By Emily Ledger
As Europe’s medical cannabis market continues to evolve, we expect to see more experienced, sophisticated companies take leadership positions.
One of the companies we’ve been watching is Materia, a medical cannabis producer and distributor whose team worked in the Canadian cannabis sector for years and also has a background in the traditional pharmaceutical space.
Materia recently earned its EU GMP certification in Malta, so we sat down with Nick Pateras, the company’s European Managing Director, to find out more about what this means for them and what we can expect to see next for the company.
Congratulations on your EU GMP certification. For readers who may not be familiar, can you explain what this is?
Medical cannabis in Europe is regulated similarly to a standard medicine, meaning it needs to be produced under very strict manufacturing conditions and quality controls. EU GMP stands for European Union Good Manufacturing Practices and is a series of processes and protocols to which medical cannabis must adhere. It’s a high bar – EU GMP is considered the global gold standard of pharmaceutical manufacturing and is a requirement across almost all of Europe if you want to sell medical cannabis to patients.
Can you tell us a bit more about your Malta facility – how hard was it to get certified and what does this certification now mean for you?
It’s been an extraordinary journey to get to this point, especially with the pandemic disrupting parts of the plan as materials arrivals were delayed or certain workers couldn’t travel. EU GMP is already a difficult standard to achieve, and I’d argue even more so in cannabis where we’re handling a narcotic, which necessitates extra security and safety measures. It’s definitely our greatest milestone as a company to date.
On its significance, it means we have now proven our facility is compliant with those standards and so shortly we’ll begin flower processing for commercial purposes. Just to be crystal clear, we don’t cultivate ourselves, but we tap into our global network of supply partners to bring flower into the facility, process it and then sell to patients across Europe.
And so what type of products can we expect to see from Materia?
Well, we’ll start with flower and that’s expected imminently. That’s because Europe is still predominantly a flower market, even though extracts are starting to be more widely adopted. We’re also seeing product stratification, where patients and physicians are starting to demand higher quality flower, and not just stronger THC! They’re looking for certain terpene profiles, production methods around steps like irradiation, evidence of efficacy, even if observational, and so that’s what we’ll aim to bring in. And then later this year we’ll also be processing and selling oils into the market too.
How do European cannabis companies actually sell products? Are there specific channels you rely on?
In most countries, medical cannabis is dispensed to patients by pharmacies, including in Germany which is Europe’s most important market because of its size and growth profile. The pharmacies are supplied by wholesalers, some of whom specialize in cannabis distribution and others who include cannabis as part of a bigger portfolio.
We actually own a cannabis distributor in Germany, Materia Deutschland GmbH, which has already been doing sales of third party products to our pharmacy network for a select group of partners. That helps us build the relationship with pharmacies as customers, which we’ll leverage when Malta products are ready. Otherwise, as a wholesaler, it’s also important to have a trade marketing plan and offer specialist knowledge and expertise for customers newer to cannabis.
Where do you see the European market in five years’ time?
We believe that in five years most, if not all, of Europe will have medical cannabis frameworks in place. These will have evolved past the experimental programs like Denmark and France have now, and into markets where today medical cannabis is prohibited entirely, like Spain. Europe as a whole will be more comfortable with cannabis as an unlicensed medicine and we’ll have more clinical data to support its role in the galaxy of healthcare.