The domestic cannabis industry is heating up, but the U.S. isn’t the only country making strides. Many countries are outpacing America when it comes to nationwide legalization of medical and/or adult use, but culturally, markets like California continue to pave the way.
Global Cannabis Industry Networking Group diplomat Lance Lambert has a unique perspective on the international scene. Based in California, the Grove Bags chief marketing officer has deep-rooted knowledge of cannabis but his extensive travel around the world has positioned him as an authority on the global industry.
Learn more about the differences between cannabis at home and abroad, which countries to watch, and what newcomers to the space should know in this Q&A interview.
How did you get into the cannabis space?
My first venture into cannabis dates back to my earlier years growing up in Northern California. It’s something I haven’t shared until recently, but cannabis helped me pay for my first year of college. It’s also slightly ironic since I went to school to study criminology.
My path into the legal cannabis space came about on the media side. I joined DFM’s flagship property, The Denver Post, in late 2013 just as they were launching The Cannabist news site. The rest, as they say, is history.
What can the American cannabis industry learn from the international market? How do they compare?
The U.S. market needs to learn how to accept the wrongs from the past and move forward. A similar challenge exists in Australia regarding the strong resistance of certain individuals in government who still believe the propaganda from a War on Drugs that dates back over a century. Most countries have recognized the many wrongs tied to prohibition and embraced the new awareness, both medically and scientifically, proving the endless upside to legalizing cannabis.
A good example would be an experience in recent years visiting Prague for Cannafest. Walking into one of the venue’s buildings, I immediately noticed a temporary daycare on-site for children of parents working the stalls at the fair. This is something I doubt we will see anytime soon in America. This showed me the Czech Republic’s community and government are both taking cannabis seriously and acknowledging its legitimacy as an industry in their country.
Which countries are currently making waves worth watching in cannabis?
Over the past year, Thailand has leveled up to the undisputed leader in the Asia-Pacific region. Like Thailand, Germany took the industry by surprise when it announced all-party support for adult-use regulations last December. This overshadowed similar news about a move toward adult-use markets in recent years from Luxembourg, Malta, and, most recently, Switzerland.
On the other side of the globe, Columbia continues to garner the most attention in South America while Costa Rica and Mexico hold the most attention in North LATAM. While most movement across Africa remains limited to the South Saharan region, South Africa takes the lead on this 54-country continent.
Is the American cannabis culture influencing international markets?
Absolutely. Every continent I’ve visited for cannabis events and expos holds the U.S., and more specifically California, in high regard when it comes to the craft and culture of cannabis. Likewise, California is recognized globally for its contribution to the ever-growing assortment of desirable genetics.
Spain would be the closest competitor in this space on the international stage. Spain’s prowess is more evident than ever at the annual Spannabis “protest-ival” and fair in beautiful Barcelona.
What advice do you have for newcomers to the industry? What should they know?
Everyone is welcome, as long as you bring good vibes and positive energy to the opportunity. Don’t hang your hat of expertise on being an avid consumer alone. Instead, focus on the types of experience the industry needs. This can range from medical and scientific backgrounds to sales, marketing, logistics, horticulture, and media. This is one industry that can utilize individuals with almost any business or research background.
Our community needs experts for all categories within its unique ethos. Yes, it’s a bonus if you are passionate about the plant, a medical advocate, or a criminal justice activist, but that’s all still a bonus, not a requirement. However, newcomers should be aware that this is not an easy space given our near-constant state of regulatory flux and uncertainty. While the legal game has been in play for years now, the rules of engagement continue to shift.
To learn more about Lance Lambert, visit his LinkedIn page.