In recent years, Latin America has seen an explosion in legal reform in favor of hemp production. Thanks to extensive scientific research into the more harmless form of ‘Cannabiceae’, governments have successfully been able to recognize the extensive benefits the plant brings. With the plant offering itself as a fuel alternative, construction material and form of shoe fabric, can it do any more?

Well in fact, increasingly more research is being placed into the seeds of the hemp plant and their versatile medical and nutritional worth. With tobacco in terminal decline, governments can no longer resist the cash cow that is the hemp industry.

Cannabis laws in Latin America and licenses for its use

For years, production of the plant has been illegal for concerns held over its dangers to human health. However, with minimal traces of the active ingredient of a ‘high’, hemp is becoming more universally accepted. Similar to the growing societal acceptance of hemp, Latin American governments are incentivizing production by easing the process of getting a license.

Cannabis seeds

To produce cannabinoids (CBD) and other CBD derivatives, a separate license has to be granted by the Ministry of Health.

Uruguay was the first to take the leap into legal hemp production back in 2013 with bill number 19.172. This allowed the import, production, marketing and distribution of ‘non-psychoactive’ cannabis and its derivatives. With little administration and possibly the help of a market entry company, licenses are relatively easy to obtain.

Other Latin American nations have followed the footsteps of the pioneer nation, Uruguay, by ensuring license obtainment is straightforward, hence limiting the bureaucracy and incentivizing market growth. For example, in Colombia, where the crop has exploded in rural areas, only one license is needed to grow the non-psychoactive strain of cannabis which is granted from the Ministry of Justice. If the aim is to produce cannabinoids (CBD) and other CBD derivatives, then another license has to be granted by the Ministry of Health. These licenses cost in total around USD$3700.

Marijuana and hemp – what is the distinction?

One of the main barriers this market faces is the stigma attached to its production. The word ‘Cannabis’ in the name of a plant is enough to discourage investors from entering the market. However, increasing clarity around Latin America of the distinction between marijuana and hemp has significantly accelerated production in the last years. Better understanding on a global level is certainly needed to whet the appetites of foreign investors and tempt them into this historically misunderstood market.

Technically speaking, both marijuana and hemp fall under the same broad category – Cannabis (a flowering plant within the Cannabiceae family). Nevertheless, the distinctions are clear:

Hemp is the term used to describe the varieties of Cannabis that contain 0.3% or less Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in their content. This makes hemp the title for non-psychoactive cannabis harvested solely for the industrial use of its derived products. 

It is a little-known fact that hemp has been recorded to have 50,000 different uses and in a wide variety of sectors.

Marijuana is the term used to distinguish the species of Cannabis which contains more than 0.3% of THC and can induce psychotropic or euphoric effects on the user. This is the form of cannabis which has been vastly modified by humans to be used as a stimulant. Many consider the term ‘marijuana’ to be a gross misinterpretation of the broader ‘cannabis’ plant.  

In sum, the defining characteristic between the two is a single factor — the amount of THC in the plant and therefore, whether the use of it will have euphoric effects on a person.

 Hemp seed’s growing adoption in health products

It is a little-known fact that hemp has been recorded to have 50,000 different uses and in a wide variety of sectors, from industrial textiles, to food and, even more frequently, cosmetic products.

The plant offers countless opportunities and its byproducts adapt to fit into any market from clothing, to fuel production, to even dog treats – where they are reported to have therapeutic effects on animals. This can be attributed to its extremely efficient plant formation. Unlike crops such as wheat or canola, where the seed holds more or less the only value, the entire hemp plant from head to toe holds value and provides broad-reaching uses. The seeds, the leaves, the stem and even the root of the plant have different commercial uses, making it both extremely versatile and efficient.

Hemp seeds are being hailed by many as ‘the new super-food.’

The uses of the leaves and stem are better-documented, and have been part of human construction materials and clothing weaves for millennia. However, it is the seed which is undergoing rapid expansion, being hailed by many as ‘the new super-food.’ It’s now even a staple ingredient in many cosmetic brands. The health benefits of hemp seeds vary enormously and have been reported to help practically every part and every organ in the body.

List of health benefits

Though research is ongoing, hemp has been reportedly useful or beneficial to human health in the following ways:


1. Protein – for every 30 grams of hempseed are 10g of protein, the seed contains all 9 essential amino acids

2. Unsaturated fats – hemp seeds provide a great source of essential fatty acids such as 0mega-3

3. Fiber – the outer shell of the hemp seed provides a great source of fiber

4. Minerals and vitamins – hemp seeds contain a variety of vitamins and minerals especially rich in vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc and B vitamins

Organ health

5. Brain – the seed has antioxidant effects. Thanks to the presence of cannabidiol (CBD) in the seed, experts suggest it may help with neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis

6. Heart – the good amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in hemp seeds can reduce the risk of arrhythmias and heart disease. The large quantities in arginine, a type of amino acid, help artery and vein dilation

7. Skin the healthy omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in the seed can help reduce inflammation. Both Atopic dermatitis and acne can both stem from chronic inflammation. The anti-inflammatories in the seed can help with this. 


Opportunities for hemp in Latin America are plentiful – feedstock and biofuels, cereal crop, hemp and livestock to name a few. 

8. Rheumatoid arthritis – research indicates that hemp seeds could have anti-rheumatic effects however more development of this idea needs to be conducted

As is visible, despite research still needing more conclusive data for official medical endorsement, results are promising and it is the belief of many experts that hemp seeds are on the cusp of being used in extensive medical treatments as well as their benefits in a nutritious capacity.

Opportunities for businesses

Latin America is at the forefront of the hemp revolution. Since Uruguay’s trend-setting 2013 decriminalization, more Latin American countries have joined the bandwagon in legalizing its production.

According to Energias Market research – a provider of in-depth market analysis – the cannabis industry is expanding with an expected global growth rate of 19.1% from 2018-2024. In cash, the industry’s value will significantly increase, from US$8.28 billion in 2017 to USD$28.077 billion in 2024. This results in increased growth for nations which regulate the industry and opportunities to foreign investors who are up-to-date with global market patterns. The market is undoubtedly a young one and the early-mover advantage is still certainly available in countries such as Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Argentina. The more advanced Uruguay is steaming ahead in the industry opening a new extraction lab in 2020 which will quadruple production for the small nation. Although the uptake of the industry has been extremely positive in the nations where it is grown, there is a foreign investment void due to the lack of education. From an industry standpoint, growers can know a lot about the cannabis agronomy, cannabis laws and cannabis botany but there needs to be a collective global knowledge to really propel the industry.

Agricultural opportunities in Latin America are plentiful – feedstock and biofuels, cereal crop, hemp and livestock to name a few. To foreign investors Latin American countries present themselves as favorable for the following reasons:

  • Suitable climate for crop production
  • Access to (low cost) quality land
  • Lower costs for production and labor
  • Strategic location (close to major consumer countries)

What can BizLatin Hub do?

With expertise in Latin American law and accounting, we can ensure market entry is as smooth as possible. We provide the comprehensive and customized support service businesses need to expand their reach into the Latin American hemp market.

For a basic consultation, get in touch today at [email protected] and we will ensure your business needs are catered for.