As the historic summer of 2017 comes to a close, many of us find ourselves literally, or figuratively, “on the train to Berlin” in search of new markets, new partners, and new opportunities in the medical marijuana space.
As I write this article, I am actually on the ICE Train to Berlin’s Central Station for a day of meetings, and can’t help but think about the patients our industry is supporting, and trying to support. That is why many of us wake up early in the morning, and, although the challenges are great, we know the rewards from a healthier and happier world we are forming is worth the effort.
For many, like Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen who started his second hunger strike to highlight the plight of patients in Germany, it is a matter of life and death.
As I enter the train, and order a Coca-Cola in the restaurant car which comes with SAN DIEGO in bold on the label, I overhear numerous conversations about the “Houston, Texas flood” which was occurring that week.
I exit the train in Berlin and go immediately to one of two Dunkin Donuts located within the station for a coffee and chocolate glazed donut. If you had any doubt that Germany is a welcoming environment for North American cannabis business executives, this may help to dispel it. I guess the only thing missing here is a Tim Horton’s and a Harborside dispensary éh?
(Deutsche Bahn – the train company – came out with an official position paper last week stating that smoking medical marijuana at the train station smoking sections is now officially allowed.)
As you exit the train station, one of the first things you’ll see is the Reichstag, which is truly an incredible building and the center of power for Germany. In the month of August, myself and 12,000 other advocates marched in front of it on our way to the Annual Hemp Parade to support the efforts of patients and advocates nationwide.
The reality on the ground in Germany right now is candidly “not good” – and worse, almost bad. Although a national medical marijuana law was passed and signed into law earlier this year, and although insurance companies were instructed to pay for prescriptions for medical marijuana patients, the reality is it is not working six months after implementation.
Unfortunately even the head of drug policy in Germany, Marlene Mortler, is not inclined to help the situation, and is now quoting “fake news” from the U.S. to bolster her claims.
Less than half of the requests for prescriptions have been granted, and the pharmacies which are the sole distribution point for medical marijuana continue to have sold out conditions. This sold out situation is expected to only be exacerbated over the coming months as Canada goes recreational and doctors in Germany overcome the “fear, uncertainty and doubt” they are currently having over prescribing this medicine.
So as August, 2017, comes to an end, patients in Berlin with valid prescriptions could go to the local pharmacy and be told “no supply available”, or go to Gorlitzer Park and buy from the black market.
I actually walked through the park and saw at least 50 police officers, four different paddy wagons, and a couple of undercover looking dudes searching for cannabis sellers/buyers while there.
I actually closed my eyes for a moment and had a #flashback to growing up in New York State during the Rockefeller drug law years in the 70s. The similarities were stark.
So yep, as a patient in Berlin, the situation is bad.
Currently Germany continues to import from Canada and The Netherlands only. The Applications for Cultivation of Medical Marijuana is still in the negotiation phase, and I recently heard the announcement of winners could come as late as December.
Even after the announcement, the first buds from the first approved cannabis plants will not be available to patients until late 2018, or 2019.
One ray of sunlight is the fact the German courts are starting to get fed up with all the patients being arrested for simply growing their own medicine as the supply in the pharmacies has dried up. There appears to be a surge in exonerations of simple farming for personal use.
This also brings up the issue that really bothers the local Germans, which is the expectation that there will be zero, keiner, none, nuncha German farmers awarded a cultivation license by their government due to the requirements within the request, which effectively eliminates any Germany company or individual applying themselves.
So the only way forward for a German organization is to partner with a “knowledgeable expert” from another country. It is kind of like California telling the Emerald Triangle farmers they need the assistance of Thailand growers or they will be deemed “not qualified”. If you want to get a local farmer in Germany really fired up, buy him or her a beer, and ask them about this situation.
Some other items occurring in Europe include:
- Poland has officially passed into law their own medical marijuana law, and officials are seeking input from industry leaders on effectively implementing it.
- Tommy Chong has announced he is coming back to Germany and looking for a few significant partners to work with (disclosure: I have the honor of working with him)
- In Holland, a few pilot projects are underway related to cultivation in conjunction with the new Foundation Patient Group Medical Cannabis Users (PGMCG) related to THC and CBD oils, which have previously been considered equal to heroin as far as the law was concerned. Mayor Noordnus of Tilburg has driven this and considers the needs of the patients as the highest priority, even going so far as to approve grower kits available with seeds. The world needs more mayors like him.
So as we head to the fourth quarter of this year, and if it seems to you that the European market is strategically important to you and your organization, get a ticket and I will see you on “the train to Berlin” soon.