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There is more than one way to skin a cat, but there is only one way of doing things to get your cannabis into the EU. There are no shortcuts, there is no hustle, there is no backdoor, there is only the right way. If you want to participate in this lucrative market, you need to stick to the rules. These rules may not be as difficult to follow as you think. Here is a step by step guide on how to do it.
For the serious cultivators gaining access to the EU market is the golden key to unlocking a whole new world. Whether you grow in Malawi, Colombia, North Macedonia or Thailand and no matter how good your local offset is, getting your crop sold in Europe shows consistency, comes with the correct financial awards and prestige to a small group of players who are on top of their game. With the correct planning your business will take one step up.
As a cannabis cultivator you know how difficult it is sometimes – changing markets, heavy investment, huge risks and not always a buyer at the end of the process. Exporting into the EU solves a lot of these problems, or at least gives more job security and cuts down on risk.
Recreational use pilot programmes have kicked off in both Switzerland and The Netherlands and will probably lead to legalisation within the next five years and both Germany and Czechia are currently working on limited legalisation. Malta has already legalised, and Portugal has decriminalised. Over and above that the medical cannabis market is expanding at a rapid rate on a year-to-year basis growing by at least 30% per year. Currently there are just short of half a million people who are using medical cannabis products of some sort. The market, which was 230 million Euro strong at the end of 2020 is expected to grow to 3.2 billion euros by the end of 2027, if all changing laws are going ahead as expected.
Exporting cannabis flower into the EU is therefore a good business decision.
GACP cannabis cultivation
The EU has very strict rules with regards to the control of any raw material that is used in the manufacture of medicine and rightly so. This serves as a guarantee for the consumer that the product is safe and also consistent – if the one dosage has this reaction, then the next ten dosages will have exactly the same, even if taken years apart.
In order to achieve this, all raw material used in medicine in the EU is subject to a Good Agriculture and Collection Practise (GACP). If you do not follow these rules while growing, you will not be able to do business with any EU pharmaceutical company.
The GACP-rules are very basic and should be fairly logical to any farmer of cannabis. The basis of it is record keeping and consistency in how the plant is grown – not too much heat/cold, not too much water, not too much humidity – all pretty standard measures to aspire to if you want a decent crop.
Following these rules are therefore not really that difficult, but as we know, it has achieved notoriety stakes on par with the Wagner-group and the first two SAW movies in its legend by now.
A lot of cultivators that come from the underground are very used to dodging responsibility, rules and laws. When you upgrade to the level of GACP cannabis cultivation, things work differently. Here the client and their safety is king and any gung-ho behaviour is frowned upon. It’s your decision what side of the line you want to stand.
It is important to understand the logic behind standards and third-party verification and you can find it here. As mentioned above, there is also a lot of misconception and disinformation around the GACP. A lot of these are cleared up here. The starting point of record keeping is documenting everything as it happens, and this is the first step in your journey to achieve GACP-certification. In order to keep the records properly you will need a document that is your Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Our guide on how to set it up is here. Finally, here is a short case study of a company and how they achieved their GACP. The GACP rules are basic and very clear. If you want to battle through the whole bureaucratese, as put up by the EU, you can check it out here but a way better and user-friendly way of familiarising yourself with the rules are here.
Why Documentation is Key
Bureaucrats will be bureaucrats and whenever they are around, there will be paperwork. This means record keeping. Record keeping means that you can prove what you did at a specific time and place. If you did the correct thing, this will help you prove that your product is a viable one that can be trusted and therefore money paid for.
The paper trial, if done correctly, is basically what opens the GACP door for you. If you have that paper and the growing was done properly, there is nothing that stands between you and a successful dump of product within the confines of the EU.
Correct documentation is therefore key to any successful attempt to achieve GACP certification. In the past, as an underground cultivator, keeping a record could be held against you and could also be incriminating evidence. Now that you grow above ground, it is imperative. Or, as The Business of Cannabis described it: “Data is the new fertiliser for profitable cannabis”.
This means that to get your house in order, you need the correct software to help you achieve this goal.
There are a lot of software companies that have product aimed at the cannabis cultivator. Should you skip the ones that has been “adapted” to deal with cannabis rather than specifically designed with cannabis growing in mind, you will already cut out most of them.
No crop is alike and different cultivators have different requirements. This means that adjustable software that can be done to the needs of a specific cultivator is also important. Ease of use, especially for junior employees, QR codes that help track and trace all plants and processes, constant updates, the ability to be used on a smartphone and most importantly being compatible with the GACP…there are many factors to consider should you decide on what software to invest in. In order to help you choose, we have prepared a questionnaire to help you determine what your exact needs are. There is also a FREE 30 minute consultation call available to help you further make up your mind.
So, the only way to get your crop into the EU is by compliance to the GACP and the only way to achieve compliance with the GACP is through the proper software. Make sure you make the right choice, because a mistake could be a costly one and may make you very unpopular with your investors.