German imports of cannabis flowers for medical and scientific purposes surged by more than 80% in the first half of 2021, underscoring the growing popularity of medical cannabis and the increasing willingness of public health insurers to reimburse prescriptions.
But some politicians say it’s time for German companies to expand domestic cannabis cultivation and start exporting the flowers themselves.
Imports of cannabis flowers rose to 8,967 kg in the first six months of the year, up from 4,946 kg over the same time period a year earlier. Some 980 kg of dried cannabis flowers – used to produce cannabis extracts – were imported in the first half, up 19.5% from 820 kg in the first six months of 2020.
Most imports came from Canada (2,882 kg), followed by the Netherlands (1,989 kg), Denmark (1,730 kg) and Portugal (1,157 kg), according to the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM), the medical regulatory body in Germany. The other 13 countries that export medical cannabis products to Germany include Australia, Colombia, Jamaica, Lesotho, Switzerland and Uruguay.
“Germany covers its increasing demand for medicinal cannabis through imports,” said Wieland Schinnenburg, former member of Germany’s legislative body, the Bundestag, for the pro-business political party FDP. “Foreign cannabis producers benefit from this, but not the German economy. It is simply baffling that German companies are not in the lucrative export market. Instead of becoming more dependent on imports, we need more cannabis that is ‘made in Germany’.”
German home production is minuscule
Only 50 kg of the 2,600 kg of planned domestic cannabis production was realised in the first half of 2021, according to Jürgen Neumeyer, managing director of Branchenverband Cannabiswirtschaft, the German cannabis industry association. The targets were missed for a wide variety of reasons. Although the current situation is good for those businesses involved in importation, it’s time for German growers to start producing more both for the domestic market and the international market, he added.
“All in all, our importers are particularly pleased about [the current situation],” he said. “[However] we should be careful not to lose touch with the international community in Germany [once domestic production comes online].”
Schinnenburg said policies are needed to support German cannabis exports and “expand the cultivation of cannabis to 100 tons per year”.
Germany has permitted health insurers to reimburse prescriptions for medical cannabis since 2017. Public health insurers reimbursed 340,165 such prescriptions in 2020 for a total value of €165m, up 34% from €123m in 2019, according to figures presented at the European Industrial Hemp Association conference in June. Most prescriptions (73%) are for pain management, followed by spasticity (10%) and anorexia (6%).
The IFT Institute for Therapy Research’s epidemiological addiction survey found that 28.3% of German adults have used cannabis. About 7.1% consumed cannabis as least once last year, according to the survey.
– Jennifer Freedman CBD-Intel contributing writer
Photo by Add Weed