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After decades of prohibition, the adoption of legal cannabis reform is taking hold across Europe, especially in the critical treatment of a wide range of serious medical conditions.
Europe has been at the forefront of cannabis reform; nearly 30 countries in the region provide patients with access to some sort of legalized medical cannabis (whether through a regulated medical program, or case-by-case granting of compassionate-use licenses by health officials.
That said, there are considerable regulatory challenges to be met. Establishing domestic operations for cultivation, processing, and distribution takes considerable time and investment. There can be high costs to entry, and regulatory licensing and approval rely on the efficiency and speed of respective bureaucracies throughout Europe. Nevertheless, efforts are underway throughout the continent to establish programs and markets with clear licensing requirements and transparent regulatory guidelines.
Today’s popularity for legalization is driven by three key factors.
Medical Efficacy: Cannabis provides some clearly specific medical benefits to patients. What had previously been shared as anecdotal examples or dismissed as folk tales have now been increasingly borne out, as patient groups and research efforts embrace alternatives to pharmaceutical prescriptions (especially opioids). Vetted evidence and daily headlines have come to illuminate mainstream conversations, and many people are realizing that the old “War on Drugs” mentality is unscientific, and socially outdated.
Public Opinion: Culture often moves faster than legislation. As patients find relief, and the society at large meanwhile comes to dismiss the old stigma about the plant, popular sentiments lead to pressure on local and federal governments to provide access for people to utilize medical cannabis and the therapeutic effects of various cannabinoids.
Economic Stability: According to New Frontier Data analysis, the value of total cannabis demand throughout Europe is roughly $69 billion. France, Italy, and Spain have the highest report rates of use in the region, with the three combined countries themselves representing 16.9 million consumers.
Cannabis regulations in Europe will enable far greater participation from biotech and big pharmaceuticals companies than what is currently being seen in the U.S. The speed of their entrance to the market, and the types of innovation they will advance, remain to be seen. Yet, the commercial benefits of a medical cannabis market are too great to ignore, and European states want to develop their own collective market, rather than relying on imports.