[Interview] Medical cannabis in North Macedonia

Margo: [00:00]  Today we’re talking to Andrew de Roy, a Founder and Managing Partner of Bearstone Global.


Margo: [00:06]  Hi, Andrew.


Andrew: [00:07]  Hi.


Margo: [00:09]  There are a lot of talks about the progress in the medical cannabis sector in Europe. How do you estimate and how do you see the regulatory environment in the medical cannabis sector in Europe?


Andrew: [00:23]  Yes. Well, it is a green rush right now. There’s a huge amount going on since 2014 when the first liberalizations happened in the US, in Colorado Washington state, but the real pioneer has been Canada. And here we have seen a huge amount of capital raised on the stock exchange to reverse takeovers and IPOs and billions of dollars have gone in through retail investors. And this has spawned a whole industry of VCs and other companies, investors, creating value in this new industry. Now Europe is the next in line in many ways. However, countries all over the world are showing interest. So Canada is the place where a lot of the financing has taken place. You can see the huge growth and liberalization everywhere. Europe is in many ways still regarded as the holy grail and especially in the medical cannabis space because of the social health care system.


Andrew: [01:29]  And of course the size of the market. The EU in many ways a regulatory superpower for agricultural goods cannabis is still regarded as a culture in terms of GMP licenses is going to be the most stringent and it is likely like with most other agricultural products that it will be the trend-setter. So everybody is looking at Europe and let’s say Germany in particular. So it’s firstly the size of the market and the fact that there is going to have to be some kind of global regulatory alignment taking place globally.


Margo: [02:09] Right. So there are a lot of opportunities, but we also can’t neglect risks for investors. What are the risks?


Andrew: [02:17] Absolutely. Let’s be straight about the cannabis market. This is something which was on the black market up until several years ago everywhere except a very few places in the world. Now the liberalization is taking place and extremely quickly. So in Canada, you had first legalization of medical cannabis and late last year, the legalization of recreational cannabis, it’s that this is likely to take place all over the world with the federal government in the US within 12 to 18 months making cannabis, recreational cannabis legal. If this happens, it is likely the whole world will fall like dominoes. However, going from a black market product to a legal market, let’s say, there are lots of interesting and shady characters in the industry. So, the black market is the black market. Sure, there are some great stories as well of people that didn’t get caught and now are making huge fortunes in the legal market.


Andrew: 03:25  But there are also criminal gang elements and also politically exposed people that are very much involved in the sector. The types of people involved in it have been compounded by the fact that there has been this huge boom on the stock market. There are now multi-billions of dollars at play. So, therefore, you have to be extremely careful. You have to really understand who your counterparties are, whom you’re dealing with and understand the risks. Moreover, in terms of the farmers, the people actually producing, there are many people that have not much experience in cannabis getting involved in the sector. So you have to really watch out for the quality. There have been some issues with pesticides and the quality of the product produced as well as the type of land not being a sufficient quality where cannabis has been grown. So whilst there are huge opportunities, the sector is fraught with risks. So if you are an investor or indeed a regulator or a consumer interested in it, you have to be very careful, do your due diligence, understand whom you are dealing with.


Margo: 04:44  Yeah. There are so many small new answers since more small specific aspects that investors should take care of. What would be the next steps for a typical investor looking into the possibility to invest in some markets in Europe?


Andrew: 04:59  I think the first step is enhanced due diligence. You have to really do a full background check on the people whom you are looking to co-invest with, do a JV with or acquire. You have to understand the background sources of wealth, what they’re doing and be extremely careful in whom you’re dealing with. Also, the regulatory environment is very unstable still in many ways. The medical cannabis sector started liberalizing in Europe two years ago and really only last year. So in the mid of 2018, when countries really started opening up, and this was of course down to the huge amounts of capital available and raised in Canada. So it’s still a very unstable environment in many countries. You have socially progressive elements that think finally this is happening. This is obviously good for the market. This is good for curing certain diseases. There are all kinds of innovation, but then you have many social conservative elements often within the same party. And how this plays out is something that needs to be fully understood. Of course, on a federal level in Europe, the European Union and the directives are something which you also need to be very aware of. So the key thing is to do your research, understand what is going on. There’s lots of money to be made, but there’s also a lot of money to be lost if you’re not careful.


Margo: 06:31  Right. As I understand, you’ve been doing that, you’ve been engaged into carrying out enhanced due diligence processes and checks in Bearstone Global for over 12 years. How can Bearstone Global assist global investors to put their foot in Europe?


Andrew: 06:51  Yes, we are specialists in corporate intelligence and pre-transaction due diligence is a key part of how we help investors. We are seeing huge activity in medical cannabis sector, but not only. What we do is use techniques of intelligence gathering, which we have developed to help clients make better strategic decisions. This would be a combination of on the record information – so full-open source and we supplement it with off the record information, helping get full profiling of the person, the company and the environment in which a client is going to operate.


Margo: 07:35  And in case an investor wants to reach out to you for advice, how could they do that? How could they find you online?


Andrew: 07:45  Uh, they can go on our site – We have a significant amount of information on this. We in Bearstone Global have also done a fair bit of thought leadership on the cannabis sector and have written some white papers describing regulatory trends in certain countries. To date, we’ve done the first one on Germany, which is the country which everybody looks at in Europe as it is the biggest market, the most important country. In one way, there are very interesting things happening with medical cannabis tenders, the Deutsche Boerse position on not allowing cannabis stocks to trade and other things happening.


Andrew: 08:25 We did a second one on Macedonia or North Macedonia, which is extremely interesting from the cultivation side. They’re making a play to be the low-cost supplier for the whole of Europe. And indeed, there have been some very interesting big transactions taking place.


So we encourage any investors to see how we work, to go to our website, to download it or to reach out to me direct on Linkedin. And the way we operate with clients is we do a free of charge, non-binding scoping of a target or a person they want to work with. With a signed the NDA we would provide upfront intelligence and then a list of options of things that they want to do or maybe think about throughout the investment cycle.


Margo: 08:20  Great. Thank you for this talk.