Danish and international companies are opening their wallets to make Denmark a cultivation and research hub in Europe, putting the country in direct competition with lower-cost jurisdictions such as Israel, Greece, Malta and Portugal.
And with the first year of Denmark’s medical cannabis trial program in the books, industry sources say the country is on the right track.
Patient numbers rose from 411 prescriptions for 227 patients in the first quarter of 2018 to 1,329 prescriptions for 765 patients in the fourth quarter.
Locally produced medical cannabis reaching consumers for the first time late this summer would help improve those number dramatically. Exports would commence soon after.
But more needs to be done to expand access, lower prices and bring on board the Danish Medical Association, which has not been supportive of the industry so far.
As CEO of Cannabis Denmark, a nongovernmental organization, Rikke Jakobsen is leading the charge.
Marijuana Business Daily caught up with Jakobsen to discuss the medical marijuana industry in Denmark and its global ambitions.
Now that the first year of the medical cannabis pilot project is complete, what is your assessment of the patient data?
Despite the Danish Medical Association’s warnings, we had a good start.
I’m also surprised that so many patients are getting medical cannabis now. …
Patients in Denmark are not used to dried flower, and doctors want more accurate dosing than vaporizing, so that explains the jump (in patient numbers) after Stenocare’s cannabis oil product was introduced (in September).
Does the data demonstrate that the Danish medical cannabis system is working?
Yes, absolutely. The whole foundation for the pilot program put the matter between the patient and the doctor.
We can also see from the data that a lot of the prescriptions are for diseases that are not part of the disorders recommended by the Danish Medical Agency.
A quarter of the 960 prescriptions are without a named disease.
The whole value chain from prescription to the patient collecting the medical cannabis at a local pharmacy within two days has worked splendidly from Day One.
On the basis of adverse reaction reports received in 2018, the Danish Medicines Agency has not identified a single safety problem with cannabis end-use products.
Can you give a couple of examples of things that need to improve?
It always comes down to the education of health-care professionals.
Other issues are driving (automobiles) and cost.
Even though we’re lucky in Denmark to get automatic reimbursement up to 10,000 Danish kroner ($1,500) a year, the cost of medical cannabis is still an issue.
Cost is a global issue for all patients when their own country doesn’t have domestic cultivation.
I look forward to our first domestic cultivation and export so prices could decrease – not just in Denmark but to the benefit for all patients in Europe.
Right now, the police are complying with the Danish Agency for Patient Safety, which does not recommend driving while a patient has a medical cannabis prescription.
That means a lot of potential patients stay away from medical cannabis.
Can you highlight some opportunities for international businesses in the Danish medical cannabis supply chain?
There’s still room for investing in the primary sector – cultivation.
Also, given close cooperation in Denmark with the important life sciences sector, there is a great opportunity for investors to focus on the pharma side of the medical cannabis industry to tap the great possibilities that medical cannabis has in all medicinal directions.
So, there’s plenty of opportunities in the whole value chain right now, but (especially) to think out of the box in terms of research and development over the next 10-20 years.
Because we have such well-established cooperation between sectors and a well-organized state system, many companies use Denmark as a “pilot country” to develop new businesses.
What are the next milestones for the Danish medical marijuana industry?
The first Danish-cultivated cannabis on our shelves and export – I’ll drink champagne that day.
The next milestone, which is also my personal ambition, is the establishment of a cannabinoid center like Technion (Israel Institute of Technology) under Dedi Meiri – a center for research into cannabinoids and terpenes in cooperation with industry.
The only way to move forward on a serious road to life science is via research into precisely which cannabinoids and terpenes work for specific conditions.
In Denmark, we have all the opportunities we need to take this step because of a streamlined Social Security system, so it’s possible to collect all kinds of data.
What medical cannabis products are allowed in Denmark?
Regarding intake, there is not really a limit – only that you can’t inject cannabinoids nor smoke it as a joint.
(Sales of dried flower are allowed, but prescription of dried flower is only for vaporizing and tea.)
In terms of how it’s cultivated, there’ll be stricter regulations for imported cannabis when Danish cannabis is ready for sale and export.
At that time, imported cannabis will have to, more or less, live up to the same strict regulations as Danish-cultivated cannabis. For example, imports will have to be cultivated without the use of pesticides of any kind.
There’s no regulation limiting the quantity of THC and CBD in products.
Matt Lamers can be reached at email@example.com