Much of the discussion about the legal cannabis industry in Europe revolves around the dominant Western European states, such as France, Germany, Spain, or the U.K.
But there are other countries in the continent – some in the European Union (EU), others not – making waves in the cannabis industry, and capable of emerging this year as strong regional players.
One is North Macedonia, located in the Balkans and among the newer countries created after the 1991 breakup of the former Yugoslavia. With a population of just over 2 million, the landlocked state is attracting attention for its potential in the cannabis industry, most notably because its Prime Minister Zoran Zaev has put his weight behind an idea to turn capital Skopje into the “Amsterdam in the Balkans”, with legal cannabis available in Dutch-type coffeeshops in the capital, and places like the lakeside resort of Ohrid. The stated aims are to encourage tourism while discouraging the illicit market. While Zaev purportedly has ties to the cannabis industry, he has denied any personal interests behind the move, adding that any recreational market would feature such industry standards as ventilation of premises and proof of origin required for goods.
Zaev’s pronouncement follows a trend of cannabis-friendly moves in the country, indicating that the small republic sees the plant as the basis of a pioneering industry to yield local benefits, particularly in a post-COVID-19 landscape. Macedonia already has a cannabis cultivation sector inspired by Canada’s industry, and since 2016 has allowed medical cannabis sold in pharmacies. In 2018, Vancouver-based Canadian International Cannabis Corp (ICC) acquired the Balkan Cannabis Corp., with a view to Macedonian production of medical cannabis, while meantime acquiring medical cannabis and hemp cultivation licences in neighbouring Bulgaria. With investment from nearby Montenegro, the Balkan Cannabis Corp. has farmland in Macedonia and Bulgaria, and North Macedonia’s Association of Medical Cannabis Growers hopes that to begin exporting cannabis flower through what the ICC calls a “second wave of European cannabis legalisation”.
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