Pharmaceutical

What should we expect for the cannabis industry in Colombia as the new government takes power?

13/08/2018

The presidential elections held on June 17 provoked many concerns among the cannabis industry, as president elect Ivan Duque, whose campaign was supported by an ultra-conservative party, sustained a strong anti-narcotics position that could be extended to medical cannabis, without regard to the obvious distinction between the two industries. However, since elected, Duque’s choices and statements have been rather positive towards the issue.

For instance, he chose Juan Pablo Uribe Restrepo as Minister of Health and Social protection, a doctor whose long-term career in health sciences and patient treatment seems to indicate that his decisions will be determined by science, health and wellbeing criteria instead of political interests. Restrepo is coming from the private sector, specifically from serving as director of a major high end, private hospital.   

It is relevant to point out that as head of the Ministry of Health, Uribe Restrepo will be in charge of issuing the decisions related to the licenses for the fabrication of psychoactive cannabis derived products. As far as legislative agenda, it has been already stated that the health-related prioritized concerns from the new government are the regulation and operation of public hospitals and health provider entities. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Duque’s government will make detrimental variations to the cannabis regulation in a foreseeable future.

In the same sense, Duque’s Minister of Law and Justice will be lawyer Gloria María Borrero, who had been working for several years with United Nations in programs for the development of countries. Borrero has not held any position against cannabis, which is very soothing as the Ministry of Law and Justice is the entity issuing the licenses for cultivating cannabis and cannabis seeds utilization.

Furthermore, Duque’s government will have the involvement of open supporters of the medicinal cannabis industry. This is the case of the new Minister of Industry and Commerce and former head of Universidad del Rosario, Jose Manuel Restrepo, who strongly believes cannabis industry should be supportive as it will most surely imply a direct growth in Colombia’s economy. Being one of Colombia’s most recognized economists, Restrepo’s financial forecast predicts that, in an early stage, the industry will represent and overall income above 1,000 million dollars within the country, with the chance of a long-term income up to 4,300 million dollars.  Restrepo has such trust in the industry that he has repeatedly disproved the myths around the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Also, it would be reasonable to expect that Restrepo will encourage mostly the exportation of medicinal cannabis, as he has stated it has the potential to replace flowers and fruits within the role of Colombia in the international economy, upholding that in a few years it is likely that Colombia will hold at least the 10% of the worldwide cannabis exportation quota.

Even when it is safe to assume that the new government will not be a threat for the cannabis industry and the licenses yet to be issued, it will face a challenge that the administration has been dealing with for months now:  the demand for cannabis licenses has been so high that the respective Ministries are overloaded, which causes that the issuing of licenses  takes more time than expected.

To date, 67 companies hold cannabis licenses; 7 of them have seed-using licenses, 48 of them have licenses for cultivating non-psychoactive cannabis, and 40 of them have licenses for cultivating psychoactive cannabis. Moreover, only 41 companies hold licenses for the fabrication of cannabis derived products.

Considering all of the above, Duque’s government priorities, in addition to an upcoming tax reform, the fact that the current medicinal cannabis regulation would have to go through an extensive legislative process in Congress, and that the licenses that have been granted cannot be withdrawn, it is highly likely that the course of cannabis industry in Colombia will be uneventful, meaning the companies and investors involved can ease while preparing for the Colombian cannabis products to go out in the national and international market to meet the financial predictions.

 

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