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Germany Bundestag election 2021: Where the main parties stand on cannabis reform

The September 26 elections for Germany’s parliament could produce a historic breakthrough for Europe’s cannabis industry.

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Germany’s national election on September 26 could be a landmark moment for Europe’s cannabis industry.

As Chancellor Angela Merkel prepares to leave the stage, the European Union’s most influential country looks destined for a political shakeup.

The election will be defined by two major dynamics: the decline of Germany’s main centre-right party and the rise of the Greens.

There is widespread political support for reform of Germany’s cannabis laws and there’s every chance the next parliament could have a working majority for laws providing greater access.

Germany already has some limited medical cannabis access but there is an appetite to go further from some parties and voters, including on recreational use.

Angela Merkel will retire from her role as Chancellor in September

Despite theoretical majorities existing within the Bundestag, previous attempts to pass reform laws have failed – but it looks certain another will be back before long after the election.

The nature of Germany’s electoral system mean the election will be followed by complex coalition negotiations as it is extremely unlikely any party will win enough votes to govern alone.

This is where the legislative agenda for the next four years will be thrashed out, including any agreement to bring a vote on cannabis reform before parliament.

Cannabis industry executives around the world will be watching closely and know the rest of Europe is more likely to liberalise if Germany does.

In short, if you want to see Europe’s cannabis industry grow, you should care about this election.

Here’s everything you need to know about the main parties and where they stand on cannabis reform.

CDU/CSU

Candidate for Chancellor: Armin Laschet

Polls*: 25%

Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Generally against radical reform – but not unmovable.

Armin Laschet of the CDU

The Christian Democratic Union (and its smaller sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria) has led the federal government since 2005 under Chancellor Angela Merkel.

She will retire in September and the party has chosen Armin Laschet as its candidate for the top job.

Merkel reached her high watermark in 2013 with 41.5% of the vote but the party has since been in electoral decline.

It’s generally agreed Laschet has had a rocky start to the campaign, although we was buoyed by a recent regional win in Saxony-Anhalt.

In 2017, the CDU-led government passed medical cannabis legislation but access is relatively restricted and expensive despite the fact GPs can prescribe.

Under Merkel, the party has been generally hostile to reform and voted against a bill to open up recreational use in 2020 but there have been signals from senior party figures over the years that the party could adopt a more liberal position.

Whether in government or opposition after coalition talks, the CDU will remain a major – if diminished player – and pro-reform parties might find they are pushing at a slightly more open door once Merkel isn’t there to hold it shut.

Alliance 90/The Greens

Candidate for Chancellor: Annalena Baerbock

Polls: 23%

Cannabis stance TL;DR version: On course to be Germany’s main pro-liberalisation party. 

Annalena Baerbock of The Greens

The Greens are widely expected to be the big winner in September’s election and have surged in the polls.

In 2017, the party won 8.9% of the vote, making it a significant but minor player in the Bundestag with 67 votes.

Under new leadership and benefiting from the decline of the country’s traditional centre-left party, the Greens are almost certainly going to wind up being the second largest party in the parliament – and could perform even better.

The party is in favour of the total legalisation of cannabis and would create a regulated market for medical and recreational use for adults.

Annalena Baerbock, 40, could become the world’s most significant green politician – and the cannabis industry is praying she pulls it off.

SPD

Candidate for Chancellor: Olaf Scholz

Polls: 15%

Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Cautiously pro-reform – and unlikely to be in any shape to dictate terms after the election. 

Olaf Scholz of the SPD

The decline of the SPD has been one of the most dramatic in European politics in recent years.

For decades, the country’s traditional main centre-left party would regularly win more than 40% of the national vote and has led governments as recently as 2005.

But the party has haemoraged support, largely for its decision to back Merkel’s coalition governments from 2013 until today, and polled at just 20.5% in the last federal election.

SPD voters are looking to the Greens who are on course to replace it as the main centre-left alternative in the country.

The SPD is generally pro-reform but favours a more limited, cautious approach compared to the Greens.

That’s good news for the cannabis industry, as any coalition talks between the two parties after September 26 would see the SPD under pressure to move closer to the Greens.

FDP

Candidate for Chancellor: Christian Linder

Polls: 13%

Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Pro-liberalisation – but only if a legal market is a free one.

Christian Linder of the FDP

The Free Democratic Party, Germany’s centrist liberal party, could be on course to become the kingmakers after the September 26 election.

It’s been a good 12 months for the party, rising in the polls from 6% to 13% and looking certain to increase its presence in the Bundestag.

The FDP has been in government for much of its history and, since the 1980s, always in coalition with the CDU as a junior partner.

It’s been a turbulent period for the party. Last in government after the 2009 election, the party suffered a total collapse in 2013 before recovering in 2017 but rejecting the chance to go into a coalition with the CDU and the Greens.

The libertarian FDP is pro-reform and would expand medical cannabis access and legalise it for adult recreational use too.

But a strong showing by the FDP and the Greens would set up a showdown over how any future cannabis market is structured, a dispute which emerged in 2020 when the FDP abstained on a Green attempt to pass a liberalisation law because it contained too many regulations.

If the Greens turn to the FDP for support after September 26, they’ll find a party ready to listen but not necessarily willing to accept their version of reform.

AFD

Candidates for Chancellor: Alice Weidel and Tino Chrupalla

Polls: 11%

Cannabis stance TL;DR version: Against reform of any kind but very unlikely to be in government.

Alice Weidel of the AFD

This is one of Germany’s most unpredictable elections in years but one thing looks pretty certain: Alternative for Germany will not be in any coalition government.

The right wing, anti-immigration party were the story of the 2017 election, moving from fringe outsiders to a significant player (12.6% of the vote) in just fours years against the backdrop of the EU’s migrant crisis.

While the party’s support has held stable in the lower double digits, so has the resolve of other party leaders to lock them out of government.

Armin Laschet has already said the CDU will not look to the AFD for support under his leadership and it is unthinkable that the Greens would.

That’s very good news for the cannabis industry as the AFD are opposed to reform and want to further regulate the medical cannabis industry.

Should a law come to parliament, they’re almost certain to vote against it – but given their pariah status in conventional German politics, they won’t be able to block any attempt to put the issue on the table during coalition talks.

Die Linke

Candidates for Chancellor: Janine Wissler and Dietmar Bartsch

Polls: 7%

Cannabis stance TL;DR version: You can count on their pro-reform votes but unlikely to be in government.

Janine Wissler of Die Linke

Die Linke – which translates as The Left – are the country’s far-left socialist party.

Since winnings its first seats in 2005, the party has been in permanent opposition despite attracting a respectable 11.9% of the vote in 2009.

The party is as pro-reform as the Greens and was the only group in the Bundestag to back their attempt to legalise cannabis in 2020.

Unlike the Greens and FDP, Die Linke are not on course to be major players in coalition talks, although could be asked to join a government as a junior partner in a three-way agreement.

Should a new law come before the Bundestag, their votes can be counted on – but they are unlikely to be in a position to set the legislative agenda when coalition talks get under way after the vote.

*All polling data is taken from Politico’s average of polls and is correct as of June 1.

 

Markets and industry

Tilray sees net revenue increase to $513m from last year

Tilray has a net income of $33.6m during the fourth quarter compared to net loss of $84.3m in the prior year quarter.

Stephanie Price

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Tilray sees net revenue increase to $513m from last year

Cannabis leader Tilray has seen its net revenue increase to 27 per cent, totalling $513m compared to last year.

Global cannabis lifestyle and consumer packaged good company Tilray, which is a leading EU GMP-certified Medical Cannabis LP in Europe, has reported its financial results for the full fiscal year, revealing that it had net income of $33.6m during the fourth quarter compared to net loss of $84.3m in the prior year quarter.

Net revenue increased 25 per cent to $142.2m during the fourth quarter from $113.5m in the prior year quarter.

Cannabis revenue

The Company says the increase was driven by 36per cent growth in net cannabis revenue to $53.7m, which included four weeks of contribution from legacy-Tilray, a 10 per cent decline in distribution revenue, net beverage alcohol revenue of $15.9m following its SweetWater acquisition on November 25, 2020, and wellness revenue of $5.8m from its Manitoba Harvest.

Tilray’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Irwin Simon, said: “Early results from the new Tilray affirm that, while the global cannabis market remains in its early stages, our vision, scale, access to resources and operational excellence position us optimally to capitalise on the opportunity. 

“In a very short period of time since our business combination was finalised, we transformed and strengthened Tilray, delivered solid results amid continued COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions and achieved $35m in synergies to date – well on our way to delivering $80m in cost savings over the next 16 months.

“These are early achievements but they provide the roadmap for our strategy and priorities moving forward. Tilray is now truly leading the global cannabis industry with low cost of production, leading brands, a well-developed distribution network, and unique partnerships that we believe will drive sustainable shareholder value in the quarters to come. 

“We look forward to accelerating and refining our business-level strategies and roadmaps and to ensuring unmistakable, measurable progress as we build the leading consumer-packaged goods business in the cannabis industry.”

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Medicinal

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies secures drug development agreements

The agreements follow its post-IPO review after its £16.5m fundraise and admission to the main market on LSE in May this year.

Stephanie Price

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Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies secures drug development agreements

UK pharmaceutical company Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies has secured two commercial agreements that will contribute to the development of its lead compound and other drug development programmes. 

Focused on developing a portfolio of cannabinoid-based prescription medicines approved by medicines regulatory agencies which target the pain market, the company has secured agreements with life sciences consultancy Voisin Consulting SARL and Evotec SE subsidiary Aptuit (Verona) SRL.

The agreements follow its recent post-IPO review after its £16.5m fundraise and admission to the main market on the London Stock Exchange earlier in May this year.

Drug development programmes

Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies struck a deal with Voisin, which has over 200 professionals in the UK, US and India with expertise in medical devices, cannabinoids, neurological disorders and addictions, in June this year, which will support and advise the company on its regulatory strategy and roadmap for its drug development programmes in the US, UK and Europe. 

This will include First Time in Human clinical trials for its lead compound OCT461201 – a selective cannabinoid receptor type 2 agonist which has initial indications in post-herpetic neuralgia and visceral pain caused by irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The trials are expected to commence in 2022. 

The deal with Aptuit (Verona) SRL, subsidiary of Evotec SE, a fully integrated drug discovery and development company based in Germany, with a market capitalisation of approximately €5.7bn, will provide access to Evotec’s technology platform to further accelerate the development of OCT461201 towards phase 1 clinical trials.

These trials will be aimed at demonstrating the compound’s safety and tolerability by utilising its INDiGO programme, which is an integrated drug development process for expediting early drug candidates to the clinical trial stage. 

This is scheduled to run for approximately 12 months and will provide manufacturing, safety and toxicology packages for regulatory submissions to the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and in the US, The Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

Dr John Lucas, Oxford Cannabinoid Technologies CEO, said: “I am delighted with the company’s progress across all fronts. The board agrees that we are off to a great operational start as a public company with the two partnership agreements signed recently, and we remain firmly on schedule to deliver the drug development timeline set out in our prospectus dated 17 May 2021. 

“The Group will continue to develop its drug pipeline and its proprietary, unique library of cannabinoid derivative compounds. Furthermore, we have visibility over a number of exciting developments and a clear path to growth. By utilising a range of inputs, the Group is creating a drug development portfolio that is intended to maximise the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids, long-term market value and market exclusivity across its activities.”

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CBD

Paul Finnegan discusses 300 per cent growth of CBD brand Naturecan

CBD brand Naturecan has grown substantially over just a short period and seen record growth of 300 per cent over the last 12 months. 

Stephanie Price

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Paul Finnegan discusses 300 per cent growth of CBD brand Naturecan

Stockport-based CBD brand Naturecan has seen a record growth of 300 per cent over the last year. Co-founder Paul Finnegan discusses the company’s journey and the secrets behind its success. 

Founded just over two years ago by ex-CEO and board director of My Protein, Andy Duckworth and entrepreneur Paul Finnegan, the high-quality CBD brand Naturecan has grown substantially over just a short period, seeing a record growth of 300 per cent over the last 12 months. 

Naturecan’s products are now sold in more than 28 countries across the globe from the Far East, to America and Europe. As well as recently securing a seven figure investment from the Far East, Naturecan is backed by high profile cricket star Freddie Flintoff – an early investor who is aiding the brand’s global expansion. 

Passionate beginnings

Finnegan decided to get into the CBD business after his friend’s mother used the cannabinoid to aid with her recovery from breast cancer.

“It all started at beginning of 2018 – I had shares in a drinks business and property – and I had seen CBD advertised everywhere. A friend’s mum had breast cancer and had used cannabis treatment in her recovery. I was amazed at how she had recovered and amazed that this lady had gone down this route, so it really piqued my interest and I needed to see what it was all about,” said Finnegan. 

“The more I researched it the more I thought this is incredible, from kids with autism, to people with anxiety and fibromyalgia sufferers that haven’t got a real cure or a way to take the edge off the pain. I went out to the United States and found that there was so many cowboys in the industry – you didn’t know who was extracting, who was an agent, who was selling you hot dog water. You needed to go out and physically look at these facilities and check their standards. Being from the drinks background – there is high standards in the UK for food products so it was about checking all of those things.

“I went and visited everywhere in the States – I went to extractors in Colorado, Oregon, LA and eventually met with a man who had done this out of pure passion for helping his children, one of which was heavily autistic and suffered night terrors who was on seven different prescription drugs. He then, as a doctor himself, took the path of taking him off this medication and putting him onto a cannabis-based medicine. This young boy’s life totally changed – he went from being in the emergency room for 300 days a year to literally living a normal life, going to school with years and years between episodes. So, I thought that this guy has got the passion and the motivation – nothing motivates you more than your children. I have two of my own children and it resonated with me.

“He also had at the time the mythical beast of zero THC because of this enhanced technology he had been using – chromatography – where the levels were incredible low. That was the big turn on. We struck a deal with them on an exclusivity agreement.”

High profile investors and supporters

Naturecan attracted high profile investors early on, including Flintoff, who Finnegan says is a true believer in the benefits of CBD. 

“Freddie invested in the business early on, it is not an endorsement deal. I have known him for a few years, we are good friends and he believes in the business and the product. So, at a very early stage he was a major investor.” says Finnegan.

“He does use the products, you can see that he has a go at everything – he keeps himself in such good shape and uses everything from protein and keratin on the non-CBD product side, through to oils, cookies and balms. A lot of his network also use CBD such as ex-cricketer Kevin Pietersen who has been posting about our ‘miracle’ CBD arnica cream, as well as Darren Gough, and Tom Davies the comedian uses the gummies relentlessly for golf –  so Flintoff is a great person to have as an investor and supporter. 

“CBD is really taking off in the sport world. There are still issues with whether or not CBD is allowed, so that is something the whole industry needs to get behind. Naturecan, at the moment, are sponsoring PhD courses at Liverpool John Moores University under professor Graeme Close who works with the England rugby and the European golf tour, as well as many others. We want to give that clarity to these sporting bodies about retention of THC and how it effects you so, we are undertaking human trials.”

Taking Naturecan global

Finnegan met Andy Duckworth, Ex-CEO and board director of My Protein, who has helped take the business to global levels, as well as helping to broaden Naturecan’s product offering.

“Duckworth took the business to huge numbers and spread it all around – he truly globalised the business. We were introduced by our mutual friend and investor, Flintoff. He took the business on and looked at how we could make this into a global wellness platform. 

“He had contacts from contract manufacturing which allowed us to create more products – instead of just offering tinctures, gummies and balms, we now do all sorts of baked goods as well such as cookies and brownies, and a capsule range with dozens of different extra skews, and products with ingredients like novaSOL curcumin which is 185 times more bioavailable than native curcumin. These ingredients compliment CBD so well for inflammation. 

“With Andy’s network we have been able to put this together so quickly and he has also helped to bring a lot of staff in – we have around 40 staff working with us, most of which are ex-My Protein or the Hut Group that have worked with Andy in the past.”

Finnegan attributes the last year’s success to the hard working and driven team, as well as the high quality of Naturecan’s products.

“The product is incredible quality and everybody that we deal with as a contract manufacturer say it is the best they have seen from a purity level,” says Finnegan.

“However, 100 per cent the growth is from the team – the people in the business are fantastic, driven. They believe in the product and also believe in increasing peoples’ happiness in life, which is the key to our business so, we have just got a real group of highly motivated skilled people, and, with Duckworth as our leader, he drives everything forward.

“We are in 28 countries now with 40 planned by the end of the year – being able to rely on each country manager and staff in their team to drive each territory forward has been a massive contributor to the growth.”

Finnegan says that Naturecan’s ethos is to bring together the power of nature and science, and to include only the best ingredients to create high-quality products.

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