Denmark has destroyed more than 145,000 kilograms of cannabis

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Image of colorful houses at Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark, with boats in foreground

(Photo by Horváth Botond/stock.adobe.com)

Much of the medical cannabis produced under Denmark’s regulatory system has not made it to market and was intentionally destroyed for various reasons, according to government data.

Just over 300 permits have been issued for the destruction of 145,541 kilograms (320,862 pounds) of cannabis, the Danish Parliament’s Health Committee said in a reply to a parliamentary inquiry earlier this year.

The figure includes all cannabis destroyed by the companies with an authorization to cultivate cannabis – within the country’s pilot program – from the date the businesses secured approval to operate, a government spokesperson told MJBizDaily via email.

The data indicates the amount of legal cannabis destroyed under Denmark’s nearly 6-year-old medical pilot program surpassed the nation’s total marijuana output reported to global drug regulators.

A list of companies currently authorized to manufacture cannabis bulk and primary products is available here. The list includes units of Canada’s Aurora Cannabis and Australia’s Little Green Pharma as well as Medican, a medical marijuana company headquartered in Helsinge, Denmark.

The Danish medical cannabis pilot program came into force in 2018.

The destroyed cannabis is equivalent in weight to roughly 79 Tesla Model Y vehicles.

The numbers underscore that a significant amount of legal cannabis grown in certain countries is never sold for various reasons – such as poor quality, regulatory factors or insufficient demand – and is subsequently destroyed.

In Canada, for example, licensed Canadian companies destroyed a whopping 872,443 kilograms of cannabis between 2018 and 2021.

In Denmark, several types of cultivation authorizations exist. They include:

  • The country’s medical cannabis pilot program.
  • The manufacture of active substances for pharmaceutical products.
  • Plant propagation.
  • The so-called “development” program, which permits companies to grow medical cannabis so they can hone their cultivation and manufacturing methods and be permitted to participate in the nation’s pilot scheme. The cannabis cannot be sold and must be destroyed.

What led to destruction

“All four types of cultivation are licensed and the companies produce and destroy cannabis,” the Danish Medicines Agency spokesperson told MJBizDaily.

“As our destruction procedures are not specific for the cultivation purpose or origin,” the destroyed quantity may include cannabis cultivated for the pilot program, imported for the pilot program as well as cannabis cultivated under the development scheme, the spokesperson said.

While the government can’t say why the cannabis was destroyed, the reply to the parliamentary inquiry noted that the destruction figure could include faulty or discarded products and all cannabis grown under the development program.

The destroyed quantity is expressed in kilograms of dried weight, and companies use a conversion factor if the destroyed product was an extract.

It also includes all cannabis containing more than 0.2% THC.

The spokesperson said a year-by-year comparison of the destruction data was not available.

2022 destruction data

However, a partial figure for 2022 was shared with MJBizDaily.

The Danish Medicines Agency reported that, for 2022, “lost or destroyed” cannabis amounted to 10,753 kilograms – an amount that doesn’t include marijuana destroyed under the development program.

It’s not clear why the amount of destroyed cannabis in Denmark is significantly higher than the amount of cannabis production reported to the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB), the United Nations body for the implementation of the U.N.’s international drug control conventions.

The quantity of cannabis produced in Denmark under the country’s pilot program, according to INCB figures, was:

  • 2,112 kilograms in 2019.
  • 6,587 kilograms in 2020.
  • 32,433 kilograms in 2021.

The figure is not available yet for 2022.

A separate parliamentary inquiry asked for the number of companies approved to grow medical cannabis in Denmark.

In its answer, the Danish Parliament’s Health Committee said only nine companies had permission to grow medical cannabis either for the pilot program, the manufacture of pharmaceutical products or plant propagation.

In addition, 19 companies had active permits to grow cannabis under the development program.

Overall sales of all cannabis products in Denmark grew from about 30.8 million Danish kroner ($4.4 million) in 2020 to 64.3 million kroner in 2021.

Last year, companies in Denmark recorded sales of roughly 62.5 million kroner.

Matt Lamers can be reached at matt.lamers@mjbizdaily.com.