The Czech Republic is moving forward on cannabis reform and calling for EU-wide coordination. Will this be the final tipping point in Europe to create a regional approach to full legalization?
The Czech Republic has been moving forward on the entire cannabis conversation in Europe if, not exactly in stealth, then certainly with less cross-European fanfare than others. However, this country, which implemented medical reform way ahead of anyone else (in 2013) and further now allows dispensation via digital prescription – albeit still by specialty physicians – is now moving forward on full cannabis legalization. The results domestically should be interesting, beyond their impact on other places, starting with this fact. Patients are allowed now to have up to 180 grams of dry flower in their possession.
The Czech Recreational Cannabis Legalization Initiative
This fall, however, the pace of reform seems to have picked up steam if not deadlines for implementation. Indeed Czech National Anti-drug Coordinator Jindřich Vobořil is working closely with other parts of the federal government to have a bill drafted to set out regulations and market conditions for the same domestically by the end of the year.
Beyond this, the Czechs are also calling for a pan-European approach to implementing recreational cannabis reform. It is, for this reason, that they will almost certainly join the working group established in July and consisting of Germany, Luxembourg, and Malta.
The timing is certainly interesting – namely at roughly the same time the German government has discussed releasing its own draft legislation to create a legal market aus Deutschland.
Could the Czech announcement impact the pace of reform in Germany if not across the EU?
The answer is almost certainly yes.
Here are a few places where the pro-reform countries can move the entire regulation issue ahead – and further on a regional level.
Homogenization of Standards and Rules
There is enough at stake, and this is a big enough area, that the so-far limited calls from the pharma side of the industry for cross-border homogenization on EU-GMP are likely to spread to anyone who cares about recreational cannabis reform too – and sooner than later.
Many of these issues will actually go away once cannabis and cannabis products are normalized. For example, Europe has regional standards on all consumables bound for both human and animal consumption. Many of the largest bugbears that have so far haunted the industry everywhere, will disappear across Europe at this juncture. Organic and craft cannabis, for this very reason, will have vast consumer appeal.
GACP vs GMP Regulation for Cross Border Trade in High THC Flower and Product
One of the largest questions any pro-recreational reform European government (or for that matter legalizing country anywhere on the planet right now) has to decide is how to properly control and regulate particularly high THC cannabis across international borders. Right now, the discussion is complicated enough for CBD. On a European level, CBD under .2% (soon to be 0.3% at the turn of the year) is not designated as a narcotic. However, for example, Spanish regulators do consider it to be so. This kind of patchwork, understandably, gets complicated for exporters and importers. Regional regs would absolutely help. That said, such reforms also then have to be implemented on a national standard too. CBD is still in the German Narcotics Act (for example).
Beyond this, however, there are many questions about how to regulate higher THC flower and products. The discussion about what actually constitutes GMP cultivation (i.e., indoor vs outdoor) is just one of those complicated topics – and is already part of the legalization discussion in Germany (for starters).
The European CBD market right now is in dire need of higher standards – particularly when it comes to products containing CBD oil extract. Setting regional standards – or even applying existing standards on food and consumable goods that already exist in the EU to this vertical is not only a critical step from a quality control perspective. It will also allow the entire vertical a much clearer, less complex path to market.
The bane of the CBD edibles conversation almost everywhere so far across Europe, this will not simply disappear when THC is added to the mix. What will be interesting to see is if legalizing countries like Germany and the Czech Republic waive such requirements in exchange for COAs – as has been suggested in the UK – or even waive them completely (as Switzerland has just done) and further rely on existing food and other product safety standards that apply to everything else?
This is going to be a topic likely to garner challenges if not loopholes galore, particularly on cross-border sales in a digital environment. Expect that tobacco and alcohol-like restrictions to be in the room, across the region, making this a difficult area for years to come.
This is even more true because medical cannabis reform has now been implemented across Europe. Advertising “narcotics” which high THC cannabis will almost certainly remain classified on the medical side, which becomes even more complicated in this environment.
Point of Sale Regulations
It is almost certain that although CBD online shops are flourishing in Europe, higher THC sales will be almost universally banned online – for obvious reasons – at least at first. That said, one of the best ways to move this possibility forward is cross-EU regulation for the entire industry. It cannot be kept at bay forever.
While this is something that governments will not really be able to regulate directly, they certainly can work together to set certain targets for both sales price and taxation. The combination of the two, of course, must be competitive with current black-market pricing. Beyond this, setting prices for EU GMP flower and extracts – even of the generic kind – is very good for setting other benchmarks for everything else.