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Colorado edibles maker partners with Swiss company to bring cannabis gummies to Europe

Colorado-born cannabis edibles will soon reach international consumers.

Last week, Boulder’s Wana Brands announced a partnership with Swiss company Alpen Group, which will manufacture THC gummies using Wana’s formulations and sell them in Switzerland. The Wana Classic gummies will be available there in three flavors by the end of the year, according to CEO Nancy Whiteman.

Marijuana is not widely available in Switzerland; however, it is legal in limited capacities.

In 2021, the Swiss government authorized “non-medicinal” cannabis sales as part of a nationwide experiment to learn more about consumers and the market. Companies there can propose a pilot program that both makes weed available to residents and also studies the potential impacts of legalization and consumption in some way.

Sales are permitted through pharmacies, dispensaries or social clubs, and companies collect data to support their study topic. The government is specifically interested in the impact of recreational marijuana on consumers’ physical and mental health, their performance and productivity, how it shapes consumption patterns, effects specific to socioeconomic factors, insights into specific drug markets, and impacts on youth protection, public order and safety.

Whiteman said Alpen Group plans to establish multiple pilot programs and solicited Wana as its “partner for all things edibles.”

“We actually have a team going over in the next month or so to train their team on how to make the gummies,” she said, adding the edibles will be made by Alpen Group’s pharmaceutical arm, Aplex Pharma.

Although Alpen Group is licensing Wana’s proprietary formulations, the edibles will be slightly different from those available in Colorado. Stateside Wana uses distillate, a concentrated form of THC, to create its gummies. In Switzerland, they will be manufactured using marijuana flower.

“The Swiss program is quite interesting because the flower has to be grown in Switzerland and it has to be organic, and it has to be grown in a greenhouse,” Whiteman said.

Beyond that, Alpen Group will follow Wana’s standard operating procedures and produce a product “almost exactly the same” as you can get locally, she added.

“Alpen Group is proud to join forces with the world-renowned cannabis edibles group, Wana Brands. As we embark on a journey of innovation and expansion, we look forward to serving as the epicenter of their global operations,” said Todd Boren, co-founder and CEO of Alpen Group, in a statement.

Whiteman recently traveled to Alpen Group’s headquarters in Lugano, Switzerland and noted that the Swiss cannabis market feels like the early stages of legalization in Colorado. (Wana Brands was founded in 2010 when only medical cannabis was legal.) However, in some ways, it seems more progressive than the United States, she said.

Because the federal government implemented this experimental program, the Swiss banking system is prepared for consumer transactions, Whiteman said. Additionally, each pilot program can accept up to 5,000 consumers, so cannabis companies will only produce enough product to feed current demand – not excess. Switzerland also prohibits indoor grows, which will reduce the carbon impact of growing, she added.

“The other thing that is different — and I would say enlightened — is that they haven’t put a huge taxation burden on the program, so there’s no what we would call in the United States, ‘sin tax’ like you have on alcohol or tobacco or cannabis,” Whiteman said. “So part of what they are trying to understand is what would it take to have people move from the black market to the legal market? That means they don’t want to set up a (situation) where the taxes create a pricing structure that disincentivizes people from continuing to buy from black market sources.”

Ultimately, Whiteman believes Switzerland’s program will pave the way for recreational legalization elsewhere in Europe.

“Already we’re starting to see other European countries following with a pilot program-type approach so they can step into the adult-use market intelligently,” she said. “I think Switzerland is going to be a model for a lot of the European countries.”

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