THE PERFECT CONDITIONS

Colombia 2019 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

FCM Global is playing a key role in the medical cannabis business, helping its clients to create new cannabis-based products via its strong collaborative R&D capabilities.

Carlos Velásquez
BIOGRAPHY
Carlos Velásquez is a Colombian-born investment professional and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience in the development of physical and social infrastructure in Latin America and Europe across the healthcare, agriculture, renewable energy, and real estate sectors. Prior to co-founding FCM Global, Velásquez served as a board member for several companies, and previously as co-founder of both Fondo AAA and Leaf Air Renewable Energy Group. He began his career at Grupo Argos as a Program Director.

What role could a fully developed and established medical cannabis sector play in the Colombian economy?
Colombia has low-cost, large-scale, sustainable production methods and a centralized geographic location to support global distribution routes. In short, Colombia is ideally positioned to be a global hub for what some predict could ultimately be a USD500-billion industry. Latin America alone is projected to be a USD12-billion market for medical cannabis. Both Colombia and FCM Global are aligned with powerful industry trends. The greatest initial impact will be on the agricultural sector, leveraging Colombia's existing leadership in agribusiness knowhow. In Colombia, we still need to deliver a great deal of education before the country starts producing at scale for the medical sector. However, it will happen, and when it does, thanks to Colombia's robust medical cannabis legal framework, the impact will be large and lasting.

How has the attitude of Colombia's financial sector changed in regard to the medical cannabis industry over the last year?
Attitudes have evolved significantly since early 2018, and Colombia's financial sector is now looking closely at the industry. There are now several commercial banks actively participating in the medical cannabis industry. Change can always be faster; however, there are complexities, which include international and US regulations. Development agencies are getting involved as well. But the onus is not completely on banks. To accelerate the evolution, Colombia's medical cannabis companies need to play their part, be good actors, and build strong viable businesses.
What education does Colombia need to fully realize the industry's potential?
We do not want only private companies taking the lead; the industry's future has to be coordinated with the government, otherwise inefficiencies will surface and innovations will be put at risk. Cannabis awareness is not just about seminars, but about showcasing products and doing roadshows with global specialists from leading countries such as Israel, Germany, Switzerland, and Canada.

What does FCM Global's “Co-Sourced Colombia" model mean, and how does it give you a competitive edge?
FCM Global does not compete with its clients, who are manufacturers in the pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and wellness sectors. Instead, we provide customized cannabinoid extracts as inputs for our clients' finished products in a way that meets their standards for safety, consistency, and quality. Additionally, we have the collaborative R&D capabilities to help clients create new cannabis-based products, with the necessary extracts to match. Our goal is to become the “Intel of medical cannabis" in supporting top-tier clients across legal markets worldwide. Colombia helps FCM Global extend its early-mover advantages and realize lower production costs, due to its equatorial climate, optimal growth cycles, and low costs of energy, resources, and land. We can pass these lower costs on to our clients in a way that doesn't sacrifice quality. In fact, the FCM Global's “soil-to-oil" platform operates to both Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards, and benefits from a transparent governance model.

What is the next step for FCM Global?
2018, and now early 2019, has been a transformational time for FCM Global. We continue to invest in and grow our world-class team of agricultural, operational, and scientific professionals. We are extremely proud that our entire team is sourced locally and that we didn't leave Colombia for expertise or IP. FCM Global has been granted a license for five proprietary genetic strains and we are working on getting approvals for our 100-plus strains. We have three areas of focus: expanding and consolidating our operations in Tolima to ensure we have a consistent, reliable supply of extract; increasing the participation of the financial sector so that the industry does not face a lack of finances; and forming partnerships around the world to help develop and distribute final products. The first project is scheduled to be completed in 2019 and the other two in 2020. We are excited about the future and believe we are on track to meet significant global industry demand at unique price points and scale.