germany berlin icbc freedom leaf travel germany international cannabis business conference

Medical marijuana law reform started in the U.S. and has been spreading globally over the last 20 years, primarily to Canada, Israel and the Netherlands. Just this past March, Germany became the latest major Western country to adopt a medi-pot program.

With this in mind, I boarded a plane to Berlin for the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) on Apr. 10. When I arrived, there was fresh German grass and Moroccan hash to smoke. While Germans usually mix tobacco in with their spliffs, I eschewed the nicotine and took pure cannabis hits.

The ICBC started in San Francisco in 2015, and was held in Vancouver last year. The Berlin program was packed with German cannabis experts, plus Americans and Canadians who traveled many hours to share their knowledge with European counterparts.

The big cannabis news in Germany is the government’s decision to move ahead with medical marijuana. It’s currently available as imports in pharmacies. But by 2019 (at the latest, 2020), German companies will start producing their own pot, which will be covered by health insurance.

“The potential is enormous,” one German speaker said. In 2016, 170 kilos of cannabis flower were consumed in Germany by 1,000 patients, and another 9,000 patients are expected to enroll this year.

Dutch and Canadian companies are currently exporting medical cannabis to Germany. “Expect that Germany will do it the right way,” was a common refrain.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) flew in to deliver the keynote speech on Apr. 12. A former Ronald Reagan speechwriter, he loves to wax nostalgically about when Republicans ran the U.S. in the ’80s. Now, he’s best known in the marijuana community as co-author of the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment to the federal budget bill that protects patients and medical cannabusinesses from federal enforcement of marijuana laws. (The amendment was temporarily extended on May 4.)

“No money shall be used in this appropriation of money to supersede state law when that state has legalized medical marijuana,” the congressman explained.

Wearing a red “Make Cannabis Great Again” cap, Rohrabacher discussed his meeting with Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York. “I was very clear about the marijuana issue,” he recounted. “Trump was clear about medical use and leaving it up to the states. I hope he and [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions understand that people want the freedom to use cannabis as U.S. citizens. It’s time to tear down this wall.”

It was an appropriate comment in a country that was once divided into West and East nations, with a huge wall separating their parts of Berlin. That separation ended in 1989, and you see remnants of the wall all around the city, painted artistically, but still reminders of the Cold War that paralyzed Europe for decades after World War II.

Berlin is now a vibrant city, more than 70 years removed from the atrocities of the Holocaust and the continent-wide devastation of World War II. But there are monuments and memorials everywhere.

Back at the conference, the “Future of Cannabis Genetics” panel fascinated me, especially when the discussion turned to indica and sativa nomenclature. “Throw ‘indica’ and ‘sativa’ out the window,” said Dr. Darryl Hudson from Canada. “Names are less important than the chemical components,” added Dr. Reggie Gaudino, vice president for science and intellectual property at Steep Hill Labs, which has testing facilities in six U.S. states. He noted that the terms indica and sativa had “real values” before hybridization muddied the landscape, and recommended keeping an eye on strains’ terpene profiles.

Freedom Leaf particularly enjoyed meeting with Hanf Journal’s CEO, Emmanuel Kotzian, who founded the company in 2000. The newsprint publication is currently published in six languages, and is available in 10 countries—from the Spanish Canary Islands to Ukraine.

We also visited the Hanf Museum (Mühlendamm 5), where we were given a tour and provided hemp tea and cookies, as well as a long pipe filled with German cannabis.

Future European events to look forward to include the Mary Jane Berlin Cannabis Expo (June 14-16); Hanfparade, also in Berlin (Aug. 12); the ICACO Experience in Vienna, Austria (Sept. 5-7); and the Medical Cannabis Bike Tour 2017, from the Czech Republic to Vienna (Oct. 3-5).

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