How to Become a Cannabis Entrepreneur in Europe
Although Canada and the U.S. remain the unchallenged leaders of the recreational marijuana business, the European continent is actually in a cannabis frenzy right now. Particularly hot is the non-psychoactive cannabis ingredient cannabidiol (CBD). In the words of Bruce Linton, former CEO of Canopy Growth Corp, “Europe is a big deal.”
Nine months ago, I co-founded the cannabis online media outlet Strain Insider. Since then, I have worked with more than 40 Europe-based cannabis startups and attended just about a dozen cannabis events in Europe. Here’s what I learned.
There are options beyond touching the plant
Many people believe that the cannabis business mainly consists of growing and selling marijuana. Yet, in Europe, there are so many business opportunities aside from cultivating weed. The actual challenge is choosing among the countless possibilities.
Most European cannabis entrepreneurs are aware that the cannabis industry is significantly different from other sectors. They are looking for partners who understand their issues, and would rather work with a cannabis-focused marketing agency instead of a general consumer-oriented firm. Obtaining an extensive web of knowledge on all things related to hemp and marijuana is vital to becoming a successful service provider in the cannabis industry.
The cannabis industry demands quite a number of competencies, including chemistry, botany, law, sales, programming, marketing, management, communications, web, graphic or motion design, as well as a myriad of other fields. This represents a terrific opportunity to get a piece of the pie for those who have significant expertise in one of those areas.
Entrepreneurs who don’t share the goal of being a service provider might be more interested in cannabis e-commerce. The European continent has a highly sophisticated network of suppliers who are able to deliver various cannabidiol products, vaporizers, and hemp food. Many producers even offer dropshipping products for their business customers. Moreover, the demand for such goods is consistently rising in European markets, which puts experienced merchants in the perfect spot to start a cannabis online shop.
You need to understand the restrictions
Similar to the U.S, cannabis-related businesses in Europe are heavily restricted on almost every popular online platform. For this reason, you can’t build your marketing strategy on social media such as Facebook or YouTube and Google ads.
Nonetheless, one man’s challenge is another man’s chance. Contrary to blockchain or other high-tech sectors, cannabis entrepreneurs don’t seem to be particularly tech-savvy, which creates a situation where advanced digital marketing techniques don't face a lot of competition. By mastering the art of content marketing, search engine optimization and public relations, smart marketers can get a true edge over their competitors.
While the European Union is often seen as a regulatory nightmare, the EU’s approach to cannabis still has some considerable trumps against nationwide U.S. laws, including clearer regulations for industrial hemp.
CBD and industrial hemp are generally legal in the whole European Union. For example, many hemp shops sell low-THC hemp flowers in Austria without any constraints from the government. Still, there are substantial disparities among EU member states. German police appear to be not happy at all about domestic companies in their country doing the same thing.
There are plenty of networking opportunities.
Expanding their network of contacts is always a great idea for those desiring to increase their chances of succeeding as an entrepreneur. The best advice that can be given to people who are still unsure about the best way to start an entrepreneurial cannabis journey in Europe, is to attend a cannabis conference or fair and directly approach actual cannabis entrepreneurs.
One should take note that there are generally two paths to choose from. Events like the International Cannabis Business Conference give access to some of the most respected individuals in this industry. The audience consists of established businesses, which could be known suppliers or top-tier agencies. By choosing a consumer-focused cannabis fair, the entrepreneurs one will encounter could be operators of online shops, producers of consumer goods and various SME service providers.
Whatever route one chooses, the European cannabis market has a lot to offer. According to the reputable cannabis consultancy Prohibition Partners, Europe is likely to become the biggest market for cannabis products in the world. Considering the future outlook for the European cannabis industry, today is the best opportunity to get started as a cannabis entrepreneur.