Key takeaways from Cannabis Europa Madrid (Article dated 21 February)

Last week our team attended the Cannabis Europa conference in Madrid which has brought together investors, entrepreneurs, consultants, and other professionals in the emerging field of cannabis from Europe and North America. The conference explored conversations ranging from cultural aspects of cannabis consumption in Spain, current political stance towards legalization, and growing evidence base of medicinal benefits from the cannabis plant. Here in this blog post, we would like to share our three key takeaways from this conference.

1. The liberal attitude of Spain society towards cannabis

Spain is ranked 2-nd in Europe in terms of cannabis consumption with 11% prevalence amongst the population after France. This is attributable to the fact that there are approximately 1000 cannabis social clubs (CSC) in Spain with 300–350 in Barcelona. CSCs are viewed as an extension of decriminalization policies and fall under Spain’s ‘Right to Privacy’ and ‘Right to Association’ rules which allows consuming cannabis legally in private space on a membership basis.

Spain was considered as innovative with their cannabis social club model in Europe five years ago. Since then Spain has not shown significant progress with cannabis legalization whereas other EU countries have moved on. Spain still does not have medical cannabis access for patients despite the fact that there are five million cannabis users in Spain.

2. Legislation needs to catch up with the societal support of the cannabis

Spain is one of the largest European cannabis markets that have yet to legalize medical cannabis. On a legislative level, regulation in Spain has not progressed since the 1960s. According to a recent poll, 84% of the Spanish public are already in favor of cannabis legalization for medical use. The legislation is lagging the societal support of cannabis. In response to this, the country’s newly elected government is currently exploring the opportunities that a legal medical cannabis market may present to boosting Spain’s economy.

Panel speakers talked about using the existing Spanish regulation on the cultivation and production of opium as a structure for the regulation of cannabis. The panel discussion also revolved around treating cannabis legalization from a public health point of view rather than treating it from a political standpoint.

3. Spain’s strong biomedical research in supporting cannabis legalization

Spain is one of the strong biomedical research hubs in Europe and could provide knowledge and data to inform legislative reform efforts for medical cannabis legalization. For pharmacies, the development of medical cannabis is nothing more than a development of another therapeutic line.

There is a considerable scope where biomedical research can add value to promoting further the medicinal use of cannabis. For example, research in finding a way of giving a pure plant product in an available form — a capsule or a patch — could be really beneficial to parents of epileptics in regulating the dosage of cannabis use. This will increase the efficacy of the cannabis plant and equip policymakers with additional data in favor of legalizing medical cannabis.

Leafy Tunnel is an early-stage venture capital firm investing in alternative medicine to address mental health and pain disorders.