BOTANIC ADVANTAGE

Peru 2020 | AGRICULTURE | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Sebastian Salazar Fuentes, CEO & Founder of Botaniktech, on the changing industry, licensing rules in Peru, and expectations for the coming year.

In a dynamic industry that moves at a rapid pace, what first-mover advantage does Botaniktech expect to see in the industry?

Our first advantage in the cannabis industry in Peru was our deep understanding of the plant and the regulations. The authorizations we have obtained as Botaniknow come as a result of this. Being ahead of our competitors and building relations with the government institutions involved in the industry have been our greatest advantages. As the industry develops, and regulation is implemented, we position ourselves as the cannabis knowledge reference in the industry in Peru.

What role does scientific research play in Botaniktech's model?

In the Peruvian cannabis industry, research can provide us with a better understanding of the potential benefits and uses of cannabinoids as well as help set higher standards of quality in production. Developing healthy synergies with all players is of great importance for a budding industry. In this sense, we have formed partnerships with an organization that is specially focused on R&D. It brings to the table important knowledge and data on consumers/patients, doctors, and uses of cannabis in Peru. This is key for us to develop effective strategies to open the cannabis market nationwide.

How is Botaniktech positioning itself to become the leading firm for Peruvian cannabis patients?

With a population above 32 million and more than a third living in its capital city Lima, we have a great advantage for logistics and distribution. We started our cannabis efforts in March 2018, building a company specializing in import/export, commercialization, and the distribution of cannabis and derived products called Botaniknow SAC. We have done things well, and as a result, we are the first in Peru to hold the authorization to operate as a pharmaceutical company dedicated to cannabis. We also obtained the first certificate for good storage practices (BPA) in compliance with the regulation regarding cannabis and its derivatives. Today, we aim to be the first company to introduce cannabis products to the Peruvian market. Later, through our pharmaceutical laboratory Botaniktech, we will cultivate and produce the much-needed medicine for Peruvian patients.

What can you tell us about the licensing and approval process for cannabis firms in Peru?

It is a complex process, with several key regulation milestones to overcome. This involves many steps and significant investments to be in compliance with all requirements from the Peruvian General Directorate of Medicines, Supplies and Drugs (DIGEMID). Regulation in Peru involves three main licenses: research, import/export and commercialization, and production. Only the first two are fully implemented for companies to apply to them, while the third is still under study by government institutions. We expect this to be ready at the end of 2019. Peru is the fourth country in the region to pass cannabis legislation. We have learned from Uruguay, Chile, and Colombian laws. There are two main differences in our regulations. Peru defines psychoactive cannabis as cannabis with more than 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and deems it “cannabis for medical and therapeutic use." Psychoactive cannabis does not include cannabis with less than 1% THC called hemp. This gives us a different understanding of the reach cannabis can have in the industry in Peru. The other key difference that is also an advantage is that we have considered in the regulation the possibility of distributing cannabis across the social health system, resulting in a bigger and controlled market.

What competitive advantage does Peru have in terms of becoming a cannabis leader?

Peru is known for many things: warm people, amazing food, and wonderful places to visit. Soon, it will also be known for its excellent quality of cannabis. We are fortunate to have one of the best environmental conditions in the world for cannabis cultivation. This advantage, in addition to extensive agricultural knowledge and today's technology, could be a game changer in the global cannabis industry. We are a multidisciplinary team that comes from different industries, and we are committed to making Peru the region's leader supplier of cannabis.

What will be the next step for Botaniktech, domestically and internationally?

In 1H2019, we have built solid strategic partners in Colombia, Canada, Germany, as well as Ecuador, which we are waiting for legislation to be passed. Our next step is to pass the registration process for cannabis-derived products to be sold in the markets. We expect this for early 2020. The alliances we have made internationally give us a solid base to aggressively penetrate the markets in the region. These synergies represent huge production and distribution capacities. We aim big and intend to be the first supplier for the South American market. At the same time, we will start our own farming operation and production of cannabis-derived products to be sold regionally in 2021.