Q+A: Cannabis Europa Director Envisions Marijuana in France

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Though France legalized medical cannabis in 2013, no cannabis-based products are for sale in the country yet. By the end of 2018, however, France will have made several significant moves to ease the introduction of medical marijuana within its borders and beyond.

Currently, a special committee is studying the necessity and feasibility of the sale of medical cannabis and should get its first public hearing before the end of 2018.

Shortly thereafter, France will host its first professional meeting on cannabis, Cannabis Europa at the Maison de la Chimie ( House of Chemistry) in Paris.

By the time that Cannabis Europa is scheduled to begin on Feb. 8, 2019, the results of the special committee are expected to be released. As a result, attendees of the conference may be going into their discussions and lectures with a very new legal environment to consider.

The inaugural Cannabis Europa conference took place in May 2018 in London. The event gathered more than 500 speakers and attendees from around the world to share their vision around the rapidly-evolving medical cannabis industry in Europe.

Materials for Cannabis Europa explain the potential significance: “Europe is poised to become the largest cannabis market in the world, with a forecasted medical cannabis market of over €55 billion [$62.55 billion U.S. dollars as of Oct. 29, 2018] by 2028. Encompassing more than 50 countries of different size, character and politics, the European market is significantly more complex than any other medical cannabis market.”

France, of course, would be a big part of this market. Marijuana.com spoke with Alastair Moore, Managing Director of Cannabis Europa, about the upcoming event.

Q: Before talking about Paris, could you give us some details on what happened in London? What were the conclusions of the first Cannabis Europa?

A: London was a proof-of-concept event in many ways. Not only was it the launch of a new conference brand but it became an instrument for change here in the UK, while demonstrating that there is a real appetite for thought leadership within the European cannabis space.

What Cannabis Europa created was a platform from which European policymakers and politicians could comfortably engage with the global cannabis industry — and through which we can solve the problems facing this nascent industry.

Q: Cannabis Europa will hold a conference in London in June 2019, and before that in Paris in February 2019. You obviously know that France has always been reluctant to soften its cannabis laws, even for medical use. What made you decide to cross the English Channel?

A: We had heard rumblings of change through our French colleagues, and we were happy to learn that a French Special Committee was appointed to review the benefits of medical cannabis. France represents one of Europe’s largest populations and leading economies, which means that the potential number of patients who could benefit from access to medical cannabis is very significant. It also means that if — or when — France regulates medical cannabis, it will be a real game-changer for Europe.

Q: Who is the event for?

A: The event is dedicated to shaping the future of the medical cannabis industry in Europe. Cannabis Europa brings together thought-leaders in politics, policy, patient advocacy, science, and business to explore the issues facing Europe’s rapidly developing industry. French authorities and policymakers have been invited to join us to voice their concerns, increase their understanding of the topic, and share what they feel is best for French and European patients.

Q: What topics will be discussed?

Our first focus will be politics and policymaking within the EU. This region is a unique space, made up of 28 countries who have to find common ground on every single trade issue, medical cannabis included. Until the EU Institutions are settled on a unified approach to medical cannabis regulation, the industry will remain fragmented. We want to raise the topic of European leadership in policymaking to make medical cannabis equally accessible to all patients across Europe.

There’s also a lot of interest from the pharmaceutical industry in medical cannabis. Cannabis-based treatments are disrupting the way we conceive medicines and pharmacology in Europe. France has a strong chemical and pharmaceutical industry, so it is logical for us to put an emphasis on this topic as well.

We’ll also take a look at the francophone markets as a whole. As the mother tongue of 12 percent of the EU population, we’ll explore the similarities in countries such as Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Belgium. Of course, the economic and cultural ties between Canada, which has French as one of its two national languages, and France will also play a role in the future of the industry in Europe.

Q: What do you expect? What are your objectives with this event?

A: We believe that there is currently no universal model for cannabis regulation, and Europe has a clear opportunity to take a global leadership position. Regulators, policymakers, business leaders, scientists, patients, and advocates from across the continent and beyond gather at Cannabis Europa to help shape the development of what will become the world’s largest medical cannabis market.

This is why we have made the decision to host additional conferences on the continent alongside our flagship event in London. Bringing people together from across Europe to the same table is key for building the continent’s medical cannabis industry.

Q: Do you have big names that will participate in the conference?

A: We are announcing some of our speakers in the coming weeks, but all I can say for the time being is that we have some serious thought-leaders in this space lined up — to produce some much needed practical solutions to the issues facing the industry in Europe.

Q: What do you think will happen in the coming years in France for medical cannabis?

A: It’s too early to say until the special committee finishes their review. However, France is a nation of entrepreneurs, and we can expect the country to take a leadership position in this field. As the second-largest producer of hemp and a strong player in the pharma industry, the country has all the assets needed to become one of the leading countries in the global medical cannabis industry.

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