GW Pharmaceuticals plc. and Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes: A Case Study of the EU's Normative Framework in the Field of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes and its Impact on GW's Operations in the United Kingdom Denmark and Spain

Sema Yüksel

Student thesis: Master thesis


This master’s thesis explores the impact of the EU’s normative framework in the field of Cannabis for medicinal purposes (CMP) on the British company GW Pharmaceuticals plc. (GWPH). This thesis hypothesises that the EU impacts GWPH’s internationalisation strategy, which results in GWPH’s expansion being diversified. To answer the research question and confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis, four propositions from the book Differential Europe by Héritier et al. (2001) was applied in the countries, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Spain. This showed that among the UK, Denmark and Spain, the most inviting normative framework was found in Spain as the country allowed research on cannabis for scientific and medical purposes before the UK and Denmark. This resulted in GWPH choosing to engage in a strategic alliance with a Spanish firm named Almirall. To further strengthen my argument on the framework in Spain being the main reason for GWPH to expand to Spain, I applied the concept of company specialisation by Richard Lynch (1994) from the book European Business strategies. I examined that both Spain and Denmark are specialised countries within pharmaceuticals. By comparing Denmark and Spain I was able to eliminate that the main motive behind GWPH’s choice to expand to Spain was because the country is specialised. This was illustrated by pointing out that Denmark is specialised as well. Drawing on this, my hypothesis was confirmed based on two main factors. Firstly, there is no clear guideline in the EU on CMP, which means that it is up to each EU member state to provide guidelines on CMP. This resulted in limited access to markets. Secondly, Spain had a more inviting normative framework and allowed research in the field of CMP before Denmark which led to GWPH choosing to expand to Spain and only export to Denmark. Although I confirmed the hypothesis, I found another important reason behind GWPH’s choice to expand to Spain. The Spanish firm Almirall is focused on research for improving medicine for multiple sclerosis. Similarly, GWPH conducts clinical trials for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. This affirmed that the common research focus and mutual interests were also a motive behind the choice of expansion to Spain.

EducationsMA in International Business Communication (Intercultural Marketing), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages68
SupervisorsMagali Gravier