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Danish 'Tomato King' Aims to Convert 'Odin’s City' to 'Cannabis Capital'

The Danish authorities have green-lit medical marijuana, and Danish agriculturalists in Odense, the country's third-largest city, are preparing to become Europe's capital of legal cannabis.

Eleven Danish companies have been granted permission to grow cannabis following a legislative change on January 1 that opened the door for its cultivation for medical use.

Mads Pedersen, known as Denmark's "tomato king" as CEO of Alfred Pedersen & Søn, the country's largest tomato cultivation company, has announced a huge DKK 250 million ($40.5 million) investment in cannabis cultivation and has just the place in mind.

"It would be great if Odense could become a cannabis capital," Mads Pedersen told the Finnish Hufvudstadsbladet daily.

Pedersen said he was hoping to "make a difference," adding that this was a chance that comes once in a lifetime. The production facility, which will cover an area the size of 13 association football (soccer) fields, will be ready to begin operating the next year, the Berlingske daily reported. The enterprise will be a joint venture with the Canadian company Aurora and is expected to create about 150 jobs.

"They are in the know about clinical medicine. What we know about is the climate aspect, which enables us to ensure the quality of our products from the ground to the table," Pedersen told the Danish TV-channel TV2.

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Jutland-based Danish Cannabis, headed by Lars Thomassen, is another company seeking to get a share of the budding new market. The company is currently preparing a 30,000 square meter greenhouse in Odense, previously used for paprika and orchids. After a refurbishment, the first cannabis plants will be put into the soil in March and are expected to bear the first harvest in the summer. An annual production volume of 2,000 metric tons of cannabis is expected.

"Suddenly, something good can be done for other people while doing business," Thomassen said. "Those who are the first to deliver a good product will get the largest market share," he commented on the possibilities that Europe's burgeoning cannabis market offers.

For optimal effect, Danish Cannabis is twinning with Canada's largest cannabis company, Canopy Growth Corporation, which is expected to invest a total of DKK 100 million ($16 million), while also aiding with know-how and sales channels.

"Once you manage to produce one kilo vacuum-packed bags, the value is about DKK 100,000 [$16,000], it's like opening a stand in Christiania [Copenhagen's self-proclaimed anarchist "freetown" district known for its open sale of cannabis], Thomassen said.

​With a population of 175,000, Odense is Denmark's third-largest city. The name Odense is derived from that of the Nordic god, Odin, as the area was known as a sanctuary for his worshippers and now capitalizes on Viking-themed tourism. Odense also boasts close associations with Danish fairy tale author Hans Christian Andersen.

​A four-year trial-period allowing the legal prescription of medicinal cannabis came into effect on January 1, powered by the Liberal Party alongside with the opposition left-wing and center-left parties. Although medicinal cannabis was initially expected to be imported, the political majority later decided to allow Danish farmers to clinch the opportunity.

Conditions that allow cannabis treatment include multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, chronic pain, as well nausea and sickness associated with chemotherapy.

The trial previously spurred criticism from Danish medical circles, which expressed a reticence to prescribe the treatment, citing a lack of studies into its effectiveness and possible side effects.

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