What's your opinion on the recent reform on medical cannabis passed by the Ecuadorian legislative assembly?
The reform has significant meaning as it is part of the general reform of the criminal code and drug prevention law that classified cannabis as a controlled substance. Now, it makes a difference for hemp, taking it out of the catalogued substances list, which is used in the production of industrial hemp, and general cannabis. Nonetheless, with this differentiation, industrial hemp would still be regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture. Cannabis with THC, or the psychoactive element, would be regulated by the Ministry of the Interior. In the future, all health-oriented developments and research would fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of Health, thus allowing experts on each area to regulate accordingly.
What would be Prætorium's strategic role in the advancement of the industry and linking up all stakeholders for the development of medical cannabis?
We are already consulting the major private stakeholders of the industry in Ecuador, which has led to us playing an important role in the talks with the government on the subject. Through this collaboration, we have been able to communicate with key European, Canadian and American players in the industry, which have pledged to invest over USD200 million through 2025 in our local cannabis industry. We have asked these groups to invest first in the geological and ecological research studies to identify where in Ecuador, according to our conditions, we should grow our hemp and which strains in particular are best suited for us. We want to learn from the mistakes of other countries and alongside the foreign sector leaders identify and establish our own high-quality brand of hemp as a country. We have also gathered a long list of local companies looking to partner with foreign firms and explore business opportunities in the sector.
What do you expect to be Prætorium's contribution to the development of the private sector?
We expect to support all players and potential ones through guidance in navigating the legal framework of this rising and complex industry. Our goal is to be certified nationally and internationally, through partners, as a firm able to assist local companies also on the commercial aspects of the business helping the country secure international demand and identify the market trends that create economic opportunities for the country's future cannabis industry. Therefore, we have an obligation to inform all interested groups how to invest and what to produce based on international demand. In this way, we can create jobs and economic growth out of the industry, hopefully while building up our brand the same way we did with our bananas and cocoa, which are globally recognized as the best in the world.
How would you define the services an interested company can expect from Prætorium?
We will support a company with all the due diligence regarding regulations on opening and operating a cannabis-related business in Ecuador. This includes nationalizing or registering a foreign firm in the country, acquiring properties and land for the business, every region's regulations, and limitations on acquiring cannabis seeds, creating the company, registering the company with the treasury into the tax system, and even with the migratory process for foreign executives looking to come to the country to operate their businesses.
Looking at your expertise in the sector, how would you define your strategy to attract the ideal partners considering how different conditions are in Guayaquil and Quito?
We have prepared a package of incentives nationwide to promote investing in the sector. From tax cuts to other fiscal benefits, there is a wide-ranging set of conditions and regulations that properly managed make investing in cannabis a great business opportunity regardless of where you are based in Ecuador. We also have legal security and fiscal stability to boast and solve the main concern for a foreign investment group when looking to open businesses overseas.