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The evolving cannabis landscape

The evolving cannabis landscape

As restrictions on the use of cannabis change, the regulatory landscape becomes ever more complex and fluid. Cannabis is now legal for medicinal use in over 20 countries, including Canada, the UK, Germany and Portugal. In the US, it is legal in many states, but remains a controlled substance under federal law. More countries are expected to liberalise their regulations this year.

The liberalisation of regulations relating to medicinal cannabis and wellness cannabinoids has driven an expansion of the global cannabis market. According to Euromonitor International, the global cannabis market (both legal and illegal) is worth US$150bn in 2019. In particular, the legal cannabis market, which was worth US$12bn in 2018, is expected to grow rapidly and constitute 77% of the global market by 2025.

At the start of 2018, there were a dozen cannabis companies that each had a stock market value of more than US$1bn. Traditional companies have also been investing in the sector, with pharmaceutical companies seeking partnerships to develop medicinal cannabis and alcohol and tobacco companies investing in cannabidiol (CBD) products.

Linklaters has a dedicated, global, multi-disciplinary team to support and advise clients on the key issues and considerations when operating or investing in medicinal and wellness cannabis companies. This is vital in a world where there are so many different and constantly changing regulations and laws, including the extraterritorial reach of some jurisdictions which could impact the proceeds of investment.

Specific examples:

Wellness

Hemp-derived CBD products are legal in the UK and available over the counter. In 2018, it was removed from the list of drugs in Schedule 1 under the US Controlled Substances Act.

CBD products have been developed and marketed towards mainstream consumers across the food and beverage, beauty, fashion, health and wellbeing industries. These include CBD-infused oils, face creams, tea, sweets and pet products. Additionally, non-alcoholic cannabis infused drinks are being developed as potential substitutes for alcohol.

Medicinal

Medicinal cannabis is legal in over 20 countries. In the US, it has been legalised in over 30 states, but remains a controlled substance under federal law.

Its uses are wide-ranging and include the treatment of rare forms of epilepsy and spasticity from multiple sclerosis. It is also used to treat severe vomiting or nausea caused by chemotherapy and mental health conditions such as PTSD.

Recreational

Canada became one of the few countries, and the first G7 country, to legalise recreational cannabis in 2018. Recreational cannabis is also legal in Spain (if cultivated for personal use) and in at least 10 US states, with numerous other states actively considering legalization (although it remains a controlled substance under federal law).

"At the start of 2018, there were a dozen cannabis companies that each had a stock market value of more than US$1bn."

International cannabis market worth

$150bn

in 2019

How we can help - cross-sector expertise

Our cross-sector cannabis group includes practitioners from our regulatory, business crime, healthcare, consumer, banking and capital markets practices across our global network. We use our combined expertise to advise on a range of matters, including:

  • Evolving cannabis-related regulations: conducting multi-jurisdictional analyses relating to the regulatory environment on cannabis.
  • Regulatory considerations on proceeds of investment from cannabis companies: advising on proceeds of investment from cannabis-related ventures, money laundering regulations – including restrictions in the US, implications for business activities (including lending), passive and non-passive investments, associated reporting requirements and controls on sales to US residents.
  • Business crime: advising on conflicts of laws considerations, including applicable extraterritorial legislation.
  • Financings: advising on the ways which cannabis companies can access the public and private capital markets, including navigating the equity and debt financing landscape and potential structures and providers.
  • M&A: advising on the sale and purchase of medicinal and wellness cannabis companies.
Experience

Our experience in this area includes advising:

  • A global fund on the legal and regulatory implications for investments, various business activities including leasing and implications for passive and non-passive investments across multiple jurisdictions.
  • A US asset manager on the legal regime applicable to an investment in cannabis companies.
  • Various clients on preliminary enquiries regarding the Portuguese regulatory environment on cannabis.
  • A medicinal cannabis company on a potential asset sale.