Medical cannabis flower imported into Germany doubles again in 2019, confirming strong growth

Germany imported 6,714 kilograms (14,802 pounds) of medical cannabis flower, primarily for pharmacy dispensing in 2019, according to fresh data from the nation’s medical regulatory agency.

That’s more than double the total for 2018, when about 3 metric tons were imported.

Data from the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) confirms the strong growth of the German market, which has been a significant driving factor behind investments in medical cannabis production facilities in Europe and abroad.

But German imports during the last quarter of 2019 experienced a sharp decline, possibly stemming from supply issues.

Germany is by far the largest European medical cannabis market and will depend exclusively on imports to supply its market at least until the end of 2020.

After 2020, quantities of domestically produced cannabis to be bought by the BfArM aren’t expected to be enough to cover growing demand.

Because the average wholesale price of domestically produced flower is already fixed for the next four years – depending on how much the BfArM buys from domestic licensees – it could put downward pressure on import prices if importers want to remain competitive.

The latest reimbursement data – which covers through the third quarter of 2019 – shows statutory health insurers were on pace to cover more than 100 million euros ($110 million) for various medical cannabis products.

Not all medical cannabis is reimbursed, as some patients pay for medical products out of pocket.

According to the BfArM, the imported flower is “primarily for pharmacy dispensing,” which means that some of it could have been re-exported in small quantities to other European countries such as the Czech Republic and Italy, rather than being distributed to patients in German pharmacies.

If all imported flower had been sold in German pharmacies in 2019 at an approximate retail price of 20 euros per gram, it would value the German medical marijuana flower market at almost 135 million euros in retail revenue that year.

Pharmacies typically apply a markup of 90% or 100%.

The BfArM data does not include flower imported to manufacture dronabinol.

Since the beginning of the current medical cannabis framework in early 2017, imports of flower have doubled annually.

However, inconsistent supply – as reflected in the chart above – indicates that quarter-over-quarter growth is anything but stable. For instance, in the two latest quarters, values changed from +72% to -43%.

In the third quarter of 2019, a record 2,674 kilograms of medical cannabis were imported, but trouble started brewing in the final quarter of the year when there was a sharp decline in imports.

The decline can partially be explained by the temporary unavailability of Aurora Cannabis products.

And supply interruptions have remained an issue through the end of January.

Marijuana Business Daily regularly surveys a number of pharmacies that provide information about the cannabis products they have in stock.

Through the end of January, there were no signs of availability for products made by Alberta-based Aurora and Cronos Group, an Ontario, Canada, cannabis producer.

Flower produced by Bedrocan in the Netherlands and by Ontario-based Canopy Growth and Tilray, which has production facilities in both Ontario and Portugal, is currently available in German pharmacies.

Recently, Ontario-based Aphria announced that it received EU-Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification, which the company said could mean availability of new Canadian products in Germany at any time.

However, Canadian producer TerrAscend obtained its EU-GMP certification in early 2019. While the company expected to start supplying Germany in 2019, its products were not available during MJBizDaily‘s survey of pharmacies at the end of January 2020.

Alfredo Pascual can be reached at