MEDICAL CANNABIS: A CAN’T MISS OPPORTUNITY

Colombia 2018 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | FOCUS: MEDICAL CANNABI

Medicinal cannabis holds great potential for Colombia with more international investors intending to explore the market's opportunities.

As cannabis is recognized more and more as a legitimate medical treatment, Colombia offers a new market and regulatory example for the unconventional product.

On August 11, 2017, the Colombian national government finalized the regulation for the cultivation and manufacture of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes. Since last summer, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection became the sole institution in the country in charge of issuing licenses for medicinal cannabis derivate.
Former President Santos and Minister of Health and Social Protection Alejandro Gaviria welcomed the introduction of the bill, stating that the therapeutic use of marijuana must be understood as a practical measure to reduce the pain of patients.
However, voices against the bill have also been raised. Former Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez argued the danger of introducing a bill that allows the manufacturing of medical cannabis, as it could potentially lead to the legalization of the same for recreational purposes.
The proponent of the project, Senator Juan Manuel Galán, emphasized that the bill focuses on the regulation of the use of cannabis as containing those substances, so-called medical cannabinoids, which have been studied and further identified as beneficial during the treatment of terminal diseases and other chronic problems.
The debate continues in the scientific field where doctors, researchers, and academics offer different opinions regarding the use of medical cannabis. Among the several positions taken, there is, on one hand, the alleviation of symptoms related to several types of diseases, while on the other hand the development of dependence and even intoxication.
Despite the controversy regarding its positive or negative effects, the regulation of the production and transformation of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes not only opened the Colombian economy to a completely new industry but also raised interest among foreign investors.
In fact, Colombia's medical cannabis industry has seen major growth with 43 licensed companies as of June 2018. Moreover, investors from different countries, including the US and more particularly Canada, are showing interest in the country's new industry.
Since the legislation passed, six companies completed the licensing processing and subsequently formed the Colombian Association of Cannabis Industries. Among these six, three set their headquarters in Toronto, despite being founded in Colombia. Unsurprisingly, Canada has the most advanced capital market for financing cannabis ventures.
One example is Khiron Life Sciences Corp., which was successfully built in Colombia and mainly supported by Canadian investments. According to its president of the board of directors, Sidney Himmel, Colombia has great potential for becoming a major player in the medical cannabis industry.
2018 is an important year for Colombia's cannabis industry. As a former director of Colombia's Pharmaceutical Industry Chamber said, “Investment is coming to Colombia because of the quality of the terrain.”
Moreover, given Colombia's favorable climatic conditions, growers have the opportunity to cultivate cannabis year-round for a fraction of the cost required in the US, Canada, or other countries.
Colombia's market potential is also strengthened by the rare strains that can be found in the country and that add notable interest to international investors.
The increasing interest in the region has made Colombia an example when it comes to regulation of such a controversial product. According to Senator Galán, countries like Peru and Costa Rica are watching the experience of Colombia closely. “Progress in Colombia has been very significant in a short time since the adoption of the law,” said the senator.