“Everybody now wants products with CBD” – Prague hosts international cannabis fair
Prague hosted the largest international fair of cannabis and medicinal herbs of its kind last weekend. Known as Cannafest, the 12th edition of the fair drew great numbers of Czechs of all ages to explore and try out the various legal cannabis products looking to break in or widen their share on the Czech market. Among them many international companies.
The fair took place in the PVA Expo hall in Prague’s Letňany district. Dozens of companies, most of them with an international background could be seen exhibiting their products in various attention grabbing ways, as I found out for myself when an eager looking lady approached me and started moving something resembling a pin, or toothpick towards what I first thought was my wrist.
“It’s new and few people know about it. You can put it inside your cigarette or joint. It’s twice as strong as normal CBD.”
The company is called Slidderz and, as her colleague explains, the business is active in both Europe and America.
“You just take a stick and slide it into your joint or cigarette and it’s an instant joint. [If it’s] cold outside, or you don’t want to break up or roll, you can just slide it in.”
He also explained the difference between the cannabinoids CBD (cannabidiol), which is legal in Czechia and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is not.
“It’s CBD. It’s zero percent THC. It’s obviously not going to go to your head and make you stoned. It’s like what they say: CBD is like THC without the head trip.”
The company was founded by an Israeli scientist, with much of its manufacturing and shipping taking place in the Netherlands. The Dutch are perhaps the best known example of a European state with experience in trading with cannabis products, but Switzerland, where a decade ago several cantons began to allow adults to cultivate and use the plant, was also represented by several businesses at the fair.
Among them was Green Brothers, a business made up of three brothers who started out by growing their product on a family farm.
“We started in 2016. Today we have 22 companies across the world. We are mostly present in Europe, but also the US, Australia and Japan. We are basically active in the CBD industry.”
“Everybody now wants to have products with CBD, so of course you want to stay on the same boat.”
Czech companies were also naturally represented at the fair. Among them was Annabis, a company that focuses on producing cannabis cosmetics products.
“We are based in Olomouc and we have producers all around the world. We produce in 38 countries around the world. We focus on the synergy of a lot of herb extracts.
“The competition is bigger now. Everybody now wants to have products with CBD, so of course you want to stay on the same boat. All of us are producing similar products with added extras for each different brand.”
Pensioners and those with health issues among visitors
Ranging from posters, media articles to public metro announcements, the organisers of the festival were eager to highlight that Cannafest is open to all members of society, not just the stoner cliché. Special buses were organised for the physically impaired and, walking through the PVO Expo hall, I ran into many individuals who one would not normally identify as fans of the “herb”.
These were usually pensioners and people with health problems. And a slight feeling of awkwardness was noticeable in their responses when approached. One Slovak pensioner looking for gels and massage oils said that it was his first time at the festival and that he was pleasantly surprised.
Meanwhile a middle-aged woman on crutches who wished to remain anonymous said that she had found out about alternative cannabis medicine products through her friend, which led her to start researching the topic on the internet.
Debates on legalisation
The annual Cannafest is not just a fair for companies, but also includes a multitude of lectures and debates about the various uses and methods of production of the cannabis genus of plants. Debates on cannabis legislation and the level to which THC should be legalised in products were present at this year’s fair as well.
The debates were perhaps made more prescient after reports appeared in Czech media in September claiming that at least parts of the ruling government coalition were in favour of a partial legalisation of the marihuana market from 2024. The neighbouring German government has announced similar plans.
“It really has the capabilities of stamping out the black market and burgeoning the legal market.”
I asked Jason Showard, the host of a cannabis extraction focused podcast, who was at the fair promoting the California-based company Delta Munchies, about his opinion on the debate on legalising marihuana in Europe.
“The one thing that I talk about very regularly is that the US rolled out legalisation very poorly. My home state California has rolled it out pretty much the worst. They have taxed it so much that they have just created the taxed market and proliferated the black market, so it is still very prevalent in the US as a black market even though we are legal. So I think that, if you do not overtax it, it really has the capabilities of stamping out the black market and burgeoning the legal market.”
I received a slightly more nuanced answer on the matter from Steffan Wendt, the CEO of Bier-Company.
“I think it’s a good idea. It’s what all of the activists wanted from day one, but I am not so sure that this will be well managed. As the German health minister just said in a talk show, it is the pricing that is the issue. If you do it cheaper than the black market, which [the government] wants to get rid of, they buy it legally and then sell it on the black market. And, if you are more expensive, people still go to the black market. So you have to be on the same level as the black market and have better quality, that’s the only way to get rid of that.”
Czech-German hemp beer?
Certified brewer Steffan founded his company together with a group of friends in 1995. The product that they were exhibiting at the Cannafest was “turn”, a beer created by using hemp blossoms as its main ingredient.
“We were coming completely from the beer side, not the hemp side. Everybody was smoking joints, obviously, but we were brew masters. Then we had a couple of trade fairs and everybody was amazed. And then, after being at trade fairs all over Europe, I got invited in 2012 to the Cannafest and since then we have been here every year.”
“They sent out policemen in civilian clothing out here, grabbing anybody with weed in their hands and fined them something like CZK 500.”
A permanent exhibitor for a decade now, Steffan says that the authorities’ approach to the festival has changed as the years went by.
“In the beginning it was like the easy way of Czech Republic…like everybody could smoke inside the hall and afterwards you could go to a bar and smoke there as well, joints, cigarettes, whatever you wanted.
“But then, four or five years ago, everything was a little bit down, no more smoking in public. They sent out policemen in civilian clothing out here, grabbing anybody with weed in their hands and fined them something like CZK 500. There were hundreds of people being caught outside.”
Is it still like that?
“No it’s got a little bit more loose now again because they know [that people] are doing the CBD now, not THC anymore, so I think the police is much better now.”
Steffan says he is now trying to get a license to produce his company’s beer in Czechia.
“Normally, the production prices in Germany are higher that the selling price in restaurants here, so there never was any interest from German breweries to go here.”
“As you can imagine, I am the only German who sells beer in Czechia. Normally, the production prices in Germany are higher that the selling price in restaurants here, so there never was any interest from German breweries to go here. On the other hand the Czech people are so proud about their beer that they will not accept any other beer, especially German beer.”
His plan is therefore to combine Czech and German beer making methods, using Czech materials and German beer brewing practices. The result, he says, would be very popular among consumers.
“The Americans, for example, would be crazy about it because that’s what they think beer is about.”