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German cannabis imports rise to 34.6 tons as cultivators eye end of quota system

Excerpt from article written by Matt Lamers and published in MJBiz Daily on April 26, 2024.



Germany imported a record amount of cannabis for medical and scientific use in 2023, as international businesses looked for sales opportunities in Europe’s largest federally regulated medical marijuana market.


In 2023, Germany imported 31,398 kilograms (34.6 tons) of cannabis products, according to the newest data from the country’s Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM).


That’s a 26.2% increase over the 24,876 kilograms imported the previous year.


In previous years, Germany imported:

  • 24,876 kilograms (27.4 tons) of cannabis in 2022, up 19.8% over 2021.

  • 20,771 kilograms (22.9 tons) in 2021, a 77% surge over the previous year.

  • 11,746 kilograms (12,8 tons) in 2020, 46% more than in 2019.

  • 8,057 kilograms (8.9 tons) in 2019, which was 80% more than 2018’s total cannabis imports.


An unknown amount of those imports is reexported to other European Union countries every year, but industry experts say the data still paints a picture of an industry that is growing fast.


Peter Homberg, a partner at Dentons in Germany and head of the law firm's European Cannabis Group, said the country imports so much cannabis because of insufficient domestic cultivation, which stemmed from a now-scrapped cultivation quota system.


In 2019, only three companies were chosen to cultivate medical marijuana in Germany after a lengthy quota application process. No one else was allowed to grow medical cannabis for commercial purposes.


Together, the cultivators were allowed to produce only 10,400 kilograms of cannabis over a period of four years.


Meeting demand in excess of the limited domestic cultivation meant companies had to import cannabis from abroad.


Germany’s reliance on imports might begin to wane in the years to come, however.

Germany’s new cannabis law scrapped the quota system. In its place, companies may now apply for a permit to grow medical marijuana from the Cannabis Agency.


“The slightly more flexible conditions for the cultivation of medical cannabis” as a result of the new law “will make imports from abroad less necessary,” Homberg said.


Germany has been one of the largest importers of medical cannabis for years, a relief for marijuana exporters that generally struggle to access meaningful import markets.


Canada, the largest federally regulated medical marijuana market in the world, has blocked the commercial import of medical cannabis for years, pushing prospective exporters to look for buyers in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Germany and Israel.


However, Germany’s cannabis law, which took effect April 1, removed marijuana from its classification as a narcotic. That means patients seeking access to medical cannabis in Germany will no longer require a narcotic prescription form. Standard prescriptions will be sufficient, and that’s expected to stoke demand in the medical cannabis market.


Constantin von der Groeben, managing director of the German company Demecan, told MJBizDaily that, as of April 1, companies can apply for a cultivation license.


“We foresee a huge growth potential for our own cultivation,” he said, indicating Demecan can apply to increase cultivation beyond the previous maximum production quota.


However, Germany is still expected to need significant cannabis imports in the near- to midterm. “It depends strongly on the ramp-up of domestic cultivation,” Von der Groeben said of how long Germany would rely on imports.


The Demecan executive cited Article 21 of the United Nations' Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which he said implies that if and when the demand for cannabis can be filled domestically, no imports would be required or allowed. “But this is probably still a few years out,” he said.


Canada remained by far the top supplier to the German market in 2023, followed by Portugal and the Netherlands in a distant second and third, respectively.


Roughly 15,600 kilograms of cannabis was shipped from Canada to Germany in 2023, representing approximately 50% of Germany’s marijuana imports for medical and scientific use as well as reexporting.


In 2022, Canadian shipments accounted for less than 40% of Germany’s total imports.


Matt Lamers can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.


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