Medical cannabis sales have been allowed in Luxembourg since 2018, and currently, there is only one sole supplier for the country’s emerging medical cannabis program. The company’s main operations are outside of the European country. In fact, Tilray, which is contracted to produce all of Luxembourg’s medical cannabis, has its headquarters located across the Atlantic Ocean in Canada. Unfortunately for patients in Luxembourg, the current arrangement is resulting in another supply shortage.
Doctors in Luxembourg prescribed roughly 140 kilograms of medical cannabis in 2020, which was itself nearly triple what was prescribed in 2019. Final numbers for 2021 are obviously not in yet. However, it’s a safe bet that the eventual final figure will be a significant increase compared to last year. That demand, combined with other factors, is to blame for Luxembourg’s current situation.
A Broken Supply Model?
As previously mentioned, Tilray’s main operations are located in Canada, although they also have smaller operations in Portugal and Germany. Regardless, all cannabis that they produce for Luxembourg is located out of the country, and thus it has to be exported from another country and imported into Luxembourg. That process involves a lot of logistical and bureaucratic hoops to jump through, and any hiccup along the way delays delivery which is reportedly part of the problem right now.
Anyone that has followed the launch and rise of medical cannabis programs around the world knows that supply shortages are common when a program is first starting out, and Luxembourg is no exception. However, that only partially explains what is happening in Luxembourg right now. Luxembourg’s supply model is definitely another major contributing factor. Anytime only one entity has a monopoly on supplying a product, it only takes one problem to shut down the entire supply chain.
This is not the first time that Luxembourg has faced a medical cannabis supply shortage. Earlier this year, prior to Luxembourg’s government signing a contract with Tilray, the European country also experienced medical cannabis supply shortages. At that time, the government scrambled to find new suppliers, which begs the question, why isn’t Luxembourg supplementing its medical cannabis program with domestic cultivation?
Legalization Is Looming
Fairly recently, Luxembourg made international headlines when it announced that it would be the first European nation to legalize cannabis for adult use and allow regulated adult-use sales. Since that time, the government in Luxembourg has scaled back its plans for initial legalization with plans to decriminalize possession and allow home cultivation.
Adult-use sales are still expected at some point in Luxembourg. However, that component of the nation’s legalization model will have to wait a bit. In the meantime, allowing home cultivation will help supply shortages to some extent. Presumably, some amount of patients will be able to cultivate their own medicine and no longer have to rely on prescriptions. However, there will still be many patients that cannot cultivate their own medicine for one reason or another, and Luxembourg still needs to drastically improve its medical cannabis sourcing model.
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Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference. Upcoming conferences include Barcelona (March 10th), Berlin (July 19-20th), and Zurich (September 8-9).