The Future of the International Cannabis Industry

International Cannabis Industry

The 21st century ushered in a new era for cannabis with prohibition coming to an end in numerous markets across the globe. Legalization of medical and adult use cannabis has never been higher. Half a dozen countries now operate marijuana programs across North America and Europe. Even more exciting, Canada implemented adult use cannabis as the second country to do so behind Uruguay. These new markets continue to bring a promising potential for entrepreneurs, businesses, and investors looking to capitalize on the cannabis sector.

With over half a dozen operational cannabis markets though, which one is best suited for your interest? We’ll take a dive into the future of the international cannabis industry, looking at each market in depth. The differences between each country can be vast such as the number of patients in the market, government supply regulations, and business potential.

Canada Adult Use

Canada’s medical marijuana market has operated since 2011 with management from Health Canada, the department responsible for public health in the country. The medical program originally gave patients three options to acquire their medical marijuana. This included an application process for home grows, purchasing it directly from Health Canada, or having a third-party “caregiver” grow the cannabis for you. Yet, this was replaced in 2016 with a commercialized process which allowed patients to purchase cannabis from commercial cultivation operators. Furthermore, the program did offer patients access to one of these cultivators or the ability to grow their own cannabis at home. There are over 100 licensed cannabis cultivators available to patients. A complete list of medical marijuana growers sorted by province can be found on the Health Canada’s website.

The Canadian medical program had many standard ailments which could be treated through cannabis consumption. This included cancer, HIV, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, insomnia and depressed mood, end-of-life care, and other conditions authorized by your doctor. The medical program does a nice job to protect patient’s rights with testing standards in place from licensed testing facilities. Furthermore, the state recommended a dosage of medical cannabis is advised to be less than 3 grams per day. The program does allow for infused products, extracts of some variety such as cannabis oil, and traditional dry flower options. All and all offering a robust set of choices for consumers of the medical program in Canada.

More famously, the country just recently legalized the adult use of cannabis. As promised during the campaign by the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau legalized cannabis at the federal level in Canada. Towards the end of 2017, the Cannabis Act was created. The bill would legalize cannabis at a federal level and in 2018 would be passed by the country’s legislature and signed into law by the Prime Minister on October 17, 2018. The Canadian adult-use cannabis market was officially set to begin and many businesses and consumers were to benefit from these changes.

The Canadian adult-use cannabis market has been projected to be worth nearly $23 billion from research firm Deloitte. While the program did experience shortages of product at first, this problem should be solved as more producers come online and the novelty of new cannabis regulations wears off in time. The process is fairly intensive to get a cannabis license in Canada with regulations laid out by Health Canada. The country offers tiers of cannabis grow licenses which range in the number of plants a license may grow and places different regulatory standards in place for larger grow operations. In closing, the Canada cannabis market is the most mature market in the world. It’s a great place for established businesses or ambitious entrepreneurs to operate a new cannabis venture despite the heavily competitive market. The exciting thing about a regulated marketplace such as the one in Canada is that cannabis companies have access to more traditional services such as fundraising or banking more readily than in grey markets like that of America, where state and federal law differ.

Read also: 8 Stats That Proves The Cannabis Industry Is The Next Big Thing


With the world famous cannabis market Amsterdam, located in the Netherlands, remains one of the most popularized cannabis locations in the world. Odds are you have heard of the famous coffee shops there. Interestingly, these cannabis recreational use facilities have for a long time operated illegally. In 2018, the country started to experiment with cannabis regulations allowing a few local municipalities to test new cannabis supply methods for these grey-market coffee shops. The aim of the program is to stop gangs from having a profitable revenue stream with grey-market cannabis sales.

Spain Medical Marijuana

The country of Spain decriminalized cannabis for personal consumption and use. While there are grey market cannabis clubs that operate in Spain, it is still technically illegal. These cannabis clubs have gained a great deal of popularity throughout the world, with some referring to them as the new Amsterdam coffee shops. One noteworthy aspect of the cannabis market in Spain is from the autonomous country of Catalonia launched a trial program with the cannabis-derived product, Sativex.

Germany Medical Marijuana

Legalized in 2017, the German market for medical marijuana is a restrictive one. The country approved the cannabis legislation only allowing for medical marijuana for patients that have no alternative form of medication. One interesting fact about the German program though is the patient’s ability to bill their insurance providers for their medical marijuana.


The third country in North America to start progressing their cannabis regulations is the country of Mexico. While they are behind compared to their northerly neighbor’s of America and Canada with their cannabis regulations, the country has shown some signs of progress in the recent past. For example, the Mexican supreme court passed a ruling which was very favorable to the legalization efforts of cannabis. While the market is too young for any business opportunities, it is a good place to keep on your radar for the future. The recently elected president of Mexico has publicly stated he wants the country to move towards legalization.

United States

With California legalizing cannabis in for medical use in 1996, America now has over 30 medical marijuana marketplaces operating in 2018. Further, there are now another 10 recreational cannabis markets which have started operating to one degree or another. Check out the complete state by state guide of cannabis regulations in America here.

United Kingdom Medical Marijuana

The UK program for medical marijuana started in November 2018. It’s too soon to know exactly how the program will be implemented by the UK government but it’s an exciting step forward to a large nation in Europe. Much of the medical marijuana program’s creation has been credited to the popularization of two epileptic children who showed clear benefits from cannabis. Shortly after, one of the country’s top medical officials announced cannabis would be removed from a schedule 1 classification.

Portugal Decriminalized

Another example of a recently changed regulatory environment for cannabis comes from Portugal. The country famously decriminalized all drugs in 2001, which included cannabis. They took this a step further in 2018 with the legalization of medical marijuana. While this program is too young to know how it will be implemented it is a great place to look for upcoming business opportunities.

Other Noteworthy Locations

Uruguay was the first countries in the world to completely legalize the cannabis plant in 2014. The country does not charge much of any type of tax on cannabis and requires growers to pay minimal fees so the plant’s market value can compete with black market prices. While users can purchase up to 40 grams of cannabis at a time through a government tracking program, the cannabis sector in Uruguay is controlled with prices set at $2.50 per gram.

Jamaica offers another interesting regulatory outlook on cannabis. The country, which has long been hailed in pop culture as a marijuana haven of sorts because its Rastafarian culture has actually had cannabis illegal for quite some time. It was only in 2015 when the country lowered penalties for possession of cannabis to a petty offense which only includes a fine.

A few other countries in Europe have started to repeal cannabis prohibition in addition to the countries discussed above. This includes Italy which allows medical marijuana and industrial hemp through a heavily restricted program. While even small amounts of cannabis possession can result in a misdemeanor in Italy, it’s still more progressive than many countries with strict regulations. Another example comes from Switzerland’s cannabis program. Another restrictive cannabis market in Europe, the country in 2012 decriminalized small amounts of cannabis to only results in a fine. Furthermore, the country of Switzerland has seen four localities looking to start cannabis clubs through a pilot program.

A final interesting market note, there are many provinces in India which have decriminalized cannabis consumption for religious reasons. This is a small step away from prohibition but one of the first eastern countries to do so in the modern era.

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