The cannabis industry in Colombia exploits the medicinal, environmental and socio-economic potential of the plant
The economic crisis that COVID-19 is unleashing almost everywhere in the world is forcing us to make profound changes in societies and to find cost-effective and lasting solutions to counter the effects of the pandemic.
One market that can represent great opportunities for the country is cannabis, which, according to estimates by the Euromonitor International , was worth $ 12 billion in 2018 worldwide, a figure that could increase to 166 billion in 2025.
This is a perfectly conceivable scenario, especially since, thanks to the approval of Law 1787 of 2016, Colombia was one of the first countries to move forward on the path of legalizing medical cannabis.
In addition, in recent years, decrees and resolutions have been issued which continue to shape the regulatory framework for the production and processing of this plant for medical and scientific purposes.
Indeed, cannabis has non-psychoactive components, such as cannabidiol (CBD), which makes a great contribution to human health.
“For the time being, cannabis has proven useful for chronic pain and mental health. However, there are many possibilities, the body also has its own endocannabinoid system. This means that cannabis can represent a key and locked system for many pathologies, such as inflammatory conditions, neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer's disease, glaucoma, epilepsy, among others, "explains Sergio Gómez, director of Colombian Medicinal Seeding operations. (SIEMCOL).
Opportunities for the country : SIEMCOL is one of the companies that has been able to identify the benefits that cannabis can offer to human health, but also to the national economy. Founded in 2018, this company, which is part of Asocolcanna, has the distinction of having emerged from the medical sector under three pillars: well-being, research and Colombian identity.
“The well-being that we generate is of two types: direct, thanks to the use of complementary and substitution derivatives in its medicinal and industrial chain which reach people and even animals; and indirect, because we have a positive impact on the communities we reach ”, explains the director of operations of SIEMCOL.
Regarding research, the company has concluded agreements with Jorge Tadeo Lozano University and the Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia to advance knowledge of the plant and its applications.
Regarding identity, SIEMCOL's priority is to generate a positive local impact, with national capital, professionals from the country and production for internal consumption, which can be seen in the municipality of Boyacense de Toca , where the company owns 30 hectares of land for planting cannabis.
This municipality was chosen by SIEMCOL for three reasons: it is a safe area, near the main roads of the country and near an important source of water, like the reservoir of La Copa, which supplies water to the low Sogamoso.
In just two years, Toca already knows the economic, social and environmental benefits that the cannabis industry can offer in its areas of influence. These are supplemented by an ambitious plan for the future: “We project on average 15 agricultural jobs per hectare cultivated in Toca. In addition, the adaptation work was carried out with people from the region, and we are part of an association that promotes a responsible culture of water sources. Likewise, we are committed to reforesting, because on our 30 hectare site, we have around 1 trees, in particular pines and eucalyptus trees, and we hope to plant more than 900 native species, ”notes Gómez
An industry that has a lot to offer : There are still barriers to the growth of the cannabis industry. Globally, for example, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) remains the regulator and has cannabis on its list. Likewise, in Colombia, there are still legal and moral barriers that hinder customs clearance and maintain the reluctance of the medical community to use substitution or complementary treatments other than conventional treatments.
However, the positive changes that cannabis can generate in the national economy deserve to overcome these obstacles.
“Our economy is fragile because, in the concepts of free trade, we are highly dependent on imports. For example, several sectors and companies have had to stop operations because they depend on products imported from China. Instead, we believe that with cannabis, we can generate very important internal value chains at the moment, ”says Gómez.
In order for this industry to become active and for its benefits to materialize on a larger scale, according to the Director of Operations of SIEMCOL, it is necessary to discuss the possibility that cannabis is part of what was previously called the compulsory health plan ( POS). Thus, cannabis will be able to reach consumers under the same conditions as other drugs and could establish stronger bridges with an industry with as much profit as the pharmaceutical industry.
It is also necessary to take advantage of the conditions that make possible the growth of this industry in the country, such as the long ancestral link of the plant with the indigenous communities, the fertility of rural lands and the formation of the national peasantry.
All of this can help resolve the complicated relationship that Colombia has had with cannabis for the past few decades in a process of transformation that, no doubt, would be exemplary in the eyes of the world.