Cultivation of medical cannabis has become a lucrative business in recent years. Countries around the world have started legalizing this controversial crop, approving medical cannabis in particular in some capacity. In 2018, Canada made history by passing the Cannabis Act, thus becoming the first industrialized nation in the world (and second overall, after Uruguay) to pass legislation allowing adults to purchase marijuana. In addition, over 33 states in the USA have made the use of cannabis legal for medical purposes.
Not only does this legislation ease the lives of patients suffering from multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and even cancer, it also represents a boon to the economy.
A study conducted in the US state of Colorado has found that that state’s taxed and regulated cannabis industry contributed more than USD 58 million to the local economy, with spikes in housing values and predictions of increasing employment.
It is therefore not surprising that there is an increase in investments in the business of cultivation and production of cannabis in countries where it is allowed.
Over 30 countries around the world have legalized the use of medical cannabis, with Europe being the most progressive continent. On the Balkan peninsula, this crop has been legalized for medical use only in Croatia and North Macedonia; in Slovenia, cannabis-based drugs are allowed for medicinal use, but not cannabis itself.
In 2016, the Republic of North Macedonia made changes to its Law on the Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, defining the terms “hemp,” “hemp seed oil,” and “cannabis/hemp oil” for the first time as well as regulating the procedure for cultivation and production of hemp by adding institutional control and providing criminal provisions and sanctions for violation of the law.
Cultivation of cannabis for medicinal or scientific purposes is allowed only to legal entities which have obtained a license from the Ministry of Health upon prior consent from the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia.
Hemp cultivated in North Macedonia can be processed in the country only from a legal entity that has a license for the production of cannabis extracts.
New Law in Parliamentary Procedure
A new Law on the Control of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances was in parliamentary procedure before the parliamentary elections were announced, and it is expected to pass after the parliamentary elections in April of this year. The purpose of this draft law is to ensure better control of opiates and psychotropic substances.
The most important innovation in the draft law is that it allows the export of the dry flower obtained by cultivating cannabis for medical purposes. This allows cannabis cultivating companies to place their manufactured quantities of a dry herbal product on the European markets and beyond while complying with international conventions and European legislation on the matter.
Market Overview in North Macedonia
So far, over 30 companies have obtained licenses to cultivate cannabis for medical purposes from the Government of North Macedonia, and this number is expected to rise in the months and years to come. There is major interest in investing in this business due to the rapidly increasing prices of dry cannabis flower and cannabis oil on the world market. The Prime Minister of North Macedonia has called upon investors who have the resources to invest in this business because of its high profitability. This will also open new jobs and contribute to the increased growth of the local economy.
Currently, there is no registry of the cultivators and manufacturers of cannabis and hemp. The Ministry of Health is responsible for issuing licenses and for other matters related to cannabis and hemp for medicinal purposes.
In conclusion, the medical cannabis market in North Macedonia, albeit new, has proven to be a fertile ground for companies looking to invest in the sector. Despite being strictly regulated, the market is expected to grow in coming years, especially since the Government is encouraging investors to make North Macedonia the new home for their cannabis cultivation and production business.
The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.
By Goran Radosevic, Partner, and Veton Qoku, Attorney at Law in cooperation with Karanovic & Partners