A PUSH IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

Colombia 2020 | HEALTH | INTERVIEW

The Ministry of Justice and Law has worked over the years to make sure Colombia has one of the most robust and complete legal frameworks for the medical cannabis industry.

Margarita Cabello Blanco
BIOGRAPHY

Margarita Cabello Blanco has been the Minister of Justice and Law since 2019. She graduated as a lawyer from Corporación Universidad de la Costa. She studied family law at Universidad Autonoma de Bucaramanga and civil procedural law at Universidad Externado. She began her professional career as a judge in the judicial branch, where she held various high-level positions. She later reached the Supreme Court of Justice and led the Civil Cassation Chamber.

What steps has the ministry taken to speed up the process to award new licenses for medical cannabis companies?
The Ministry of Justice and Law has been working on several actions to reduce the waiting time required to obtain a license in their different modalities. These actions range from the correct preparation of the physical archive for each request, to the hiring of new personnel to evaluate each request. We have hired nearly 15 people, including documentation experts and lawyers. We have gone through special working days to support each of the procedures related to the licensing process for requests from 2018. As a result, we have been able to issue some licenses. The biggest challenge we face is the large number of requests. Notably, we provide training to people who wish to obtain a license in an attempt to reduce the error margin with the requests. This helps us to speed up the revision and awarding process. We have also developed and implemented a mechanism for cannabis control (MICC). It includes certain control mechanisms, as well as follow-up tools.

What strategies have you implemented to guarantee legal security for international companies interested in Colombia?
The government wants to modify the so-called Decree 613, by which we seek to increase legal security by strengthening legal and technical requirements to obtain licenses. This is done not only to maintain control around the entire process, but also to guarantee the profitability of foreign investment. Additionally, the training provided to our public officials provides them with tools to ensure they make the right decision and thus minimize the number of possible mistakes during the entire process to obtain a license. At present, Colombia has one of the most robust and complete legal frameworks and has been acknowledged as such by the global industry. The new decree, which will be published soon, will increase that international prestige. It will demonstrate the experience we have gathered in the last three years through Act 1787 from 2016, which allowed us to improve the rules of the game and boost the development of the cannabis industry.

What are your views on medicinal cannabis not just for the national economy, but also as a way to position Colombia as a global leader?
The interest of the industry to develop medicinal cannabis fills us with pride and pushes us to work every day to guarantee equal conditions for companies, supporting entrepreneurs who meet the security and quality conditions laid out by the government. The government's 100% backing has boosted the industry and made Colombia a leader in the medical cannabis space. In medical cannabis, we have a product that has been stigmatized for years and today represents a good possibility not only in terms of jobs, but also development and well-being for the entire society. We want to support entrepreneurs and generate a healthy level of competition. We expect this to attract more foreign investment.

Medicinal cannabis is a growing industry in Colombia, and many sectors, including the government, are going through a learning process. What can other countries learn from Colombia?
We have learnt that it is necessary to continue improving in legal areas as well as in technical parts and technological developments in order to keep up with the industry. The medical cannabis industry is a fast-changing market; therefore, decisions have to be made quickly. Equally important, we need to maintain a constant dialogue between government entities and the industry to identify the needs and adopt the required regulatory changes. It is crucial that the government considers new offers and proposals from the industry as long as they improve the regulatory framework and the overall sector. That is why we are currently working on a decree to amend the current regulation that would serve as a roadmap for the cannabis industry.