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The Future of Cannabis?

Guest: Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy, CEO of Augur Associates, a Paris-based consulting firm, co-founder of the think tank ECHO Citoyen, and senior advisor to the French government’s medical cannabis trial

2021 might just be a critical year for the rapidly growing cannabis industry. As the public support for the legalization of cannabis continues to grow, what does that mean for the regulations of cannabis’ various industry segments – medical, recreational, hemp and CBD wellness markets?

On Altamar’s latest podcast episode, Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy discusses the future of the cannabis industry with hosts Peter Schechter and Muni Jensen. Jeanroy is co-founder of Echo Citoyen, a think tank that works on drug policy reform in France, and CEO of Augur Associates, a Paris-based consulting firm focused entirely on the sustainable cannabis industry. Previously, he was a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

The rapidly growing cannabis industry is estimated to reach $300-billion dollars in the next 10 years, already issuing stock shares and attracting many investors around the world. And 2021 might just be a critical year for the budding sector. The year started with varying degrees of legalization for unrestricted-THC content cannabis in 34 states in the U.S. France recently launched a large medical trial, potentially paving the way for medical legalization in the near future. And this month, Mexico’s Supreme Court is scheduled to vote on legalizing recreational use. 

Altamar also introduces a new segment to its show. Téa Ivanovic, a rising business and media entrepreneur and currently the Communications Director of social justice startup Immigrant Food joins Altamar for a new segment called Téa’s Take, which will bi-weekly feature a different angle to the episode’s issues. This week, Téa brings up the deeply rooted biases of the criminal justice system when it comes to cannabis use. Around the world, minorities and poorer communities face disproportionate incarceration rates for simple marijuana offenses. “Whites, Blacks, Hispanics, the affluent, and the poor use marijuana at about the same rate. Yet, in the U.S., African Americans are four to eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis use. And much of the same happens around the world in poorer, often immigrant communities,” says Ivanovic. 

Jeanroy identifies four markets within the cannabis industry, each with its own tortuous pathway to decriminalization and depenalization. As cannabis markets become increasingly more mainstream, each market faces different obstacles. “The industrial hemp market, the CBD wellness market mostly developing in Europe, the medical cannabis market, and the adult use/recreational market are intertwined. However, in terms of regulation they’re quite segmented. Because of different regulations in each country, the development of these markets is very different depending on where you look,” notes Jeanroy. One country stands out from other global powers as a pioneer in the cannabis industry. “Canada is in a leading position right now, because they have access to some financial services… whereas in other countries they’re not offered that same financial growth opportunity. For example, US-based companies are limited to their respective states, they can’t operate throughout the entire United States, and they are having a hard time collaborating with and exporting to other countries.”

The legalization of cannabis varies drastically across the world. In Canada and Uruguay, both medical and recreational cannabis use are legal, whereas in Luxembourg and Ecuador only medical cannabis use is legal. In France and Germany, medical cannabis use is undergoing clinical trials, whereas in many countries, any form of cannabis use is illegal and punished to the highest degree. Jeanroy advises that a more human-based approach to regulation is necessary for the international advancement of the cannabis industry. “I often see people who at first look at cannabis negatively, and then later become moved by, for example, one of their parents experiencing a relief from a medical condition after using cannabis. This is the most important aspect of the debate—to humanize and to show others that different kinds of people consume [cannabis] for different reasons.”

France is on the precipice of a breakthrough when it comes to de-stigmatizing cannabis use. “The country has the highest cannabis use in Europe, yet its laws are some of the most prohibitive,” notes Altamar’s Muni Jensen. “France is advancing in several cannabis markets at the same time. We’re finishing the regulation for CBD wellness, and we started a pilot program for medical cannabis use, which is going to have around 3,000 patients in two years. I think that we’ll see, in the next year or so, a complete regulation for medical cannabis in France. if we ‘unlock’ France, that will have repercussions across the entire European Union,” explains Jeanroy.  

In the next five years, cannabis could see a dramatic change in regulations and an expansion into the global market. Why does Jeanroy, a senior advisor to the French government’s medical cannabis trial, say “Cannabis is not a consumer good like any other. It has a social impact and a history that you cannot fathom [unless] you go into that market”?  Find out by listening to the latest Altamar episode, available wherever you get your podcasts. You can download it here.

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