The Emergence of International CannabisAs the world begins to open its doors to cannabis, businesses looking to expand their international footprint are reminded to do their homework first.
Although the cannabis and hemp industries are growing and gaining acceptance worldwide, until the US shifts its position federally, getting into the industry still comes with risks and roadblocks. Regardless of whether the business is a plant-touching, cultivation, or processing facility, or the company is simply selling the equipment to support those businesses; entrepreneurs often find themselves dealing with unprecedented restrictions.
When considering expanding a cannabis or hemp-related operation to a different country, the carpenter’s mantra, “measure twice, cut once,” can also be applied. In speaking with Lance Lambert, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for GreenBroz, he reminds cannabis businesses that there are several steps to take and a lot of homework that must be completed before dipping your toes into the international cannabis trade.
GreenBroz, an equipment supplier for the cannabis and hemp industries, currently operates in the United States, Canada, and 14 other countries across the world. Thus, Lambert is intimately familiar with the nuances of expanding into other countries, so we spoke about the challenges and opportunities of entering the world market for cannabis and hemp.
Q & A with Lance Lambert, VP of Marketing and Business Development at GreenBroz
Here are a few questions we asked Lambert regarding the move across the pond for cannabis and hemp ancillary businesses.
CTech: What is creating the sudden push for international markets?
Lambert: I think the reason why so many people are focused on that is because of the overarching opportunity and the fact that there is so much that just exists with prior relationships. And, it’s not just in the European Union or the United Kingdom; good things are happening all over, including the Southern Pacific, down in Columbia and Brazil, and even Africa.
CTech: So, what are the challenges for cannabis-centric businesses when it comes to expanding their global footprint?
Lambert: There are a lot of technical nuances. I mean, you’re talking about almost three over two dozen countries in the EU alone that need to be on the same page, and right now, they have different takes and opinions on cannabis. Some countries are stricter than others, and some are easier than others. But it’s not as easy simply planting a flag and doing business. There are things like duties and tariffs, and if you’re in the nutrient business, you’re potentially introducing living organisms into another continent, so there are regulations and restrictions to be cognizant of.
As an equipment provider, we must be knowledgeable of variances in voltage and compliance for European good manufacturing practices to be certified in legal operations. It’s not as simple as just setting up a few SKU’s on Amazon.
CTech: Regarding US businesses going international, what are the biggest problems?
Lambert: Often, as Americans, we tend to think we’re always the innovators and have this mentality that we have all the answers, but in cannabis, that simply isn’t true. We majorly handicapped ourselves a century ago, so we need to look to Israel to see where things are in medical and scientific development. Americans are usually surprised to learn that Israel has more intellectual property and historical data in those categories.
But what this means is, our latest greatest technologies as a country may not be the end-all, be-all solution everywhere. In fact, we might be two or three iterations behind.
CTech: So doing your homework is essential for businesses looking to move into international markets?
Lambert: Absolutely. For example, Israel is very advanced on the molecular structure of the plant and how it interacts with the endocannabinoid system, but they are very aloof in terms of how to produce flower. So, manufacturers really need to look at where their solutions will be well-received, and there are different levels of acceptance everywhere.
At Cannafest in the Czech Republic, I was surprised to find they had on-site childcare available. I think that in some places in the US, child protective services would be called on something like this. But over there, I also didn’t see people dressed in marijuana suits or wearing tie-dye or any of the traditional cannabis culture symbols we see here.
Yet, in England, events are still held in secluded areas, such as the Midlands, a few hours from London, and seeing some sort of task force is still a concern. Understanding the differences in culture from one country to the next is absolutely vital.
CTech: How can businesses ensure that they follow all the rules and do everything correctly when they enter a new country?
Lambert: When you’re going into the global space, it really takes having boots on the ground in most instances. You need to have someone that speaks the language so they’re able to have a fluid conversation with the advocates and with the government. If you don’t know what you’re walking into, it might be a wasted effort.
And be prepared for some politics. Suppose you’re doing business with Distributor A. In that case, Distributors B and C may not even want to touch you, let alone do business with you, because of their disposition toward Distributor A.
CTech: Any final thoughts on the international market and expanding cannabis to the EU?
Lambert: You know, as the WHO and the UN start to change their stance, I think Europe has gotten impatient with the US. France, as an example, is doing a great job and is finally coming around from where they were just a few years ago.
With California legalization happening nearly 30 years ago, we all believe that we’re so much further ahead, but that’s not the topography on a global level. This mindset should really be a factor for people looking to plant those flags and take their product to an international platform.
It’s almost like cutting a piece of wood, you know, measure twice, if not ten times before you make that cut because one wrong cut takes time and money. Be aware that an excessive amount of due diligence is an absolute prerequisite to making the transition.
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