Since Colombia’s Congress (Congreso de la República de Colombia) legalised marijuana in May 2016 for medical and scientific purposes, the business opportunities for research, commercial cultivation, and exportation of medical marijuana are beginning to build momentum. Colombia has established a comprehensive regulatory regime with further legislation being approved in 2017. The country follows the footsteps of Uruguay, who in 2013 became the first country to allow the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana, and have led the way for other countries like Argentina, Chile, Peru, and now Colombia. Continuing on this path, we may also see Mexico legalise the cultivation of marijuana for medical-based products in the near future.
Our article “How to Obtain a License for Medical Marijuana in Colombia” details the legal framework and the process of obtaining one of the various types of licenses. Here, we will explore the current status of the medical marijuana industry in Colombia.
Current Status of Medical Marijuana in Colombia
Colombian Association of Cannabis Industries
Holding one of the licenses is a prestigious attribute as there are reports that only around 23 licenses have been issued to date. Further reports indicate that at least six of the license holders are companies who have already planted seeds in Colombia. These companies are primarily a mix of Canadian/Colombian companies. In fact, three of these six license holders are based in Toronto, Canada, but were established in Colombia. It is the goal of at least one of these companies to export cannabis from Colombia to Canada in 2018, and another from Colombia to other LATAM countries. In late 2017, the same companies founded the Colombian Association of Cannabis Industries (Asocolcanna – Asociación Colombiana de Industrias de Cannabis). The president of Asocolcanna is Rodrigo Arcila Gómez. BS. MSC. PHD(c), former Executive Director of Colombia’s Pharmaceutical Chamber of the ANDI.
Cannabis Science Symposium of the Americas, Bogotá
Bogotá, Colombia, has been the birthplace of some of the companies that are beginning to produce cannabis, and in April 2018, Bogotá will become host to the first cannabis science Symposium of the Americas (CannaCiencia), described as:
“[A] two day scientific experience that gathers the world most renowned cannabis scientists, academics, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, industry insiders, policy makers, entrepreneurs and cutting edge technology. This Symposium is designed to provide state-of-the-art education and training on the world advancements in the medicinal cannabis field.”
The symposium will host a number of speakers and presentations on various topics related to medical marijuana and its laws. It will also conduct discussion panels, and provide opportunities for networking with others invested in the industry.
This would be an opportunity for investors to fully see the potential of what this new industry could generate for businesses.
Canada, Cannabis, and Colombia
Canadian companies have their eyes set on Colombia and other LATAM countries, like Chile and Peru. Not only is this due to the legalisation of marijuana for medical and scientific use, but more importantly because of the high grade product that can be produced in these regions. This is due to the climate, environmental conditions, and specific strains of cannabis plants. Historically, indigenous communities have used these unique strains of cannabis for medicinal and religious purposes for years before the commercialisation of the product. These natural conditions are also enticing to Canadian companies because the conditions are difficult to replicate in other parts of the world, such as Canada and the United States, where in the most part rely on artificial light, heat, and climate to grow produce. Not to mention, that Colombia has a strong and experienced agricultural workforce with the ability to cultivate cannabis all year-round, and for a fraction of the cost.
With Colombia’s product, terrain, and investment opportunities, combined with Canada’s innovation for financing cannabis ventures, it could lead to the perfect partnership and considerable financial benefits for the two countries. Essentially, the stigma of producing marijuana is fading and being replaced by effective business models. Therefore, it is no surprise that there is currently an abundance of capital flowing to Colombia from Canada. So far, it has been in excess of tens of millions of dollars, and more companies are applying for licenses, and setting up business. Currently, Colombia is one of few countries that allow cannabis exportation, which puts Colombia in a good position to become a big player in the cannabis industry on an international scale.
What Is the Future for Medicinal Marijuana in Colombia?
The coming year will be a year of action for Colombian cannabis companies, with many beginning to test products and build their portfolio. In December 2017, PharmaCielo, one of the first six companies with licenses and one of the founders of Asocolcanna, began to register collected cannabis strains with the Colombian Ministry of Health (Ministerio de Salud y Protección Social), and aims to sell products to Canada and elsewhere in 2018. It has already planted its first crops in Colombia throughout a 30-acre open-air farm in Rionegro, near Medellin, with the aim of expanding to 2000 acres.
Medellin also houses Colombia’s first laboratory permitted to “legally export low-THC cannabis oil extracts and related finished products for medical and research purposes”. The laboratory was set up by another of Asocolcanna’s founders, company FCM Global, who are based in Medellin, and another giant in the Colombian cannabis industry.
Company Khiron Life Sciences Corp., and a founder of Asocolcanna, hosted a launch event at the Marriott Hotel, Bogotá, in December 2017 to an audience of medical professionals and Canadian investors. Its aim was to address the stigma behind medical marijuana and promote the legitimacy of products within the pharmaceutical sector. The company’s goal is to produce high-quality products to be sold straight to the consumer, and to open a series of “pain clinics” in Colombia, before branching out to other LATAM countries.
After Andrés López, the director of the Drugs Control Fund (Fondo Nacional de Estupefacientes), authorised the sowing of 40.5 tonnes of cannabis in 2018, which would equate to 44% of global production, Colombia has the potential to be the leading supplier of medicinal marijuana in 2018.
Interested in Building a Business in the Medical Marijuana Industry?
If you have any questions or enquiries about how to responsibly build a business in the medical marijuana industry, don’t hesitate to contact Craig Dempsey here. Our Biz Latin Hub team in Colombia includes local and expat professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to support you throughout the process.
Watch our video if you want to know more about how to set up a business in Colombia!
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