Medical cannabis is making headway in Colombia, where it is beginning to move beyond times when its cultivation was associated with violence, to become an ambitious export industry in a growing world market. The agro-industry began to take hold in the country from 2016 when a law was passed allowing the cultivation, manufacture of inputs and products demanded in the pharmaceutical industry.
Scientific evidence on the medical use of cannabis has triggered a regulatory trend around the world, and Latin America is no exception. As part of this trend, countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Argentina, and Chile now have legal frameworks or medical cannabis programs.
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Colombia – a pioneer in the cannabis market
Colombia has been a pioneer in this field and has a legal framework since 2016. The country has solid and recognized cannabis regulation, opening the possibility of creating a new sector of the economy. More importantly, as a country, Colombia has the obligation to offer a therapeutic alternative to millions of patients.
The regulation is not about an industrial problem or simply adding an export line to the economy, or about exporting materials for third parties in other countries to develop products. The goal is to provide access and change the lives of people who need to be treated with legal and traceable cannabis medical products.
2019 was a year of articulating and overcoming interpretive barriers between government and private industry. The authorities have made progress in closing the regulatory circle, while the industry is challenging itself to ensure the technical quality of legal cannabis products.
2020 is the year of implementation and consolidation. Both government and industry need to rise to the occasion and take the next step to show they can implement the regulation. The separation of state and private industry as antagonists does not build a country and only engages it in interpretative confrontations and intransigent positions.
Cannabis industry keeps international standards
Progress has been made and the cannabis industry has the will and capacity to keep up with international standards. This, coupled with the political will of the authorities and technical knowledge, is the perfect recipe to consolidate at the local level. For example, for the first time in its history, in 2019 the government authorized Khiron Colombia to cultivate and manufacture (national use quotas) psychoactive cannabis extracts for commercial purposes.
These extracts will be the only raw material licensed in the country for the manufacturing of the first medicinal products. This regulatory advance is a historical milestone that builds a new reality for patients who need these products and should be a source of pride for everyone.
The lives of millions of patients who have lived for years with pathologies treatable by means of medical cannabis are about to change. As soon as Invima schedules the first visits and sets up laboratories with good manufacturing practices, the legal cannabis products will respond to the needs of the patients.
Other processes, however, are still unjustifiably slow and might be put at risk by institutional adjustments. For example, the allocation of regular quotas in 2020, the modification of resolution 1478 that should enable drugstores to dispense and distribute magistral preparations, or the modification of decree 613 that seeks to increase the control parameters for future licensees. If the above-mentioned processes are managed and implemented, Colombia will give an ideal example of public administration.
The country has the ideal institutions to materialize the regulation, the trained officials and a reiterated political will. The only thing missing is that the cannabis sector has efficient procedures. As known, public-private work generates progress, which in other countries is the norm, rather than the exception.
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First published in AGRONEGOCIOS, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.
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