Medical marijuana from Colombia will see 2018 as a ‘bellweather year,’ writes Matt Lamers in MjBizDaily.
Mr. Lamers could be right.
How Colombia Got Here
Cannabis has been a staple crop cultivated in Colombia since the colonial period when growers produced hemp for its industrial fibers. Even then, ganja was known for its psychoactive uses but remained confined to Colombia’s periphery. Through the 1930s and 1940s, the Colombian government restricted cannabis after an upsurge in recreational use spurred by broadening use in the Caribbean.
In the last half of the twentieth-century, North American traffickers began moving into Colombia. New traffickers led to booming production in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta as well as the Uraba peninsula.
The Colombian government decriminalized, in 2012, the possession of up to 20 grams and personal cultivation of up to 20 plants. Juan Manual Santos signed, in 2015, legislation permitting cannabis and derivatives for medical use and developed guidelines for the nation’s dispensaries.
The 2015 legislation permits commercial cultivation, processing, and export of medical cannabis products such as oils and creams. Not allowed though is the head, the portion of the shoot usually furled into a cigarette.
Will Colombia Become The Leader?
Long infamous as a country torn by violence in constant drug wars, Colombia is poised to be in the top echelon of global producers for medical use. Cannabis Corporation, or ICC Labs, and based in Vancouver, is the most recent foreign business to obtain a producer’s permit in the nation. ICC labs intend to grow ‘non-psychotropic’ marijuana plans while producing a variety of medical commodities for domestic use and worldwide delivery.
While rigorous, ICC Labs cleared the approval process and is moving forward. “Obtaining licenses places us as the principal grower in South America and sets our presence,” said the company’s Chief Executive Officer, Alejandro Antalich during a recent press conference. “Our track record in Uruguay gives us an aggressive jump over other Colombia license holders.”
Colombia’s goal is to meet 45-percent of the global market for in 2018. Andres Lopez, the manager of the agency administering the medicinal plan, said in a recent discussion on Radio Caracol. Anticipating exportation into Canada and multiple Latin American nations, including Argentina, Peru, and Mexico, he also stressed Colombia’s domestic market is ‘desirable.’
Lopez spoke of a different Canadian company, PharmaCielo Ltd, which has started the operation of cultivating both psychotropic and non-psychotropic medical marijuana on acreage in Rionegro. PharmaCielo hopes to secure a footing, mimicking their illicit equivalents in preceding years.
Founded in 2014, PharmaCielo is the first company to receive a Colombian license to manufacture cannabis.
“We believe Colombia can build a thriving international business around exporting medical marijuana,” Alejandro Gaviria, Colombia’s health minister said. “The nation is ready to join the emerging global marketplace.”
In regressing to an earlier era, Lopez’s bureau has the unfortunate name of the National Fund of Stupefying Substances or FNE.
There are other throwbacks. Unregistered cannabis farming may continue to fall under identical militarized, and eradication-leaning policies which existed before. Small provincial growers bear the burden of violence linked to drug wars in the past and are now requiring a seat at the table in the legal economy.
The small producers have joined in a unique organization named the National Coordinator of Coca, Poppy, and Marijuana Cultivators (COCCAM). The group has been protesting ongoing suppression of small cultivators while big dollars flow into Colombia’s treasury. In December 2017, one local activist, Alexander Cruz, was killed by the military while cutting coca on his land in Tierra Alta.
Writing in MjbizDaily, Lamers says, “Colombia’s Justice Department has published 33 permits linked to the farming of cannabis. Of the thirty-three authorizations, 14 went for production of psychoactive cannabis.”
“I know 2018 will be a bellwether year for us,” Patricio Stocker, CEO of PharmaCielo reported to Marijuana Business Daily.
“Colombia’s natural assets are becoming acknowledged, and we get a steady flow of inquiries from actors on the world market inquiring about the product, inventories, and partnering,” Stocker added.