CANNABIS EUROPA LONDON 2019: STANDING ROOM ONLY

 

In the heart of London, on the south bank of the River Thames, over 1200 delegates gathered in the auditoriums of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to hear from cannabis industry experts from the worlds of politics, finance, healthcare and science. Cannabis Europa London, Europe’s premier medical cannabis conference, brought together key stakeholders to tackle the toughest questions facing the European cannabis industry.

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In his opening address George McBride, co-founder of Cannabis Europa, told the packed-out audience, “Around the world countries are changing their laws at an ever-increasing pace to allow access to medicines derived from this fantastic plant. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has come along and shown an interest in this sector, shown an interest in this plant. And to those helping push things along so that we can provide access to medicines for everyone who needs it, build an industry that’s spread around the globe and provide jobs for everyone in this room, and hopefully have some fun along the way.”

The headline partner and self-confessed “squarest guy in the cannabis business” Cam Battley, Chief Operations Officer of Aurora, was next to take the stage to give the audience a glimpse of how seriously they are taking the process of growing medicine in their GMP certified facilities - the highest standards in the world.

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“My first initial hesitation of entering this industry was that it was not a serious thing, but it is very serious. Cannabis is a very serious need among patients worldwide and it has clearly become a very serious business.”

“In Canada 5 years after we created our medical cannabis system, we’ve gone from a handful of patients, and a handful of physicians who were prescribing, to more than 400,000 patients with a prescription from their physician to manage the symptoms of a very wide range of chronic healthcare conditions. We have nearly 20,000 physicians who have written a prescription. This is not a joke! Medical cannabis is serious - seriously needed by patients and serious business.”

Cam Battley, Aurora Cannabis

This set the tone for the event that celebrated the mainstreaming and professionalisation of the cannabis industry but also presented a nuanced, deep-dive discussion that cut through the noise of industry hype. 

Attendees from around the world networked in the impressive surroundings of the Southbank in between panel sessions that drove debate, discussion and problem-solving.

24.06.2019

CANNABIS EUROPA // Day 1

Getting straight to the heart of the issues at hand, Investing in Europe | Continental Shifts saw ECH’s Stephen Murphy moderate discussion between high-level government regulators and industry operators, which gave an informed insight into the scale and nature of the opportunity that exists both in Europe as a collective and within each of its individual jurisdictions.

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"Toronto is currently the epicentre of cannabis finance, we believe the UK will be another hub in the global industry, very convenient for early stage opportunities"

Navdeep Dhaliwal, The Supreme Cannabis Company

Moving beyond the UK, Michael Prytz, the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spoke of plans to build a 1 million square foot facility in Denmark, in which 72% of energy would be renewable. Europe’s broad spectrum of opportunity was further extolled by Bardhyl Dauti, Minister for Foreign Investment in the Government of the Republic of Macedonia, who explained  “What further makes North Macedonia an attractive investment venture for the cannabis market are the low tax rates as well as the low cost of land rental. Cannabis businesses are free to come into our country and to respect the laws that we provide.” 

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The panel gave a clear illustration of the varied and contrasting potential that exists across Europe, ranging from low-value high-yield opportunities, to those that can deliver on sustainability, ethics and high innovation.

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A more responsible discussion

A theme that ran deeply through all of the conversation that took place throughout the day, both within the auditoriums and beyond, was that of responsibility. During the panel discussion, The Responsible Face of the Industry, experts from several fields including Kim Wilson from the Global Cannabis Partnership, discussed the importance of compliance, responsibility and regulation in the medical cannabis industry.

With many in the industry motivated by a personal desire to see policy change that helps patients who are most in need, there was also a very clear need to discuss how we can create an industry which benefits patients, operators and investors in the long-term. There was a clearly heightened awareness among attendees, that industry players need to ‘do it right’.

This sentiment was encapsulated by Aurora’s Jonathan Zaid who remarked, "Social justice is core to this community, and it's a community not just an industry".

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Adding clarity

The fluid nature of the industry and the highly topical question of CBD regulation was explored in depth during Food, Medicine, or Both | CBD Regulations. A host of industry representatives discussed their experience and learning from this notoriously grey area of the market. With many smaller companies looking to the big retailers for their potential to bring normalisation to the market, attendees heard from Hannah Skingle of DragonFly CBD on how mainstream UK high street retailers are influencing the CBD industry “It's about being very open to change aspects of your business to suit them.”

The final discussion of the first day, Strong and Stable | Business Leadership offered a panel with an elite understanding of global investment in the medical cannabis industry. On the subject of the importance of standardisation of cannabis products.

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Patient demand is very different to the recreational user. Recreational users want something new, while patients need to know what they get in order to track their health.

Tjalling Erkelens, Bedrocan

The subject then moved from product to people, and more specifically “management, management, management” according to Nick Davies of Memery Crystal, who spoke ardently on what differentiates the successful businesses in the European cannabis industry from the unsuccessful ones.   


25.06.2019

CANNABIS EUROPA // Day 2

Maintaining momentum 

With no respite for those who chose to network late into the evening, the second day of Cannabis Europa did not fail to deliver on the content of its subject matter, nor the calibre of its guests.

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Opening with Seizing the Initiative | Political Opportunity this global panel included medic and MP for Portugal, Ricardo Baptiste Leite, who discussed the life-and-death issues associated with drug liberalisation and the success story that has transformed not just his own opinions but also the health landscape in Portugal. There was mutual accord between panellists that it is now vital to incorporate these findings into all global drug reform policy and to ensure the ongoing amendment of drug policy in order to unlock the medical cannabis system for patients.

Delano Seiveright, a senior advisor to the Jamaican government, used the platform to highlight the importance of the European and North American power bloc in paving the way toward cannabis legalisation. Once again the theme of progress for the common good arose, as he described how, despite friction between the two opposing political parties in Jamaica, they came together in 2015 to begin the process of legalisation.

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“Liberalisation across the big markets of Europe and North America is important because it then spreads to smaller countries like Jamaica.”

Delano Seiveright, Jamaican Cannabis Licensing Authority

Expert advice in a nascent market

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More to Come | Investment Trends saw a panel of investment industry experts examine the complications of investing in cannabis in the USA across the patchwork of 47 different states which are all operating under a semi-legal status. Although this is historically discussed as a negative, Emily Paxhia of Poseidon Asset Management also pointed out that the current situation was allowing regional economies to benefit from their own products and that federalisation could actually be detrimental in terms of the influence that interstate trade would have with a likely dominance from California. Turning their attention to Europe, the panel recognised that Europe's approach would be dominated through medical access, which makes for a much more regulated and stable market - a positive from an investment point of view.

Complex & Controversial | Cannabis Communications provided a deep-dive into one of the most complex and difficult areas of the cannabis business. What is one of the biggest hurdles that the medical cannabis industry faces? "Managing the sheer amount of misinformation around cannabis" according to Jeffrey Perkins speaking on the importance of social media and how misinformation on social media platforms is a major problem to tackle. This tied in with other panel discussions throughout the conference, which touched on the importance of public and professional education in order to drive normalisation, professionalisation and sophistication. But with many companies finding that they are being locked out of the most influential marketing and communication platforms, utilising social media isn’t always straightforward. 

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A highly political subject

 The importance of events such as Cannabis Europa to the nascent global industry intensified with the arrival of Monyane Moleleki, the Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho, who dropped by to deliver a surprise speech to a highly receptive audience who heard that:

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The growth of the medical cannabis industry in Lesotho has been nothing short of astounding [...] the emerging medical cannabis industry is a pragmatic and progressive solution to the challenges faced by the African continent and will be pivotal to eradicating inequality and poverty.”

Monyane Moleleki, Deputy Prime Minister of Lesotho

The appearance of high profile politicians continued as Maltese Prime Minister, Joseph Muscat, delivered a keynote speech extolling the virtues of Malta as a centre for cannabis investment.

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We want to make sure that intellectual property created in Malta can be protected in this jurisdiction [...] our country is open to business […] €110 million have been invested in the cannabis industry in Malta. This is expected to add a supplementary €900 million to the economy and generate 700 jobs in the island”.

Joseph Muscat, Prime Minister of Malta

The political flavour of the second day was further compounded after lunch, when the Cross Party Cannabis | UK Politics discussion took place, which saw BBC Politics’ Andrew Neil moderate a panel that comprised the full spectrum of political opinion on the cannabis debate, including MPs Normal Lamb and Crispin Blunt and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, Sue Mountstevens.

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Blunt and Lamb offered a grounded and nuanced debate around cannabis. Twelve months prior, the conversation centred on potential and market growth but the discourse had clearly evolved and morphed into an educated, examining criticism of where we are and how we create the future of the industry.

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The sooner we understand we're doing not doing a thing to protect young people from dangerous drug use the sooner we can implement effective policy to keep them safe. We maintain this awful hypocrisy of criminalising poor kids on the streets, while ministers in Westminster continue to take their drugs of choice unpunished. I think It's wholly unacceptable that people with money can get access to private prescriptions while people without money are left waiting and suffering.'

- Norman Lamb, MP for Norfolk.

A perfect end to a perfect day

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The rapturous applause that followed this final political debate buoyed the spirits of all those attending, and was highly indicative of the support and passion that lies at the very heart of this industry. Cannabis as an industry is complicated and still controversial to those who have yet to understand the full potential of the plant. Yet throughout the conference the concept of normalisation and professionalisation seemed to resonate throughout the corridors of the Southbank Centre. There is a feeling that, while campaigners, lobbyists and advocates have won a huge battle legalising medical cannabis in 48 countries, the industry is just beginning, and as the industry matures, education, reflection and conversation will shape the future of the industry.


#CannabisEuropa // The Day On Social Media

The discussions started in London but continued into the digital world. Here are a few highlights, see more and join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

 
 
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A very encouraging and inspiring conference in London these past couple of days, as part of European Cannabis week. It is refreshing and also frustrating that there are doctors and nurses in countries all over the world that are successfully helping their patients with legal cannabis prescriptions and treatment, such as @krista.mabagos here (3rd picture). As well as advocates and patients who are suffering and finding great relief from cannabis with their conditions, with very little side effects from a natural plant. . It is a very difficult situation that we are in, in that our specialists have no real belief that cannabis is effective, and are ignoring the masses of anecdotal and early phase clinical studies that are showing how effective it is. . A lot of specialists here refuse to even entertain the idea as a form of treatment due to the lack of definitive phase 4 clinical trials (human trials). This becomes incredibly frustrating as medical professionals in many countries globally have been prescribing cannabis for years. . For patients like myself, we have other advocates to thank such as Carly Barton (@carlys_amnesty) here (pics 3 and 4), who suffers from Fibromyalgia an incredibly painful condition, that she manages with cannabis. I am part of Carly’s scheme here in the UK, that allows patients to grow 9 plants at a time to be able to treat their own conditions. This is a step in the right direction, but there is unfortunately a long way to go. . #medicalcannabis #medicinalcannabis #fybromyalgia #chronsdisease #chrons #cannabiseuropa #carlybarton

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Will Sloane