Here’s the introduction to the interview published 27-01-2016 

One of those seeking to develop the market for medical cannabis in the Czech Republic and Europe is Prague-based Sean Carney, actually a former business journalist. He is now working as the director of business development and government for Europe for the Canadian cannabis company Tilray. It has a license to produce, process, and manufacture medicinal cannabis products from the Canadian federal government.

Tilray is seeking to get in there at the start and take off when the European market moves into overdrive.

I asked Sean how that market is now shaping up.

“The medical cannabis market now is globally undergoing a transformation because the stigma attached to cannabis that has prevailed for many years is now giving way to fact-based discussions. So governments around the world, especially in Europe, are now just trying to find ways of supplying appropriate medicines to local populations that are cost effective because health care costs are going through the roof everywhere and there are limited budgets. Cannabis can replace a lot of prescription drugs at a lower cost and also eliminate most of the serious side effects. And there is demand from patients… even a lot of politicians, regulators, health providers are very interested in this. The question is of course how to enable this in a way that conforms with all the international treaties. That is basically the trick.”

And in Canada is medicinal marihuana, cannabis, being used on a wide scale across all the states and is it being paid for by the state or the local health insurers, there’s no problem with that?

Cannabis can replace a lot of prescription drugs at a lower cost and also eliminate most of the serious side effects.

“It is available everywhere in Canada. And Canada, like Israel, these are the two leading countries where this sector is really moving forward with a lot of research and innovation. In both countries there is a lot of competition. In Canada, there are sales all over the country. Currently it is all paid for out of pocket by the patients but that is now a subject of debate between people in the government, health care providers, insurers, medical cannabis producers, as well as patients’ organisations and doctors’ groups. That is generally a discussion that is even taking place in Europe.

“In Germany right now the federal government is working on a plan right now to allow domestic cultivation of cannabis. According to the early draft, it is not approved yet, it calls for the health insurers to cover the cost of the medical cannabis in certain cases. Not for everyone, but in certain cases they would do it. In Canada, it has not happened yet but it is being discussed. Also in the Czech Republic when it’s available, and the information right now is that there is no cannabis available anywhere in the pharmacies right now…”

I just want to stop you there. In theory right now medical cannabis should be available in the Czech Republic, there was a law passed
“Correct, correct, it should be. The issue is that in Europe there is only one provider based in the Netherlands called Bedrocan. They have been doing it for many years and have a lot of clients around Europe but they have limited capacity and so there is a bottleneck. In the Czech Republic, there have been a few importers importing it, but Bedrocan can only produce so much for the whole of Europe. So in the Czech Republic there is now a company called Elkoplast Slušovice which is producing it. It is actually people from the Netherlands that are providing the technology and are growing it for Elkoplast. Hopefully that will take some of the pressure off the local system but they are only growing one type of cannabis which is a high THC with very low CBD, which Cannabodial. That is very good for anti-inflammatory effects and is especially good for people with multiple sclerosis, And people here with ms in the Czech Republic are frustrated that a type of cannabis that would address their condition is not being cultivated.

“There is basically a lack of supply in Europe and what is being grown is very narrow in scope. There are only a few varieties and no insurers are covering it yet. The European model is very limited for now. We hope we will see more competition to encourage innovation and also only the competitive market will allow companies to fund clinical research which is really lacking.”

Full Interview