Speaker Spotlight: Johannes Weimer, aarnt bioworks
Johannes Weimer, aarnt bioworks
Interviewed by Jen Coleman, CEO of My Elevated Experience
Q: Could you provide some information about aarnt bioworks?
aarnt bioworks is positioned at the forefront of a transformative industry, specializing in solutions for the first institutional, legal cultivators in the booming German cannabis market, known as Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs). In a market poised to surpass $4 billion, CSCs are spearheading the legalization movement as the first recreational cultivators. Their unique role is to provide a legal cultivation vehicle for up to 500 cannabis consumers in Germany, operating under strict regulations. To put it into perspective, a single CSC can distribute a maximum of 25 kilograms of flower per month.
As per Germany’s approach and due to higher ranking EU regulations, there will not yet be commercial cultivation. Hence, ancillary services will be even more needed and prospering. We’re still in stealth but I can say that we are entering this landscape with a holistic suite of services that will define how CSCs operate. Our core mission is to provide a B2B-one-stop-shop solution for CSCs. Our vision goes beyond the ordinary; we aim to create an ecosystem where high-quality, locally-sourced, and sustainable cannabis becomes the standard. As one of the pioneers in this space, we're poised to capitalize on this opportunity and are already charting our course for extensive growth, both within Germany and across the broader EU, aligned with the evolving political landscape, as a comprehensive legalization is avowed goal of the German government.
Q: What motivated your engagement in this industry, especially given your prominent position in Germany?
My journey into this industry is deeply rooted in a passion for justice that has been with me since my early years. Growing up in a family where my father served consecutively as a judge, prosecutor, and lawyer, I was immersed in the world of legal processes and fairness. Witnessing firsthand the stigmatization and unjust prosecution of individuals, particularly during my teenage years, left an indelible mark.
To me, it's always been clear that we should not discriminate against people for making choices to enhance their well-being or just have a good time, as long as these choices do not harm themselves or others. The cannabis industry offers a powerful platform to challenge the existing norms and to rectify the injustice surrounding it.
In a broader context, the rapidly evolving European legalization movement, with Germany, its biggest economy, at the forefront, presents a unique opportunity. It's a chance to mold a brand new market, the legal cannabis market, for our continent, setting a precedent and installing a core set of values. These values include regional production, sustainability, and unwavering commitment to quality. We aim to lead by example and, in the process, elevate these principles to serve as guiding stars for the industry.
My background in early-stage startups, venture capital, and company building has equipped me with the entrepreneurial drive to embrace this opportunity. Furthermore, I've been fortunate to join forces with an exceptional team of co-founders, each bringing invaluable expertise in energy, finance, software, supply chain and horticulture. Together, we are ready to navigate this dynamic market, drive transformation, and get aarnt flying.
Q: Could you share your insights on the rapidly evolving German market and its connection to Cannabis and Psychedelics?
Germany stands at the forefront of legalizing recreational cannabis within the European Union. As the largest EU economy, it plays a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory of cannabis legislation across the continent.
Up until now, individual member states within the EU have grappled with the challenge of establishing clear, effective paths for the safe and legal supply of cannabis. This has led to a fragmented landscape, with diverse approaches and varying levels of success.
For instance, the Netherlands is often cited a bad example. Although cannabis possession is tolerated, the country faces a significant issue: organized crime. Gangs prosper in a system that provides "legal" distribution channels, such as coffee shops, while failing to legalize the supply side. Consequently, money continues to flow into the hands of criminal organizations.
You might know the so called Cannabis Social Club-approach from Spain. Yet, they end up having a very similar situation to the Netherlands: While consumption and purchasing might be tolerated, the supply for these clubs often originates from illicit sources. This legal ambiguity and uncertainty have deterred potential investors and prevented truly legal, scalable players from entering the market.
In contrast, countries like Malta have imposed stringent regulatory hurdles on their Cannabis Social Clubs, resulting in limited to no presence. Switzerland, as a non-EU member state, has kicked off experiments with fully legal cannabis supply chains, similar to Germany's Pillar II of the legalization approach.
Now, Germany offers an extraordinary chance to enact a Pillar I legislation that lays a robust foundation. This approach is expected to establish a clear, foreseeable legal framework that enables players to attract substantial investments and secure early market share. It positions Germany to be a trailblazer in creating a thriving and regulated cannabis market within the EU.
A we are entering this new realm we should and will closely keep an eye on North America to learn from the various experiences and fuckups from early movers in the legal cannabis space.
Q: Are there particular advantages or obstacles you anticipate for the German market that might distinguish it from global counterparts?
Well, given the unique characteristics it will be hard to execute a business opportunity in Germany without significant boots on the ground. For those embracing the opportunity, there will be several key factors crucial for your success:
The current specifications for CSC - self cultivation, lots of rules to obey - require professional involvement from founders to run it like an entrepeneur themselves. With one CSCs’ cultivation cap at black market value of €3 million per year, the appeal for budding entrepreneurs is already high.
Proactively engage with authorities. This is clearly advisable for anyone looking to enter this market. German authorities tend to be slow and ask a lot of questions. Setting up legal entities and issuing permissions in the new Cannabis space will confuse quite some authority clerks. Here it makes sense to get involved with them early on, let them know what you’re building, if they have any questions and provide documents in advance. This will smoothen your way and prevent some major bottlenecks due to unexpected situations.
Another factor to take into account when exploring opportunities in the German market is the design of the legalization. The upcoming pillar 1 (homegrow and CSCs) is the first step to be followed by pillar 2 (testing fully legalized supply chains in pilot regions) and pillar 3 (full legalization with support from EU). Leveraging the Pillar 1 framework is essential to secure first mover advantages. Yet, the tight regulatory framework and resulting restrictions in terms of actors, commercialization, documentation, compliance etc. indicates clear market entry barriers. Players who have found a niche in pillar 1 with scalable business models and product market fit can just take off securing great first mover advantages and gaining invaluable consumer insights. Watch out for players who can start off early on.
As we approach the expected legalization date in January 2024, opportunities abound, and potential obstacles can be addressed with strategic planning and adaptability. The first movers are fully prepared and ready, consumers are waiting and society will soon notice the great economical and societal effects of a legalization. Further, German officials keep reaffirming to advocate for a change of EU legislation to allow members for designing own Cannabis laws. About time to get involved in Germany!
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