European Lessons from the US' Cannabis Legalization Journey

By Mitesh Makwana, Founder and Chairman of AltoVerde

There is no denying that the last few years have seen big strides made in the legalization of and the growth of a new industry. The US legal marijuana industry was estimated at $13.6 billion in 2019 with 340,000 jobs devoted to the handling of plants, despite the plant being illegal under federal law as a Schedule 1 drug. Furthermore, a total of 35 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, 16 of which allow adults to legally use the substance for recreational use as of April 2021. 

As for Europe, since the beginning of 2019, there has been a flurry of activity in mergers and acquisitions involving companies focused on medical in Europe with values above €5m. In total, north of €100m of new money has been invested in medical cannabis-focused companies across Europe over the past 18 months. While this represents a sharp increase compared with the period before 2019, Europe is still far from the levels experienced in North America. This article will address the key lessons that Europe can learn from the US, in order for its medical cannabis industry to reach similar heights.  

Legal and Regulatory Landscape

As the US industry has grown and evolved over the years, it has had to continuously adapt to an ever-changing landscape. Much of this landscape relates to the legality of the drug, as different states within the U.S. have different laws regarding the legality, use, distribution, and growth of the substance. While cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, a growing number of states allowed the growth of cannabis companies thanks to local legalization decisions at a state-level. This has made it very difficult for cannabis entrepreneurs to start …

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