An in-depth report on cannabis is perhaps the last thing you’d expect to see from one of the big four accountancy firms. Yet just last week, as Canada edged ever closer to fully legalising recreational cannabis use for adults, Deloitte Canada published its 2018 Cannabis Report – a study estimating total sales of cannabis related products will exceed $7 billion in 2019. Dig a little deeper and you’ll find fellow heavyweights PwC and EY also offering similar in-depth consultancy and insight on this budding market.
The Canada experience is bringing into laser sharp focus the huge opportunities ahead for professional advisers looking to get an early (ish) foothold in what promises to be a hugely dynamic (and disruptive) multi-billion-dollar global industry.
We say ‘ish’ as the savviest operators from venture capitalists and data analysts to management consultants and lawyers are already all over the sector in North America and Canada, where medical and recreational cannabis has been available in parts for some time and the associated financial, regulatory and sales and marketing infrastructure is evolving rapidly.
In Europe however, it’s a different story. While medical cannabis is available for patients in a growing number of countries (such as Germany and the Netherlands), here in the UK, cannabis remains an illegal substance, even for medical use. However, there’s an increasing clamour from the likes of lawmakers, healthcare professionals and high-profile charities for that position to change as more and more persuasive evidence emerges regarding the plant’s medical benefits for a range of issues from multiple sclerosis to pain management. What’s more, several high profile cases of children with epilepsy who need the medication but are currently prevented from acquiring or using it here are gaining major traction in the media, adding further weight to calls for reform.
Just when the UK might change its stance remains uncertain, though there does seem a certain inevitability to changes in the law to allow medical access. What is abundantly clear however (as we found out at last month’s excellent inaugural Cannabis Europa conference) is the huge opportunity the prospect of further reform across Europe presents for professional advisers. As the packed meeting rooms at the Barbican attested, myriad businesses and entrepreneurs are looking to take advantage of the fresh opportunities the emergence of a completely new European industry will bring. And as with any other new industry, each will need trusted professional advice on a range of business-critical issues from auditing and sales strategy to M&A and taxation.
Naturally, those professional and financial services organisations that can underline their credentials in the space at an early stage will be well placed to steal a march on later market entrants. PR and reputation management will play a major role in the growth of this industry and Deloitte’s Canadian operation and its big-ticket counterparts have of course long recognised this.
With predictions that Europe’s annual cannabis industry could in time end up being worth as much as 56.2 billion Euros per annum, it will be fascinating to see which professional services firms this side of the pond will be among the first to follow their innovative lead.