Europe has a lot to learn from the U.S. and Canada as it transforms: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Cannabis not only has proven medical benefits but financial benefits to both consumers and countries that benefit from greater access. There is also an estimated $160 million black market that is being disrupted, as well as entire government agencies and jail budgets. This is all positive for the legal industry and government spending.
The U.S. and Canadian markets have shown definitively through various state/regional models that clear pro-cannabis rules bring a large variety of safe cannabis products to consumers, as well as one of the largest growing employment sectors. Both bring increased taxable revenue to the governments for their programs. Even with the spread of COVID-19, U.S. revenues continue to surge in 2020. Thousands of different products are driving $13 billion in sales, plus double that in supporting ancillary business revenue from construction to packaging as well as the media & event advertising sector. Canada, similarly, has now introduced edibles and concentrates under their 2.0 program which is increasing their 2020 revenue to $2.5 Billion in sales. Support industries to cannabis are also adding over twice that amount.
Consumers from various demographics now have safe access to many cannabis products. If you want to smoke the flower, vape the oil, put drops under your tongue, take a pill, put a topical on your skin or enjoy the taste of edibles, as a consumer you have a variety of options. Legalization is changing consumer demographics rapidly, as age groups like seniors who are 65+ are becoming more educated as to the pain relief and sleep benefits that cannabis can provide. Professionals are welcoming the calming effects to remedy their work stress. And patients of many disorders are gravitating to cannabis and away from big pharma solutions. The U.S. and Canada have proven definitively that cannabis is mainstream and wanted by consumers. New models divergent from big pharma put the healing in the consumer’s hands.
The ambiguity of rules and slow adoption of distribution has caused slower educational outreach and availability of cannabis benefits than otherwise could have helped patients. Canada’s slow adoption of rules for education and product diversity, and the U.S. State-by-State politics and lack of federal support, have left the consumer guessing with trial and error what may work to treat their for their ailments. You hear politicians claiming they need more research yet fail to provide any evidence, either positive or negative, for decades and no funding with clear objectives. The DEA guided research has been dogged for years and scientific advancement stifled by the same organization trained to stop marijuana for decades. The FDA, WHO, and other health organizations continue to take advice from big pharma and lack structure to regulate tens of thousands of new entrants.
Consumer demand is slowly moving these pieces but lack of education will continue to slow progress towards leading a fuller life without all the rules attached. The formation of specialized distribution points called “dispensaries” is recreating-the-wheel to reach consumers. Without mainstream mass distribution networks like pharmacies being used to educate and distribute cannabis in a uniform common way, reaching the consumer becomes an expensive practice. This keeps prices abnormally inflated and limits consumer awareness to find what they need.
Big pharma, the black-market, and insane taxation all work against the legal industries’ survival in different ways. Of course, big pharma doesn’t want to lose their revenue streams from pain relievers and sleeping aids to legal cannabis players; they also have the ears of many governments since they are the largest customers. The black-market is estimated to be as much as ten times larger than the legal market and has a 40 year head start on legal markets. These players don’t abide by costly regulation and taxation making their lower costs appealing to the undiscerning consumer and taking away from the legal industries revenue base.
Meanwhile, governments are enjoying the increased employment and tax revenue while taking big pharma lobbying money and not wanting to spend to reduce black-market proliferation. In essence, they are squeezing the life out of the legal industry but not helping it to thrive and innovate further. Big pharma has been given enough control over major ailments, the black market isn’t needed with mass distribution, and not helping the industry with reasonable taxation and representation slows progress.
Europe has a great opportunity to learn from the good, bad, and the ugly of the U.S. and Canadian regulated Cannabis Industry and perfect their regulatory system and best practices. Legalization is working and consumers want legal cannabis. They want to be guided as to proper uses rather than be kept in the dark under old mantras.
Consumers’ shopping habits want to remain with their local stores for the easiest access and lowest costs. Holistic and herbal remedies replacing pharmaceuticals is an on-going trend that will continue far into the future, leaving pharma to cure the major diseases. Nobody wants to be told that non-lethal pain, anxiety, or sleep aid requires a long approval process. And the data is clear, supporting the growth of the legal cannabis industry brings benefits of more jobs, better health care solutions, and tax revenue without the costs of fighting a natural path to health. Putting the consumers first will eventually drive sound and responsible decisions.