis industry.

Finally we can summarize:

California will support corporate projects that want to switch from temporary, to permanent licenses in order to promote stronger brands from their own state. This is no coincidence, as the local cannabis market appears to be superior to any international competition in many aspects. Small companies were supposed to be supported with the money, but now they have to expect the greatest complications and have to face disproportionately higher risks on their way to legality, six years after winning the battle for Proposition 64, due to the failure on the state and federal level.

The 100 million, which at first seemed to look like an oversized stream of money, now seem to have shrunk to almost to the image of a coffe cup against a forest fire. Outside the big cities, they are probably not enough ressources left to set up a sufficient number of authorities at the next critical point in summer 2022.

We hope that the state of California, in addition to its fixation on economic aspects, will now also focus its political efforts and on sustainability. In addition to the deficits in the environmental protection regulations, economic and cultural sustainability is also to be considered, which enables a fair distribution of the market shares among actually equal competitors, in which neither party can create particular advantages by circumventing individual rules.

(1) Article by conservative news outlet FOX reporting about cannabis without judgement

flag Denmark plus cannabis plant

Denmark: Green light for permanent medicinal cannabis production

On May 25, the Danish Parliament, also known as «Folketing», agreed to allow the cultivation of medical cannabis on a sustainable basis. As can be seen in the Danish newspaper, this step follows a four-year pilot project that has been running since 2018.

Interesting: The pilot project was primarily intended to test patient access to medical cannabis. However, so far only four foreign cannabis products have been approved by the Danish Medicines Agency and no products from Danish production. The paradox is that the pilot project laid the foundation for the domestic production of medical cannabis in Denmark in addition to the distribution to patients. The best-known player in the field is Aurora Nordic, a subsidiary of the Canadian Aurora, which has entered into a joint venture with the Danish tomato grower Pedersen & Søn.

In this context, an almost 10,000m2 greenhouse on the island of Funen was equipped for the production of medical cannabis, which corresponds to an annual yield of 10,000 kg of medical cannabis per year. With this amount plus imports from Canada, Aurora predicts that it will be able to cover the entire European demand for the coming years, according to

The matter appears paradoxical against the background that the largest production facility for medical cannabis in Europe has now emerged in Denmark, which is mainly used to meet the demand for medical cannabis in the rest of Europe. However, the medical cannabis flowers produced in Denmark are not yet approved on the domestic market, as Jane Heitmann from the Liberal Party announces with annoyance.

Extension of the pilot project for patients by 4 years

The period for testing the dispensing of medical cannabis in Denmark has been extended by a further 4 years with the new decision. The cultivation of medical cannabis, however, was allowed indefinitely with the parliamentary vote. So one could almost conclude that Denmark will initially benefit primarily from economic benefits of the cannabis boom. Because Aurora's activities in Odense on the island of Funen primarily secure jobs and strengthen the local economy through tax revenue rather than give the domestic patients big benefits.

How big the focus of Denmark is on the patient's well-being can currently only be guessed at. It is to be hoped that domestically produced cannabis products will soon be able to be sold in Denmark. After all, the medicinal cannabis flowers produced there are already available in Germany and four other European countries. So while the model project for cultivation has already produced a very positive result for the country of Denmark and it's foreign investors, the level for domestic patients is far from being acceptable, sums up

tilray stock market development

Is it already too late to enter the CBD and cannabis market in 2021?

As an entrepreneur and consultant in the cannabis industry, this question often comes to my mind: Have we already missed the right time to enter the cannabis market with new companies? Is the CBD and medical cannabis market possibly already saturated? Today I wanna follow some economic thoughts about the development of the cannabis market from the beginning to the current state and wanna share some balanced evaluations to the main question of this article: Is it already too late to enter the CBD and Cannabis market in 2021 - And if not, from which directions is it recommended to dive into the market as an entrepreneur?

In professional and business circles with points of contact with cannabis, it is difficult to escape the competitive struggles and mergers of the world's largest cannabis companies. The world's largest stock companies have grown steeply for some time, more precisely until the end of 2018. But share prices have been tumbling since then. The 2018 legalization in Canada couldn't catch up with high expectations from investors worldwide. The fourth largest cannabis company by sales, Tilray, has even been in a permanent decline since then - despite innovative ready-to-use medicinal products for pharmacies and patients. It seems like a smart move, that Tilray announced some days ago to merge with Aphria - together they form the biggest cannabis company of the world measured by revenue.

tilray stock market development
tilray stock market development

Even broad diversified companies such as Canopy Growth, which are active in all imaginable market segments, were unable to match the highs of 2018. To illustrate how broadly Canopy Growth is positioned, and how little this broad positioning has pushed the share price, I listed a few of their companies with a brief description:

  • Tweed: THC-containing cannabis flowers and soft drinks and vape carts
  • Martha Stewart: THC gummies and softgels
  • BioSteel: Nutritional supplements and beverages for athletes
  • Houseplant: "Premium" cannabis flowers and pre-rolled joints
  • Tokyo Smoke: Specialty cannabis stores in Canada
  • DNA Genetics: A seed bank
  • plus many more CBD and THC brands in all kinds of variations
canopy growth stock market development
canopy growth stock market development

One factor really stands out in my two initial examples: They are both Canadian companies! And it's not only them, 8 of the world's nine largest cannabis companies are based in Canada - the first G7 nation, that approved cannabis for medical and recreational use in 2018. Canadas step also includes legal money processing through the official banks, which is still not possible in the USA - a big push for Canadian cannabis companies.

biggest cannabis companies worldwide by revenue and market cap
biggest cannabis companies worldwide by revenue and market cap

But the world with more than 7.7 billion people does not only consist of Canada, a country of 37.59 million people. Canada, the second largest country in the world in terms of area, is inhabited by just under 0.4% of all people on earth. But, as a G7 country, Canada has a huge gross domestic product (GDP in relation to its population).

  • GDP Canada 2020:     1,64 Trillion US-Dollar.
  • GDP worldwide 2020: 83,8 Trillion US-Dollar.

Canada generates around 2% of global GDP with 0.4% of the world's population: These figures speak for a strong economic power. To open up opportunities for new cannabis markets, we could of course now simply look at which countries have high GDPs. But just because a country has a strong overall economic output does not mean that a cannabis market can also establish itself locally. The base condition for establishing new cannabis markets is of course first of all local legislation, but also international framework agreements. But:

Purchasing power as an indicator of growth and target markets for the cannabis industry

In my opinion, however, to assess new CBD markets it's way more important to look at a country's purchasing power instead of just the current legal status. Because cannabis legislation can change much faster than the economic upswing of a country, when we take a look on the development of both economy and legalization events over the last few years. One big step for example was the reclassification of Cannabis by the UN in the end of 2020, when the therapeutic use of Cannabis got finally recognized.

So we can expect a general growth of the cannabis industry for the future, as it's likely that more and more countries will legalize the use of CBD or medical cannabis use over the next decades. And when this all happens, we really should be prepared and have a basic understanding of which countries have the best starting positions for a successful cannabis industry. Of course I cannot say this guaranteed, but I set up the brave thesis that countries with bigger purchasing power are more likely to become attractive markets for cannabis products.

I write from Germany and Switzerland and took a look at the purchasing power of different countries in relation to Germany. I sourced the data from Lä This page explains very well for all interested readers, what purchasing power actually is:


Cost of living and purchasing power in relation to income

We have set the cost of living in Germany from 2019 and 2020 as a basis with an index of 100 and then adjusted the other countries relative to Germany. With an index of 80, the usual costs of daily needs are 20% lower than in Germany.

The monthly income (please do not confuse it with a wage or salary) is calculated from the gross national income per inhabitant.

The calculated purchasing power index is again based on a value of 100 for Germany. If it is higher, you can afford more based on the cost of living in relation to income. If it is lower, the population is also less prosperous.

Using the example of Switzerland in relation to Germany:

With a cost of living index of 153, all goods are on average around 53 percent more expensive than in Germany. However, at 6364 euros, the income in Switzerland is also 76 percent higher than in Germany, which means that the average citizen can again afford more. If you now calculate the 53% higher costs against the 76% higher income, a Swiss can still afford about 15 percent more than a German. So the purchasing power of Switzerland is 15% higher than the purchasing power of Germany.

purchasing power index and cost of living index of countries better than Germany CBD Cannabis purchasing power
purchasing power index and cost of living index of countries with higher purchasing power than Germany (🇩🇪 = 100).

We see, that Canada is in 21st place. Canada has a purchasing power index of 112.6% in relation to Germany, so Canadians can afford more products of the “good life” after deducting all fixed costs. By products of "good life" I mean, for example, expensive cosmetic and lifestyle products, such as CBD oils or cannabis flowers. Both are quite elaborately produced products with a long value chain and therefore automatically more expensive than staple food or toilet paper. In addition, cannabis products have not yet been classified as essential for survival, which is why cannabis products have to be paid for with money that is left in the consumer's wallet after all basic needs have been met.

Industrial nations as strong target markets for cannabis products

What is striking when looking at the purchasing power ranking: Many of the countries shown with higher purchasing power than Germany are among the economically strong industrial nations. We see many European countries, the USA, Japan and Australia: All of these countries have dominated the economic markets of our world for the past 70 years. In developing countries such as China and India, on the other hand, there is currently rapid economic growth, but purchasing power remains far behind at 71% and 35% compared to Germany. This means that the residents of these countries tend to have less money left over for the regular consumption of CBD and cannabis products - even if the cannabis products were allowed in these 1.5 Billion citizens countries.

But let's take a look at the countries with higher purchasing power: In countries such as the USA and Israel, the business with medical cannabis and CBD is already booming, and there, like in Switzerland, the market is more likely to be saturated at the moment. In general, entering the market seems unattractive. But countries like Switzerland show that new markets are constantly forming and opening up around the world. “Little” Switzerland with only 8 million inhabitants has developed into the most important CBD producer in Europe within four years and now supplies almost all European CBD markets with high quality CBD flowers and oils: Despite the higher permitted concentration of active ingredients and dizzyingly high levels of minimum wages!

And there are not only chances in expanding existing markets with exports, but also a still increasing demand for cannabis products in already existing markets.

Lately I read about the 36.6 % stakes of Constellation Brands in Canopy Growth. Constellation Brands also owns the beer brand "Corona". Now as international respected Institutions like the United Nations recognize the medical benefits of cannabis, and companies like Canopy Growth want to distribute THC beer, that makes similar effects to a bottle of normal beer, it's likely that over the time the market share of cannabis beer in relation to alcohol sales will increase. Fingers crossed, but it's known that many people worldwide drink beer instead of cannabis, because with drinking beer they cannot loose their drivers license that easy or get into other kinds of legal trouble. But that doesn't mean, that they wouldn't switch to an alternative, that has less longterm side effects and gets more and more legal around the globe. I think it will be special products like cannabis beverages or cosmetics, that will be accepted from the mass of the potential consumers. According to Wikipedia, 1 Billion people worldwide smoke and 2 Billion people drink alcohol - so it's more common to drink than to smoke. But back to our established cannabis markets, that expand their markets by exporting their goods and knowledge regarding  smokeable and vapeable cannabis flowers.

The Canadian cannabis companies already have large market shares worldwide

Meanwhile, other European countries with a higher purchasing power than Germany were targeted at an early stage by the stumbling Canadian companies; investments in Denmark, for example, were placed by the fifth largest cannabis company in the world - Aurora from Canada. While Aurora's share price stumbled due to the oversaturation of the Canadian medical cannabis market and exports to medical cannabis markets abroad developed slower than expected, many experiments were initiated straight on locations abroad. In Denmark, for example, a “Sky Class” greenhouse of almost 10,000m2 was built to supply the Central European medical cannabis market. Aurora's strategy of gaining an early mover advantage in countries with emerging markets for medical cannabis was particularly pushed in Europe. Aurora acquired medical cannabis production companies in Portugal and founded medical cannabis distribution companies in Poland, Germany, Great Britain and Italy, among others.

In Italy, the second largest medical cannabis market in Europe emerges

In Europe, the medical cannabis market is growing these days. Investor groups and Entrepreneurs from the pharmaceutical industry compete with established medical cannabis companies such as Aurora or Aphria for the few slots for growing and selling medical cannabis. The established companies are often awarded the contracts, because they can best convince the European authorities that they can comply with European GMP and GACP requirements with established concepts. European start-ups usually do not have the opportunity to present their best practices and existing greenhouses (like I visited in 2018 in California, here's the photo story), because most of them simply don't have established these structures for now.

In addition, foreign production companies are pushing prices for medical cannabis down enormously: According to marketrealist, Aurora has guaranteed a sales price of € 1.73 per gram for the guaranteed delivery quantity of at least 400kg per year for the Italian market. These prices are only possible when running huge, sophisticated and process optimized cannabis production facilities. To do this, land prices, rents, labor costs and electricity tariffs at the place of cultivation must be very low and subsidies high - a advantage for companies like Aurora, which do not always grow medical cannabis in the target markets but import it from other countries. Local farmers and nurseries cannot keep up with such prices in initial stages. Added to this, in the medical sector only CBD and THC active ingredient contents has to be constant by law and, for example, terpene values ​​don't have to be constant yet: This means that medical cannabis can be produced at even lower prices and still fully meets the official requirements for quality - even if the patient at the end of the value chain sees it very different, because the medical cannabis don't catch up with their expectations of a high quality medical product.

Germany currently has allowed three medical cannabis producers to produce in Germany

Market observations of medical cannabis worldwide suggests, that this market is tightly controlled by the major Canadian companies at the moment. The demand for medical cannabis is also still starting to increase and at the moment the demand is still not that big. So in the medical sector there's no space for many competing production companies at the moment.

In Germany, for example, three medical cannabis production companies have so far won the sought-after medical cannabis production contracts: two of them Aphria and Aurora. The third company for the production of medical cannabis is Demecan, which for once comes from Germany. The only downer: Demecan is only allowed, to produce and sell about half as much medical cannabis per year from the German BfArM as its two competitors from Canada are allowed each.

And even if it sounds unfair, that out of over 180 applicants, just three got a contract, it matches the current market realities. According to, Germany imported only 9,249kg of medical cannabis in 2020. In comparison to 2018-2019, the growth rate for the demand of medical cannabis even decreased by 63% in the 2019-2020 period.

prohibition partners growth of German medical cannabis market

The focus should be on the patient and consumer - market niche high quality medical cannabis?

However, for entrepreneurs and investors there is some light at the end of the tunnel: The feedback from German cannabis patients shows that the quality of medical cannabis does not yet meet their expectations. This opens opportunities for new medical cannabis producers. Let's check out, why there are some niches opening. First of all, let's hear the patients. The Vice writes in this article:

Germany's handling of medical cannabis is above all confusing, say those affected. Medical Cannabis is difficult to obtain and talks with doctors are still burdened with prejudice. The quantities available in Germany are too small, doctors lack expertise and health insurance companies regularly refuse to pay. Those who have to pay for their medical cannabis say it's overpriced and of poor quality. Quite a few therefore continue to try the black market or cultivate their needed medicine illegally themselves.

It is frightening to read that some patients value the unregulated quality of the black market more than the strictly state-controlled medical cannabis from the pharmacy. It becomes clear that the focus on requirements for medical cannabis products vary widely from producers, governmental agencies, wholesalers, pharmacies and patients.

  • The production companies want to manufacture at the lowest possible cost.
  • The authorities want compliance with all required limits of pesticides ​​and consistent active ingredient concentrations of THC and CBD.
  • The wholesalers want to deliver as many varieties as possible to as many pharmacies as possible.
  • The pharmacies want the most stable range possible on their shelves.
  • And most important: The patient wants a delicious, terpene-rich, consistent product - preferably even different varieties with different terpenes for morning and evening applications.

Cheapest production processes for the established producers of medical cannabis

Companies like Tilray communicate their production process transparently to the outside world. It is noticeable that the Canadians only allow four to eight days of drying time for their medicinal cannabis flowers of the highest quality. Cannaisseurs know, however: 10-14 days of air drying and subsequent hand trimming lead to really tasty cannabis flowers. We don't even want to start with a two to three month curing process - hardly any producer of medical cannabis spends resources on a decent curing process.

tilray drying and curing process under 8 days.png
Tilray production process durations

In addition, after harvesting and drying, cannabis flowers are often radioactively irradiated with gamma radiation in order to then guarantee to pass all limit value tests for fungi, mold, insects and pathogens. They have implemented processes that make the production of large quantities of medicinal cannabis flowers especially cheap.

All these observations show that although the required quantities of medicinal cannabis flowers can be already covered by overproduction in certain countries through exports worldwide, the quality is still well below the expectations of patients. In the medical cannabis market, there is still room for new companies, especially in the high-quality market niche.

Market niches as a great opportunity for the cannabis market - let's have a look on CBD

Because the CBD market is (still) significantly less regulated than the market for medical cannabis, the discrepancies in the expectations for the quality of CBD products between consumers, producers and wholesalers are, in my opinion, smaller than on the market for medical cannabis. This means that the producers are more likely to place those qualities on the market that are ultimately well acknowledged by consumers. But even in the CBD market, many companies are subject to subjective assessments and are currently still producing for past demand and requirements.

In Switzerland, for example, there is a certain overproduction in lower and middle grades, but very high quality CBD flowers are offered by too few companies. The market for CBD biomass (low, cheap quality) is hardly worthwhile in countries like Switzerland due to the costs of rent, energy and work, when countries like China offer CBD biomass for EUR 3.50 per kilogram. Cosmetics manufacturers who are interested in the pure CBD raw material, of course, prefer to buy the basic substances for their products abroad because of the cost savings. The end consumer, on the other hand, prefers to buy a high end quality plant product, that has been lovingly dried, is based on good genetics and brings the expected effect when smoked. As a small but fine craft cannabis brand, you can definitely establish yourself almost anywhere - you should just keep your expectations of the company's scaling low. Just to give my end consumer assumptions some credibility: I can evaluate the end consumers perspective in such a specific way, because I worked in a Swiss retail store for CBD over the last year from time to time.

Economy of scale vs. market niches

A friend of mine who advises medical cannabis companies in Great Britain once told me a funny anecdote: A customer calculated how much acreage he would need for so and so many millions of profit a year. With his thinking, he would have produced ten times the needs of medicinal cannabis in the UK per year. You can safely imagine what the consultants first piece of advice was.

Anyone who observes the CBD industry will notice one thing: There are hundreds of brands and thousands of products and every company that can assert itself in the market in the long term will sooner or later find its own market niche. Some CBD brands can make a living from working with just one big influencer. Other CBD brands rely on a mix of influencers - without having to activate a single marketing tool. I'll give you an impression on how several German CBD Brands found their really own powerful market niches.

Great realized niches from German CBD brands

The German cosmetics startup J’tanicals from Dusseldorf, for example, successfully placed its three CBD cosmetic products at Europe's largest perfumery retail chain Douglas. Apparently the brand is really serious about its niches, because J’tanicals has also been able to position itself successfully at Aboutyou, Germany's fourth largest online shop for fashion.

J'Tanicals CBD cosmetics line branding
J'Tanicals CBD cosmetics line

Also the consortium around MyWeedo and Hempgroup has found exciting niches: Together with the Süddeutsche Zeitung, which counts over 100 million! unique visits each month, they have published a guide to CBD on the Süddeutsche's website, where their CBD oil is prominently advertised. It should be mentioned at this point that the Süddeutsche Zeitung not only has a high number of visitors, but is also regarded as the leading news and publishing medium in Germany that is perceived very seriously. So the Süddeutsche creates trust, which I find very important for a product as new as CBD. Well played, MyWeedo and Hempgroup.

CBD Guide von MyWeedo auf der Seite der Süddeutschen Zeitung, wo auch das zum Unternehmenskonstrukt dazugehörende Hempcrew CBD-Öl beworben wird.
CBD Guide von MyWeedo auf der Seite der Süddeutschen Zeitung, wo auch das zum Unternehmenskonstrukt dazugehörende Hempcrew CBD-Öl beworben wird.

Tom Hemp's from Berlin, on the other hand, was one of the first CBD companies to launch a pop-up store - in the much-visited East Side Gallery in Berlin, a shopping gallery. In addition, Tom Hemp’s has placed his CBD products at Europe's ninth largest online shop, Zalando - Congratulations!

Even more classic distribution models can be successfully occupied as niches. Nutree, for example, has placed its CBD oil at Rossmann - one of the largest drugstore chains in Europe. And that's just one of many retail chains. As CBD becomes more popular in society, other retail chains will also want to sell CBD products. Just imagine when CBD oils are available in most grocery stores like Lidl, REWE, Kaufland or EDEKA in Germany. Same goes for Wal-Mart, Tesco and other international retail companies.

And now comes the punch line: Aurora and other Canadian public companies have no participation in all of these promising cannabis product placements in powerful market niches.

market niches ≠ Aurora and sons

So you can see very well that there are still numerous options on how to successfully produce and sell CBD and cannabis products without having to fear the stock giants from Canada. While these companies have quickly ripped off the mass market, they are still a long way from the holy grail of quality. These Companies would also need thousands of sales employees to open up to all the possible sales channels - most important for the less regulated CBD market. Just think of "Bunte Blume", a CBD startup that sells its products through the Berlin “Späti” network - small, independent shops that sell drinks, cigarettes and snacks around the clock in the smallest of stores. And since 2020 also CBD flowers! And "Bunte Blüte" holds a large stake on this attractive market niche.

Countries as market niches that offer cannabis business opportunities

But a lot can still be achieved in the cannabis market not only in a vertical orientation, there are also still many possibilities in the horizontal direction. The CBD trend has only just nudged the world markets and billions of people still have no access to a regulated market for cannabis and CBD.

Countries that are dependent on particularly good economic ideas due to their location factors such as size, climatic zone, relief and lack of fossil resources, are able to influence their entire surrounding regions or even entire continents in the near future influence, like Switzerland influenced Europe - although Switzerland is not even a member of the EU! But it's one of the most central located countries in Europe.

Similar to Switzerland, other states with a special status could develop in their regions. These countries include, economy-wise, for example Qatar, Singapore or Japan. Or in Europe Luxembourg - the country is one of the first countries to legalize THC-containing cannabis for recreational purposes in Europe.

So it is definitely worth taking a closer look over the next 10 years to see where international markets are opening up and how you can best establish entrepreneurial roots in these markets. But one is for sure: The Cannabis market is still growing long term and if you didn't start you cannabis company till now, today is the best time to get in.

As a last note, please don't hesitate to reach out to with all your questions, as we have a bunch of qualified consultants for several cannabis related questions and ideas. May it be marketing, production or compliance related - we're here for you to help you getting your company started in a structured, data based way.