Between 2013-2016 some 79,500 tons of hemp were produced across Europe. In 2016, European countries produced hemp on more than 80,000 acres, equating to an estimated value of €50 million.
The EU has an active hemp market, with production in most member nations. Production is centered in France, the Netherlands, Lithuania, and Romania. Many EU countries lifted their bans on hemp production in the 1990s and, until recently, also subsidized the production of “flax and hemp” under the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. Most EU production is of hurds, seeds, fibers, and pharmaceuticals. Europe, particularly France and Finland, have a long history using hemp for fibres, construction material and textiles, though in the last 25 years this sector has come into bloom, increasing production by upwards of 500% (that’s 250% in 8 years).
In 2015, a report from the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), stated that drug use, when not injuring others, should not be illegal in the EU. While there are 35 million people in Canada and 325 million in the United States, the European Union is home to almost 510 million.
In 2018, more than six new countries have announced medical legalization, patient numbers have grown by 40% month on month and more than €150 million has been invested in the European cannabis industry. Some form of medical cannabis (or cannabis-based medicine) is now legal in 22 countries in the region, with a further 12 countries decriminalizing the recreational use of personal amounts of cannabis. In the first six months of 2018, the European cannabis market saw more growth than in the previous five years, according to the “European Cannabis Report” released in July 2018 by Prohibition Partners. That’s why the European markets are becoming increasingly important to the cannabis sector.
Having just legalized medicinal cannabis in January, Germany is a growing market, with over 80 million people. Germany positioned itself as Europe’s market leader by liberalizing its medical program in 2017. Germany is currently conducting a tender round for the country’s first cannabis cultivation licenses and expects to award those licenses in 2019. The tender calls for 10,400 kilograms of medical cannabis to be grown domestically over four years.
After Germany, Italy is expected to become Europe’s second largest cannabis market, according to both Arcview and BDS Analytics research, with a projected $1.2 billion in sales by 2027. Italy legalized medical cannabis in 2013, before many of Europe’s other legal marijuana countries.
Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Finland and Poland are also named as launching similar programs, as well as the Spanish region of Catalonia “moved past tolerance and embers of designated clubs.” In January 2018 Malta legalized cannabis, permitting the production for medical use. A bill legalizing medical cannabis was unanimously passed by the government of Luxembourg in July, 2018.
Though there has been progress regarding recreational cannabis, such as cannabis social clubs (legal in Belgium, Spain, Netherlands and Slovenia) and sporadic decriminalization, it is not a priority of European legislators to legalize recreational use. Though they do estimate that recreational cannabis will also be legalized in the not so distant future. Germany, Denmark, Malta, Greece and Italy have considered the possibility of a fully regulated cannabis market.
The second edition of the European Cannabis Report – produced by London-based advisory group Prohibition Partners – suggests that with 12% of the continent’s 739 million people being either “irregular and intensive” cannabis consumers, Europe’s annual:
- Overall cannabis market will reach 56.2 billion euros
- Potential medical cannabis market will hit 35.7 billion euros
- Potential recreational market value will reach 20.5 billion euros
- Estimated hemp market will hit 48.9 million euros