Germany’s first medical cannabis harvests likely delayed until 2021

Aphria's facility was under construction in Neumünster, Germany, as of Sept. 9. (Photo courtesy of Aphria)

Germany’s first domestic harvests of medical cannabis flower – originally expected to occur by November – could be delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a government reply to a parliamentary query.

“It cannot be ruled out that the persistent consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in many economic sectors could have a time-delaying effect on the start of deliveries in 2020,” the government said in its response.

This would mean Germany will likely continue to remain fully dependent on imports longer than originally planned.

Marijuana Business Daily asked the only three in-country growers when they expect to deliver their first harvests, and none could offer assurance that their inaugural deliveries would take place in accordance with the expected 2020 timeline.

Canada-headquartered Aphria and Germany-based Demecan acknowledged that an early 2021 harvest is the new plan.

Canada-based Aurora Cannabis said it’s “looking forward to starting … production” once certain steps that have been challenging because of the current pandemic are taken.

Even once the first in-country harvests begin, they are not expected to be large enough to meet Germany’s growing demand for medical cannabis.

In its reply to members of parliament from opposition party FDP, the government also clarified that cannabis can be imported from any country so long as certain conditions are fulfilled.

Domestic harvests in 2021

When reached for comment by MJBizDaily, none of the three German in-country growers were confident about their ability to deliver the first harvest this year.

The three companies attributed potential delays to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Philip Schetter, managing director of Aurora Deutschland, told MJBizDaily the company “is committed to fulfill the tender.”

But, asked specifically about the timeline for the first delivery, Schetter said Aurora is “looking forward to starting and ramping up production as soon as all necessary steps in terms of production preparation and regulatory approvals have been taken.

Some of those steps are more challenging than anticipated because of the restrictions caused by the ongoing pandemic.

“We are currently in talks with the Cannabisagentur (a department within the BfArM) to detail the timeline for the first deliveries,” Schetter said.

Aphria Germany’s managing director, Hendrik Knopp, told Marijuana Business Daily that the company is “facing a slight delay completing our indoor facility. Assuming all inspections of BfArM (German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices) and local authorities will take place as scheduled, we expect first harvest in Q1 2021.”

Demecan Managing Director Constantin von der Groeben told MJBizDaily: “The company will not be able to harvest medicinal cannabis for commercial distribution this year.”

“Our goal is to start cultivating the plants promptly in order to guarantee delivery to the BfArM as soon as possible in the new year,” he said.

Imports from any country

Another key takeaway from the government reply to the parliamentary query is in regards to the eligibility of countries exporting medical marijuana to Germany.

The government said it does not exercise influence in selecting countries for imports of medical cannabis to Germany.

The decision about which countries might ship cannabis to Germany lies in the “market decisions of the participants in the narcotics trade,” according to the reply to parliament.

That dispels expectations among some market observers that there is a “list” of approved countries from which businesses can export medical cannabis to Germany.

“In contrast to the cultivation and future distribution of medical cannabis from Germany, the BfArM has no central coordination function when it comes to imports,” a BfArM spokesperson told MJBizDaily. 

The agency further clarified:

“In principle, however, the following applies: Every country that operates a cannabis agency and issues licenses for the cultivation of cannabis for exclusively medical purposes under the provisions of the 1961 Single Convention can be considered as an export country for the import of cannabis to Germany if the other narcotic drugs and pharmaceutical law requirements are met.”

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at [email protected]

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