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Cannabis Trends to Watch for in 2023

10 cannabis trends to watch out for in 2023

Date: 05 January 2023

News Source: www.cannabishealthnews.co.uk

Experts predict what the year ahead could hold for cannabis consumers across Europe and beyond.

Will 2023 be the year we see some major shifts in access and attitudes towards cannabis? With help from experts, we lay out our predictions for the year ahead.

2022 saw some major developments for cannabis across the globe. The collective value of the CBD, medical cannabis, and adult-use cannabis markets hit US$45bn and is expected to more than double to US$101bn by 2026.

As we enter a new year, we’re looking forward to the exciting opportunities that 2023 holds for cannabis and its consumers. In the coming year, we hope to see continued efforts to destigmatize cannabis, increase patient access, further explore cannabis’ numerous health, wellness and sustainability properties, and lay the regulatory groundwork for a thriving global cannabis ecosystem.

Thank you to the following contributors for their insight: Mike Morgan-Giles, CEO of the UK Cannabis Industry Council; Robert Jappie, lawyer and expert in life sciences and cannabis regulation; Michaela Freedman, global cannabis business expert; Ruby Deevoy, UK cannabis journalist.

Here are our top 10 cannabis predictions for 2023:

1. The number of medical cannabis patients in Europe will continue to grow

In 2022, an estimated additional 100,000 people became medical cannabis patients in the UK and Europe. Cannabis lawyer, Robert Jappie, believes patient numbers will increase significantly in 2023 as more innovative (and aggressive) methods of increasing awareness and improving access to legal cannabis medicines are developed. This will act like a primer for adult-use legalization in the region.

There is a growing amount of real-world evidence on the benefits of medical cannabis for patients, points out Mike Morgan-Giles. This must be the year the medical profession takes this onboard and operates accordingly. Notably, the ability of GPs to prescribe cannabis medicines to their patients could be a game-changer for cannabis patient care in the UK.

Mr. Jappie shares that innovation is expected to improve the prescribing regime in the UK, and access to GP records will be swifter, reducing delays. Michaela Freedman expects patients and consumers will continue seeking out cannabis prescriptions in the UK (and elsewhere in Europe) because it provides a safe, trusted access pathway. This is similar to what happened in Canada before adult-use legalization.

2. More options for the UK medical community

Journalist Ruby Deevoy, believes there will be a broader range of flower choices and consumption methods available for UK patients — such as patches and suppositories — and more options for non-irradiated flowers. Now that the medical market is starting to blossom (in the private sector at least) there is a clearer idea of what patients want and need, and hopefully producers have been listening and will deliver.

Price points will also likely fluctuate – Mr. Jappie predicts the existing ‘race to the bottom’ may pause due to increased scrutiny from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), but with African and Colombian LPs achieving Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) certification, medical cannabis should continue to become more affordable.

3. Attitudes around cannabis will continue to evolve

This is something very much still needed in the UK, as the stigma surrounding cannabis not only prevents people accessing it as medicine, but leads many to feel ashamed of their medicine and lifestyle choice. Ms. Deevoy expects we will likely see more ‘cannabis lifestyle’ consumer trends, which we’ve already seen happening within the CBD industry.

There has been progress in the push for cannabis reform globally over the past year, notably in Germany and Thailand. The United States is also seeking reform, although there has been some congressional deadlock on federal spending and banking reform related to cannabis.

In the UK, the British public are clear they want a more liberal approach to cannabis policy. Recent polling from YouGov tells us that 42% want less tough laws, while just 23% seek a more stringent approach.

4. The Czech Republic could beat Germany in legalising adult-use cannabis

Ms. Freedman predicts that the Czech Republic will move faster towards legalization compared to Germany.

Germany recently announced official plans to legalize adult-use cannabis, but developments could be delayed until next spring. It would not be surprising if the Czech Republic beats Germany to the punch with legalization. Historically the Czech Republic has been proactive on their cannabis laws — and drug laws in general — in the sense that when they say they are going to do something they follow through more quickly relative to most governments considering cannabis reform.

It’s generally not very high on the totem pole when looking at different political affairs, but the Czech Republic has put their money where their mouth is. They were one of the first European countries to decriminalize cannabis, and it’s expected they’re going to make a very strong case for public health — and eradicating the illicit market — as part of their arguments for legalizing adult-use cannabis.

Whatever the case, the whole industry is eager to learn what the recreational import policies will be.

5. But unlikely to see legal adult-use sales in Europe until 2024

This year will be full of big announcements and promises, but recreational sales in Europe will probably not happen until 2024. As we’ve seen in Switzerland and the Netherlands, delays are a fact of this industry and political priority is relatively low as the Ukraine war continues. As mentioned, Germany has also taken longer than expected to publish its draft laws. Whoever does address the EU commission first will set a precedent for whoever follows. Germany and the Czech Republic will likely make strong cases to validate recreational sales.

Malta could offer adult-use cannabis in 2023 as part of their legal non-profit cannabis social club model. The government recently announced it would start accepting applications for cannabis co-op licenses.

There will be a risk of accusations of recreational cannabis products masquerading as medical, but ultimately medical cannabis companies must find a way to be successful, otherwise there won’t be a legal market.

6. The majority of US states will legalize cannabis

Despite cannabis still being federally illegal in the US, Maryland and Missouri passed bills in favor of adult-use cannabis back in November 2022, with legal sales likely to start next year. A number of states including Oklahoma, Ohio, Hawaii and Minnesota are also considering a vote on recreational cannabis initiatives in 2023, meaning adult-use cannabis would be legal in the majority of US states.

In 2022, two major moves at the federal level — the House passing a marijuana decriminalization bill in April and a subsequent introduction of the Cannabis Administration and Opportunity Act in the Senate —could push the US closer to full federal legislation within the decade.

7. CBD companies could ‘pivot’ to medical cannabis

This year was tough on most CBD companies and 2023 will continue to present challenges. It has been a case of survival for many. There were some significant winners from the Novel Food regime, and those companies that have a substantial share of the list and have managed to stay in robust financial health will now have the platform to move further into the mainstream.

CBD beverage companies will continue their progress into big retail in the UK and beyond. Don’t be surprised if some CBD operators who have survived see this as their moment to pivot into the medical market to create additional review streams.

8. And the CBD industry in general will likely take a back seat to a budding medical market

CBD is everywhere. We see CBD in the nutraceutical side, the cosmetic side, and there’s also hemp grown for industrial purposes. But Ms. Freedman sees CBD use declining, at least for now, especially after the introduction of Novel Foods legislation in the UK. Plus, CBD is a fragmented market as countries have their own THC requirements. There will likely not be much growth in this sector until a standard THC allowance is agreed upon.

There’s also a large underground market for intoxicating hemp-derived cannabinoids (IHDCs) which technically fall into the legal realm of CBD but can have psychoactive effects similar to Delta-9 THC.

These products are unregulated and their effects are poorly understood. The lack of regulation and enforcement mechanisms is one reason that CBD might stall as an industry in 2023.

9. Cannabis markets must be able to meet a growing global demand

It has been a hard four years for the early-movers in the medical and recreational cannabis industries. Mr. Jappie tells us to not be surprised if we see some significant players drop out or be absorbed.

This won’t deter new entrants to the sector, however, and some will consider this exactly the right time. Germany will try to limit international supply, and so the UK will remain attractive. 2022 was a quiet year in terms of new business, but Jappie expects that pent up investment and deal activity will likely erupt in the second half of 2023 as market conditions turn.

Meanwhile, Mr. Morgan-Giles predicts that without regulatory and policy change, the UK risks losing its status as the world’s largest producer and exporter of cannabis, and therefore reduced direct foreign investment and a further weakening of our balance of trade.

When it comes to recreational cannabis, at least from an international perspective, everyone’s wanting to know what’s going to happen with supply, shares Ms. Freedman. The big question mark is how the EU Commission is going to decide it would be best to bring in international supply to protect public health and eradicate the illicit market.

10. Looking at the whole-plant as cannabis becomes part of climate and sustainability discourse

The urgency to act on climate change has never been greater and the window to avoid the worst-case climate scenario is snapping shut. At the same time, socially-just sustainable development is needed to meet global climate and biodiversity goals. The role of cannabis as a sustainable, climate change-fighting crop was highlighted for the first time in mainstream UK news (The Guardian).

In 2023, the potential of cannabis in sustainable development and climate action will likely gain more attention. Cannabis absorbs double the amount of CO2 than trees, improves the quality of soil (a carbon sink that is rapidly degrading), can be turned into a sustainable material in both construction and fabrics, be used in alternative energy production, and can bring in economic benefits, particularly in emerging economies.

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