The Companies Leading The Way At Berlin’s International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC)

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There was an interesting mix of companies at the ICBC in Berlin in April. Most were foreign. Of these, the majority were Canadian and the rest American. A few were German. That said, those companies are also household names globally in some quarters.

All present were clearly aiming at Germany’s medical market, no matter what things are like back home. This meant, for example, that all samples handed out by edibles companies were made of CBD only.

It was also obvious that it is early days here yet. While there was impressive variety in the companies who showed at the conference, it is also very clear that this is wide open, blue water.


Canna Media

This was in evidence early. This included American hemisphere canna-giants Leafly and Weedmaps. It also included Steve Bloom’s new publication, Freedom Leaf. However, what was equally impressive were the number of German media outlets in attendance. This included several conglomerates of web-based news that have grown up either in the cannabis space or gravitated to it. Of these, Agentur Sowjet (a collection of different outlets both online and in print) and Grow Magazine are by far the biggest.

This presence comes at an interesting time. Ostensibly, canna media is facing a large conundrum here at the moment. Unlike American and Canadian competitors, they cannot accept advertising dollars from product manufacturers or doctors. The entire value chain proposition here is different. As a result, expect to see some of these international brands pair up with German canna media for the reach. However, unless a new monetizing strategy is devised, this is already destined to be an interesting space.


Grow Companies

There were few companies there with established booth presence. Of these, the most notable, of course, were foreign. The most well-known of these companies from the U.S. side were Charlotte’s Web. They may, in fact, make a play for one of the new grow licenses up for grabs. Other licensed producers from Canada were easy to find in the conference, but not a single one had booth presence. German growers, for obvious reasons, were much more low key.

Canna Tech Companies

There were quite a few entrants in this space and from several different directions. Storz and Bickel from the medical device side of things were there promoting their new medical vaporizers. Root Sciences, the American company that is distributing German product – VTA’s extraction equipment – was also there. Their presence is interesting. It means that German companies have already thought about the market from a medical point of view. That also means they won’t be the last.

ICBC exhibitor

As cannabis moves more and more into the realm of established pharma, as it will in Germany, companies like these begin to occupy strategic home market advantages. It will be hard, in other words, for other kinds of tech companies in this space to establish themselves in a German market.

Product Companies

This part of the conference was decidedly muted for several reasons. The first is that this was only really open to Canadian companies. American companies cannot easily export products yet. Those that can, along with the Canadians, did not bring THC across the border in their samples.

This part of the market is also going to be fairly restrained if not different than what is found in the U.S. The explosion of commercial, albeit even “medically” marked product will be slow in coming to Germany. There are several reasons for this. The first is that the government is integrating the drug into the health system here. However, for that reason, the focus is on pharma first. This means that the majority of the German patients who will be able to obtain prescriptions will probably not end up getting bud cannabis but some kind of extract.

cannabis extracts

The concept of a “marijuana brownie” being sold in a regular German Apotheke or drug store, is also something that will never happen here. And as popular as the edibles movement may grow to be here in Deutschland, it will be of the more home-developed variety. That is not to say that traditional German cooking could not be easily adapted to canna cuisine. However, this is likely to be a largely uncommercialized space (deliberately) until recreational reform comes here.

Assorted Others

As usual, there were many other kinds of companies and organizations present. This included the “Hanf” or cannabis museum in Berlin. It also included the most powerful lobby group here on the side of reform (Deutsche Hanfaband). There were a few canna consultants thrown into the mix, albeit for a market which is a bit too early stage. There were few IT consultants on the compliance side, although this is clearly also going to be a popular field for development (for a while).

However, for its first year, and at a time when the first cannabis seeds are not yet on the ground, one thing is clear. The ICBC attracted top international companies from its very first year. The sky is the limit in the near future.


Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite Arnold

Marguerite is an American expat. She has worked in digitalization of two industries (film and finance) for over 25 years as well as a professional journalist and writer. She lives in Frankfurt where she is also just finishing her Executive MBA at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, working as a freelancer and writing a medical marijuana/FinTech business plan. She published her first ebook on the pace of marijuana reform last year.

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