This Tiny Country May Become The Next European Cannabis Superpower
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Entrepreneurs in a small country in Europe have ambitions to become a major player in the worldwide cannabis market. The only hindrance to the plan appears to be their own government.
The Republic of North Macedonia came into existence in 1991 as one of the countries created after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Once known as Macedonia, it adopted its current name in 2019. Situated on the Balkan Peninsula, North Macedonia is landlocked and has a population of 2.1 million people.
However, cannabis entrepreneurs in the country think it is in a good position to surge ahead of competitors and become a hub of the growing European marijuana market.
Michael "Big Mike" Straumietis, CEO of American cannabis company Advanced Nutrients, wrote after meeting with Zoran Zaev, the republic’s primate minister: “Let me tell you, this country has huge potential, and I'm excited to be a part of turning Macedonia into one of Europe's first cannabis superpowers.”
But to get there, they’ll need action from the government. That’s not so easy in North Macedonia.
They’ve been waiting two years for something that was supposed to take months.
In 2018, government officials said they would pass an amendment to the medical marijuana laws passed in 2016 in North Macedonia that would allow the export of marijuana flower. They expected that to take a few months.
Two years later, it still hasn’t happened, The New York Times reported.
Under current medical marijuana legalization law, the republic allows the export of oils, extracts, and tinctures. However, smokable flower, which cannabis entrepreneurs said could make up 70 percent of the European cannabis market, remains illegal.
While the amendment still has not passed, the opportunity still exists. According to the Times, only Portugal and the Netherlands allow the cultivation and export of medical marijuana. That’s largely because European countries have taken a much more conservative approach than Canada and parts of the United States to legalize marijuana.
So, what’s the hold up in North Macedonia?
Entrepreneurs in the republic have built facilities to handle larger export business. They have permits in place to operate as a legal medical marijuana company. They simply are waiting for the amendment to pass.
Unfortunately, the holdup involves government corruption that has ensnared Zaev himself.
Members of the opposition political party in North Macedonia have accused the prime minister of favoring relatives and allies when it comes to awarding medical marijuana licenses. They claim he wants to set them up to make the most of the coming rush of cannabis profits.
Because of this, they have, so far, refused to take up the idea of including flower in the list of legal medical marijuana exports.
Zaev denies the claims. Government officials have said they hope to take up the issue again when the country’s legislative body reconvenes in April 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic could interfere with those plans.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, North Macedonia has issued 28 licenses but, few of the allowed products have been exported “as producers hone their skills” so they can meet international standards.
In addition to the potential losses by investors if the amendment does not pass, the issue has added significance to the people of North Macedonia. Expanding the local marijuana industry means more jobs. That’s important to one of the poorest European countries where the average monthly income is the equivalent of $500.