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10 Things You'll Want to Know About Europe's Fast-Growing Marijuana Market

Keith Speights, The Motley Fool

You've probably heard plenty about the launch of the Canadian recreational marijuana market. And you are likely up to speed on the rapid expansion of legalization of both medical and recreational marijuana in the U.S. But how much do you know about marijuana markets in Europe?

Cannabis market research company Brightfield Group released its European CBD and Cannabis Market 2019 Report on Tuesday. This report analyzed the cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabis markets in Europe and in key individual European countries. Here are 10 things you'll want to know about Europe's fast-growing marijuana market from Brightfield Group's new report. 

A hand holding up paper sheet with a marijuana leaf cut out of it and a crowded street in the background.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Expanding markets in Europe spurred by the EU and WHO

European CBD and cannabis markets are still in their very early stages. But Brightfield Group pointed to key actions taken by the European Union (EU) and the World Health Organization (WHO) that should help spur expansion of European CBD markets, in particular.

The EU's European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is considering allowing CBD to be used in food supplements with a daily intake of up to 130 mg. A decision is expected any day now. In January, WHO recommended rescheduling cannabis and removing CBD from international control.   

2. European medical cannabis market projected to grow to nearly $8 billion by 2023

Brightfield Group estimates that Europe's legal medical cannabis sales in 2018 totaled $316 million. However, the market is projected to grow by a sizzling compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 83% and reach nearly $8 billion by 2023.

3. European CBD market projected to grow to nearly $1.7 billion by 2023

CBD can be derived from either marijuana or hemp. The CBD market "has gotten a significantly stronger foothold across European states than has medical cannabis," according to the Brightfield Group report. CBD is viewed both as a wellness product and as a substitute for tobacco among Europeans. Brightfield Group projects that the European CBD market will soar from $318 million in 2018 to nearly $1.7 billion by 2023, a CAGR of 42%. 

4. German medical cannabis market expected to reach $2.7 billion by 2023

The biggest international medical cannabis market outside of North America is Germany. Several top Canadian marijuana producers supply products to the German market, including Aurora Cannabis (NYSE: ACB), Canopy Growth (NYSE: CGC), and Tilray (NASDAQ: TLRY). Brightfield Group estimates that the German medical cannabis market totaled only $73 million in 2018 but will grow to $2.7 billion by 2023.

5. U.K. and Austria are the largest European CBD markets currently

While Germany is the biggest medical cannabis market in Europe, the largest European CBD markets right now are in the United Kingdom and Austria. By 2023, Brightfield Group projects that the CBD markets in the U.K. and in Austria will reach $440.8 million and $137.4 million, respectively.

6. Largest CBD market in Europe in 2023 will be in Germany

The U.K. and Austria won't be the largest European CBD markets for long. By 2023, Brightfield Group expects that Germany's CBD market will be the biggest in Europe with close to $605 million in sales. That's a significant jump from estimated German CBD sales of nearly $38 million last year. 

7. Fastest-growing European medical cannabis markets expected to be U.K. and France

While Germany might be the biggest medical cannabis market in Europe now and is on track to become the biggest CBD market, the country doesn't claim the fastest-growing medical cannabis market. That honor goes to the U.K. and France, according to Brightfield Group. 

8. Portugal is emerging as a top medical cannabis distribution hub

You might be surprised that Portugal is emerging as a top hub for medical cannabis production and distribution. Aurora Cannabis and Tilray have invested in production facilities in the country. Tilray CEO Brendan Kennedy highlighted the lower production costs with operating in Portugal in the company's recent Q4 conference call. Tilray CFO Mark Castaneda said that Tilray's Portugal facility will be used "to meet demand from countries around the world."

9. Netherlands' legal marijuana market is very small now but projected to top $1 billion by 2023

Although Dutch coffee shops are well known for offering recreational marijuana products, such sales aren't technically legal. And because the Netherlands has very restrictive medical cannabis regulations, its legal marijuana market is currently small -- only around $1.1 million last year. But Brightfield Group anticipates that the Dutch legal marijuana market will top $1 billion by 2023. 

10. Two European countries are dipping their toes in the water with recreational marijuana

Recreational marijuana isn't legal anywhere in Europe yet. But two European countries are dipping their toes in the water. 

Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands is one of them. Brightfield Group thinks that legalization of recreational marijuana in the country will fuel a rapid market expansion. The other country that's experimenting with legal recreational pot is Spain. The use of recreational cannabis has been decriminalized and is allowed in nonprofit social clubs, primarily in Catalonia, Basque, and Navarra.

The key takeaway for investors

Probably the most important thing for investors to know from Brightfield Group's report is that Europe could be more important to marijuana producers than Canada will be in the not-too-distant future. For investors seeking marijuana stocks that are most likely to succeed over the long run, look for the ones that have a head start in Europe (and in the U.S. as well).

Aurora Cannabis currently has the highest European sales, followed closely by Canopy Growth. Tilray is another major player in Europe, with the company's partnership with Novartis possibly giving it an advantage in winning market share for its medical cannabis products. Other Canadian marijuana producers also have European operations, including Aphria and Cronos Group.

The leaders in Europe, for now, though, appear to be Aurora, Canopy, and Tilray. And with a combined cannabis and CBD market of nearly $10 billion up for grabs, it's good to be ahead of the pack in Europe.

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Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.