JOSE I. ESCALANTE

Peru 2022 | HEALTH | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Jose I. Escalante, CEO of Futura Farms, about cannabis-based healthcare in Peru, competition, the industry at large, and the firm's “Organnical” platform.

Futura Farms is a digital solution for B2C distribution in Peru. Can you give us an overview of the company?

We define ourselves as a tech-enabled company because we sell real products through digital platforms. We are B2B2C, because the current Peruvian regulations make companies go through pharmacies to sell products to consumers. We generate demand for our products via our online medical platform (www.organnical.com), which gives us a close relationship with patients in Peru.

How does Futura Farms expand access to cannabis-based healthcare solutions in Peru?

Peru, similar to most Latin American countries, is extremely bureaucratic, and it is expensive and difficult to acquire a cannabis treatment. At the moment, the concept of a “medical marijuana card” does not exist, and the law requires the patient to schedule periodic medical appointments to acquire their medical prescription and finally gain access to their treatments. Since our mission is to promote health and wellness by democratizing access to medical, our platform, Organnical.com, was designed to deliver a 360-digital experience, connecting patients with trained physicians, authorized pharmacies, and friendly advisors that help in providing them with easy access to treatments; we like to consider ourselves as facilitators in this lengthy process.

What potential does medical cannabis have in Peru? How is Futura Farms positioning itself to benefit from first-mover advantage?

The Peruvian market has great potential, as there are many people who require medical cannabis treatments. The regulation is good; however, it can be improved. For example, the current Peruvian law requires that the cannabis biomass needs to be incinerated after harvest; this, as you can imagine, attempts to most global environmental regulations and needs to be addressed. Lately though, the legislation for associated cultivation of cannabis has just been approved, and we expect more positive changes to come soon. We position ourselves as the easy and trustworthy option; patients can have a consultation in about 30 minutes, receive their prescriptions by email, and if they qualify for this type of treatment, we connect them with a licensed pharmacy, so they can receive the product the very same day. All products that our doctors recommend are regulated and certified for our patient's safety.

What is the importance of having strong links across the supply chain, for example with doctors and cannabis suppliers?

It is extremely important. Doctors are key to improve quality of life of patients, and the more they understand the health benefits of cannabis the better. Manufacturers and pharmacies are also key, because without the products and ethical dispensing, you will not have a successful business. You also need to have the right product of the right quality for the right person, because some patients require extremely niche products, so you must have a broad portfolio. Another key stakeholder group are the pharmacies, because since we have to go through them to deliver the treatment to patients, developing a good relationship with them is a must. The business has to be win-win for both parties.

Peru is basing its regulation on Colombia's model. How do you view Peru's regulatory framework in terms of ease of business, quality, and access?

Regulation wise, Peru is open on the distribution side, though not on the production side. It is not hard to acquire a distribution license; you only need to have some permits to do so. CBD is not a controlled substance, and one can import it into the country, though it takes 30 business days or 45 calendar days to get the certificate. This is very challenging from a logistics standpoint. On the production side, Peru's laws have been extremely strict, and only one license has been issued up to date. There is a great deal of work to be done in this aspect, because just like Colombia, Peru has excellent weather and soil to contribute to the industry. We need to unite and promote the region because we have the potential to be important cannabis suppliers, just as we export other crops worldwide. We learned many things from Colombia, because it was the first country to make a big move in terms of cannabis in the region. The regulators were also open to talking with the private sector. Currently, there are no approved over-the-counter cannabis products available in the market.

How does Futura Farms contribute to the body of knowledge around cannabis through data gathering?

We gather data both on the front end and the back end of our business. We have a direct relationship with patients, so we are able to gather a large amount of data on prescription dynamics, patient demographics, the products that are being prescribed, and the ailments that are being treated. This helps us to better understand market dynamics and tailor portfolios for each country, and even by city. This is great for our stakeholders as well. In addition, we have signed an agreement with The Medical Cannabis Institute to customize courses for health professionals, and make sure current scientific information is available for doctors in the country.

What would be the impact on pain treatment of cannabis and what other medicinal attributes have potential?

In terms of pain treatments, the market is enormous; everyone feels pain at some point in their lives. Conducting research on different types of cannabis and cannabinoids can help treat different kinds of pain. We would like to expand to insomnia and anxiety as well. There is a natural partnership possibility between cannabis companies with universities and researchers. As an industry, we need to share and collaborate to be able to grow as an industry at a global scale. A very important aspect as well is the need to join forces to battle the illegal medical cannabis market, which is huge in Peru at the moment. This is not only a threat to our business, but also for the patients.

How is Futura Farms contributing to expanding access and formalizing cannabis consumption?

In order to educate and generate awareness on the potential and benefits of medical cannabis in the country, it's necessary to go mobile. This is why a mobile friendly website is a must for us! Consumers are hyperconnected and look for solutions that make their life easier, which is why the cannabis industry should be no different. Our Organnical platform was made with ease of use in mind, and for the less tech savvy customers we have a friendly customer service department that gladly helps them with their medical appointment reservations. We need to be in the sweet spot between medicine, science, wellness, and the consumer-based economy, and that is our approach. We want to maintain a close relationship with patients by creating a potent patient-centric ecosystem.