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Germany Leads EU in Cannabis Oil Imports…and Exports

cannabis oil germany
Written by Sarah Friedman

In 2019, Germany led the EU in both cannabis oil imports and exports, and not by small numbers. The Germans are proving themselves to be big cannabis users, and big cannabis producers as well.

When it comes to the cannabis market, the EU is a large and growing market of consumers which doesn’t produce as much as it uses. It also still has several parts which haven’t legalized cannabis under any circumstances, medical or otherwise, leaving the door open for future expansion as laws loosen up across Europe in the next few years.

Right now, while some European countries like Slovakia, Sweden, and Denmark are still pretty rigid with their cannabis laws, other countries like Spain, Italy, and Portugal are not. As of 2019, the biggest importer of cannabis oils of the EU member States was Germany, as well as being the biggest exporter of cannabis oils to other countries.

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Cannabis oil imports 2019

Truth be told, no other country is even remotely close to matching the US in terms of cannabis oil imports. According to worldstopexports for the year of 2019, the US imported in the neighborhood of $893 million worth of cannabis oil which was followed in second place by Germany at $240 million worth imported. Third place went to South Korea which only instituted its medical program in 2018, but which is picking up the slack with $207 million worth of imports of cannabis oil for 2019. The next European country to show up on the list is France, which clocked in at number five, with $152 million worth of cannabis oil imports for that year, nearly $100 million behind Germany.

According to the same report, the total spent internationally on cannabis oil for the year of 2019 was $3.1 billion, which is an increase of 38.6% since 2015. Though the US took the top spot for a single country importing, the whole of the European Union amounts to $1.1 billion, which is 35.9% of the total, which eclipses the US’s 28.7% of the market. Germany, for its part, accounted for 7.8% of the cannabis oil import market last year.

Cannabis oil exports 2019

It’s a different story when it comes to cannabis oil exports for 2019. Germany leads the EU, coming in at fourth place with approximately $230 million worth of exports, or 8% of the exported cannabis oil for the year. In this category, China tops the list by even more of a margin, exporting just under $1 billion worth of cannabis oil, accounting for 33.4% of the exported oil for last year. India came in second, exporting around $320 million for the year, followed by the US which exported $309.7 million for 10.7% of the total cannabis oil exports. Germany beat out Spain, the next EU country on the list, by $40 million in sales.

The global total for cannabis oil exports for 2019 was $2.9 billion, which is a 23.3% increase since 2015. It should be remembered that these analyses – both imports and exports – are only concerned with cannabis oil, which does not include other cannabis-related products, and they are looking at the legal market only.

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Who really exports the most?

Legal markets show part of the story, but much of the cannabis story takes place below board. In fact, it is the size and scope of this black market that gives hope to its legal counterpart. As recreational legalization becomes more of a thing, taking hold of that illegal black market will be a big part of the total legal cannabis market, but for now, most importing and exporting is done for medical cannabis only.

When it comes to all exports of cannabis, legal and otherwise, Morocco is the leading provider for Europe, and the leading exporter in the world, even dwarfing China. Morocco’s illegal cannabis export market is worth approximately $8.8 billion. While an illegal market should never be compared to a legal one, as it’s essentially comparing apples and oranges, it does show just how much this industry is worth, and just how much can be made if this income stream is redirected to a legal one.

Cannabis in Germany for residents

As the lead cannabis importer and exporter of the EU, its implied that Germany allows for cannabis production and that it also allows for cannabis use of some kind too. Let’s take a closer look:

According to the German Federal Narcotics Act, possession of cannabis is illegal and comes with up to five years imprisonment. On the other hand, using cannabis is not stated as an offense, and therefore people caught using are generally subject to some kind of programming over prison time if caught with small amounts. Germany has a slightly different approach then other countries in determining what a ‘small amount’ is, and actually judges the size of the amount based on the amount of the intoxicating agent THC, not just the quantity of the drugs. A ‘small amount’ also has a different definition in different parts of Germany, and can account for anywhere from 6-15 grams.

Cultivating and supplying cannabis are both illegal for private residents. Supply crimes can earn an offender anywhere from 1-15 years depending on the severity of the crime, and any extenuating circumstances like minors being around or supplied to, the quantity of the cannabis, if weapons were around, and other factors.

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Cannabis in Germany for business

In 2019, upon realizing the economic value of growing cannabis, Germany legalized the production and export of cannabis and cannabis products for medicinal use. As of early 2019, as many as 79 bidders were already submitting their offers to grow medical marijuana. The structure to govern cannabis cultivation in Germany includes the following:

  • Under the Federal Ministry of Health is the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfarM), the regulatory body to govern licensing and procedure for cultivating cannabis in Germany.
  • Cannabis is grown on behalf of the Cannabis Agency, which operates as part of BfarM.
  • Cannabis must be cultivated under the guidelines of “Good Practice for the Collection and Cultivation of Medicinal Plants”, and in accordance with any other relevant guidelines.
  • Private companies will carry out cultivation after receiving a contract and licensing.
  • The Cannabis Agency will purchase cannabis from said private companies in accordance to the United Nations Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, and set a manufacturer’s selling price.

In order for a company to export to Germany, it must comply with the following:

  • Cannabis can be imported by countries that grow medical cannabis under state control, where there is a guaranteed pharmaceutical quality, and the product meets the legal requirements of the UN Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961.
  • As per EU regulation, products being imported to Germany cannot have above .2% THC.
  • Companies that want to import cannabis to Germany can apply to BfarM which will make sure the country that the company comes from is compliant with the UN Convention.
  • The exporting company is required to follow all EU GMP requirements (Good Manufacturing Practices).
  • Exporters must obtain the correct export licensing for their location.
  • Exporters must comply with Germany’s provisions concerning irradiation of products containing cannabis, the same as with pharmaceuticals. Companies must hold the correct licensing for treatment of products with radioactive or ionizing radiation.
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That’s a lot of medical cannabis

After having a medical program since only 2017, and since only just starting to legally grow, Germany managed to skyrocket to the top of the EU market for cannabis oil sales. Considering there is no importing or exporting for recreational use, that’s a pretty strong medical program. In fact, according to BfarM, Germany imported approximately 6,700 kg of cannabis flowers in 2019, most of which went directly to pharmacies. In 2018, about three tons were imported making for over double that amount a year later.


Germany is the biggest EU market for medical cannabis, and is growing rapidly. With the initiation of private companies providing the supply chain within the country, it will be interesting to see where Germany falls in the years to come concerning their cannabis imports and exports.

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About the author

Sarah Friedman

I look stuff up and and write stuff down, in order to make sense of the world around. And I travel a lot too.