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ICBC Barcelona: Mitigating Uncertainty in Legal Cannabis

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Shane MacGuill Bio

This year’s ICBC Barcelona took place in March, in the shadow of uncertainty. The legal cannabis industry has been struggling against several headwinds – lack of regulatory momentum, continued consumer ambiguity and capital constraints – which are collectively clouding the outlook for operators in one of the world’s youngest consumer sectors. There was also specific uncertainty about the outcome of the belaboured regulatory process in German, which at the time of the conference, remained in the jaws of political wrangling. (This latter issue at least has seen resolution in the intervening time.)

Not the most auspicious and unproblematic backdrops then for the panel on media and marketing in the legal cannabis industry, which it was my great pleasure to moderate. Composed of industry veterans – journalist and YouTuber Micha Knodt, CEO and founder of cannabis content agency and website En Vola, Simon Espinosa, and founder and owner of the Nabie CBD brand, Petra Marinko – the panel resonated with a single theme – that a clear, distinct and authentic voice in cannabis marketing efforts can make a substantial contribution to diminishing the uncertainties and lack of trust (particularly on the consumer side) which challenge the industry.

From grappling with regulatory intricacies and navigating shadow bans to the role that poetry (yes poetry) can play in building a consumer base, the discussion delved into a wealth of insights regarding cannabis communication. Central to the discourse was the recurring theme of genuine intent and execution: whether it be the efficacy and value of influencers (valuable if having an organic connection with your brand), the role of humour in conveying cannabis messages, or the cultivation of meaningful engagement on social platforms amidst restrictive policies—each underscored the paramount importance of sincerity. While cannabis consumers and businesses vary widely, the common thread lies in the necessity for a clear and authentic voice to effectively resonate with diverse audiences, and thus to begin to address some of the lack of clarity restraining industry growth.

The value of the global cannabis market is projected to be USD108 billion by 2028 

Source: Euromonitor International 

Looking ahead, on the eve of an historic ICBC Berlin, at least some of this uncertainty has cleared. The successful passage of Germany’s CanG bill - the much diminished output of the country’s long and undulating legalisation process - means that cannabis consumption (but not yet its sale) is legal in Europe’s largest and most influential economy. My colleague, Spiros Malandrakis, will be leading a panel at this event, probing the interaction and path from the legacy market through to the legal industry; something which will come into ever sharper relief as Europe continues its gradual journey out of the haze of doubt and into cannabis conviction.

While lack of rapid momentum is undoubtedly disappointing for industry players (and the consumers who wish to have wider access) Euromonitor International continues to project that the global industry will reach USD100 billion by the end of this decade. Indeed, some of the challenges currently facing the industry, such as the emergence of hemp-derived intoxicating products in the US and the potential for German criminalisation to fuel the illegal market, are at root, expressions of the fundamental underlying demand for cannabinoid products which will ultimately drive that growth.

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