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Cannabis in Europe: 7 reasons to be optimistic in 2024

We asked experts in the European cannabis sector about their predictions for 2024. 



From major regulatory developments to new advances in cannabis healthcare and gradual shifts in opinion, there is plenty to be optimistic about in the year ahead. 

With the help of some experts, we’ve pieced together our predictions and reasons to be hopeful for cannabis reform in 2024.

1. Europe is already firmly on the path towards reform 

While it may seem like progress in Europe has been slow, 2023 saw a continued increase in the number of patients able to access medicinal cannabis, while several countries took the first steps towards legalising adult-use.

“In recent years The EU has made substantial progress regarding cannabis legalisation,” says Lance Lambert, CMO of Grove Bags and a former industry consultant, specialising in Europe and North American markets.

“Several countries including Switzerland, Germany, Portugal and the Czech Republic have established medical programs. Others, including France and Ireland, are amidst pilot projects. But the latest wave garnering the most attention has been the progress around adult-use, or ‘recreational cannabis’ legislation.”

Malta became the first country in the EU to do so, with the introduction of the Cannabis Reform Act in early 2022. Despite a slow start, five premises have now had licences approved to operate non-profit social clubs, with more expected in 2024.

Last year Luxembourg legalised personal possession and home grow of up to four plants, as part of the first phase of its two-stage approach to reform.  

Meanwhile, pilot programmes got underway in Switzerland and The Netherlands which are expected to expand over the coming year. And of course, all eyes are on Germany as we await the vote on the draft bill in early 2024.

As Jamie Pearson, president of New Holland Group, says: “The cannabis train has left the station.”

Swiss and Dutch pilot programs, a very smart workaround around EU and UN policy, will expand and will put up favourable numbers to the feigned surprise of lawmakers,” she predicts. 

And although Lambert doesn’t foresee any ‘real movement at scale’ until 2026, he adds: “While I do see continued advancement in acceptance and legalisation, the true tipping point will be when Deutschland flips the switch for recreational use. This will affect countries from Finland to Spain, and everywhere in between. Until then, what few EU members holding out will likely advance by legalising medical use at minimum. Being the EU sits at a population of 448 million, widespread adult-use legalisation will be a true watershed moment, both for Europe, and the global market at-large.”


2. Germany may pave the way for wider EU reform

Despite some caution, local sources are ‘extremely confident’ that the draft law for cannabis reform will be passed by the German parliament in January or February, with Pillar One of the phased approach coming into force on 1 April 2024.

The law will see cannabis removed from the Narcotics Act and instead regulated by the Cannabis Act, with Pillar One permitting personal use of restricted amounts of cannabis, home cultivation and the establishment of a non-profit social club model. Pillar Two will see the introduction of legal commercial supply chains in certain districts and states which will be scientifically monitored for five years, although it is not yet known when this will be introduced.

As a major powerhouse within the EU, many believe Germany could lay the groundwork for the roll out of European-wide cannabis reform.

Olivia Ewenike, a German lawyer specialising in the cannabis industry and co-founder of Lito law Academy, commented: “So far, the EU has tolerated the fact that cannabis use is not prosecuted in some member states. If Germany were to actually legalise cannabis to the extent that is currently planned, this would be the most far-reaching step in the EU to date. The Commission has announced that the plans will be closely examined. I think some European countries will wait and see whether Germany can legalise cannabis without reprimand from the EU.”

Frederike Fäscher, a consultant for Berlin-based PIVOT Regulatory, echoes this, explaining: “Its impact is going to be big. While national frameworks are always different, they share a common issue, which is first of all being a member of the UN single convention on Narcotic Drugs – which prohibits the commercial sale of cannabis for adult-use – and on the other hand, the Schengen Agreement, which is part of the primary legal language of the European Union which translates that, so working around this is really difficult.

“It is said that it would need at least seven countries to convince the EU to abolish that part of the agreement or work around it – and we know of a few who already have initiatives open. They need a strong wing to fly under to attempt to open that back up and pivot towards something more commercial.”


3. As well as wider acceptance of medical cannabis

If passed, the introduction of Germany’s Cannabis Act will mean an even clearer distinction between medicinal and recreational cannabis. Medical cannabis will no longer be listed as a narcotic or require a specialist narcotic prescription.

Einwenke explains: “A fundamental change is that a special narcotics prescription is no longer necessary and a normal doctor’s prescription is now sufficient. It can therefore be assumed that many more doctors will have the confidence to prescribe cannabis as a medicine. This will also simplify the process. The prescription requirement and the fact that only pharmacies are authorised to dispense medicinal cannabis will remain in place. However, many bureaucratic requirements will no longer apply.”

It is hoped that this will not only help reduce stigma and increase confidence in prescribing, but will also make the production and distribution of medical cannabis easier.

“Until now, medical cannabis companies had to take part in a public tender and were only allowed to grow a capped quantity. From now on, companies will be able to independently apply for a manufacturing licence and distribute the cannabis themselves,” Einwenke continues.

“This will lead to a greater diversity of varieties and types of medical cannabis and better care for cannabis patients.”

From a business perspective, Fäscher adds that any companies eyeing up Germany should be focusing on medical, rather than adult-use.

“The cannabis clubs are fine and fun and there will be ways to commercialise them, but not in the way that a commercial market works when it comes to product diversity, quality assurance or vertically-integrated supply chains – this is still far ahead in the future,” she says. 

“Those who are interested in making money in Germany should be focusing on the medical side of things.”


4. The US will move towards federal reform, which could have global impact

Across the pond, potential regulatory changes could also have major global impact. Some predict that 2024 could be the year the US reschedules cannabis at a federal level which would undoubtably have a knock-on effect in the EU. 

“I believe that in 2024, both the US and Germany will reschedule cannabis,” says Michael Sassano, CEO of SOMAI Pharmaceuticals. 

“These two events will set up a global cannabis fire in every EU country, reevaluating and opening up cannabis.”

Last year, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), recommended that cannabis be reclassified from a Schedule I to a Schedule III under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

It came 10 months after President Joe Biden announced he was calling on federal agencies to review how cannabis is classified, as well as his intention to pardon thousands of offences related to possession.

In December, Biden issued a proclamation expanding his pardon initiative to include those with federal cannabis possession offences.

The The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has now confirmed that it is conducting a review into the reclassification of cannabis. 


5. New tech and AI will improve patient care

With advancements in healthcare technology coming thick and fast, 2024 could see some major shifts in how cannabis medicine is prescribed.

A number of new platforms and tools are in development with the aim of empowering patients and prescribers when it comes to medicinal cannabis. 

“I am optimistic that AI and advanced tech for precision medicine will enter the UK and EU through my contacts in the states,” says Heidi Whitman, a supporter of groups such as We Decode and Genetica Flora AI.

“Allowing patients and consumers to have control of their cannabis journey, prescribers to be able to have science back reports to reference for confidence in prescribing and retailers/dispensaries/clinics to have a better on grasp on what products to stock and provide with better consistency through the data generated from the groups internationalising the products for people and clinics/dispensaries. Better health through better data.”


6. Cannabis for medicinal and wellness purposes will (gradually) become more accepted in the UK

Slowly, but surely, medical cannabis should become more accepted in society over the course of the year, with an increasing number of medical and wellness-focused consumption spaces being established on the high street. 

Jay-Paul Jones opened Wales’ first medical cannabis consumption lounge at the end of last year, with backing from police and local authorities. Similar projects have had success elsewhere in the UK, with some gaining mainstream media attention, such as in Northern Ireland.

 Sam Cannon recently co founded Good Vibes Wellness Group along with Alex French and Vitalijs Kaneps, a community organisation focusing on urban adaptogen farms and wellness cafes on the UK high street.

“I think 2024 will see a lot more venues such as Good Vibes on the UK high street, catering for patients and consumers needs,” he says. 

“This in turn will raise awareness of medicinal cannabis, mushrooms, and health and wellness, move patients from an illegal market to a legal market, all while having a positive impact on the community and environment.”

While there are still some major regulatory hurdles to overcome for widespread access to medical cannabis in the UK, the industry will continue to push policymakers to improve things, says Mike Morgan-Giles, CEO of the Cannabis Industry Council.

“The UK cannabis industry still faces a largely incoherent regulatory and policy framework, which creates an array of challenges for patients and the medical supply chain,” he comments.

“Despite unfounded stigma from elements of society, prescription patient numbers continue to grow. Improving education and engagement with public authorities around medical cannabis prescriptions remains vital.

“To further support patients, we need to see increased NHS reimbursement of private medical cannabis prescriptions, and established NHS pathways for receiving unlicensed CBPM prescriptions.”

This year will also see some major clinical trials get underway to help build in the evidence-base to support this. 

Melissa Sturgess, CEO of Ananda Developments, which is running an NHS-funded randomised control trial on CBD-dominant cannabis and endometriosis, predicts: “2024 will be the year we see the dial move for cannabis based medicines in the UK. We have a determined group of like minded people across patient representation, medical cannabis prescribing and clinical trials who will not rest until we see these cannabinoid medicines available to all patients who need them.”


7. Cannabis will be more widely recognised for its ESG role 

Those in the cannabis industry are well aware of the benefits of cannabis as a crop – not just for the health of people, but the planet too. 

Cannabis absorbs double the amount of CO2 than trees, improves soil quality and can be turned into a sustainable material for both construction and fabrics, as well as an alternative for energy production. Will 2024 be the year this is recognised on a more mainstream scale? 

Sam Cannon, co-chair of the CIC’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) subgroup, thinks so. 

“ESG will become mainstream and the cannabis industry will be recognised as a tool to help with many health conditions and environmental issues,” predicts Cannon, who co-authored a report highlighting the ESG benefits of an expanded medical cannabis market at the end of 2023.

“The societal and environmental harms caused by organised criminals illegally growing and selling cannabis are hard to overstate.

“Expanding the legal market through improved access has the potential to drive down organised crime, and all the associated harms such as human trafficking and environmental damage.”


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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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