A hot topic garnering the attention of many Colombians and expats alike is the ongoing failings of the Duque administration and the hard approach they have taken towards the criminalization of drug use.
This comes after years of a softer approach where the consumption of marijuana was viewed as a health issue and decriminalized. It is not difficult to understand Duque’s hard stance on drugs given recent record highs for Colombian cocaine production and Trump’s threats to slash aid in response.
Let’s take a closer look at the story surrounding cannabis in Colombia, its legality and the latent potential for investment.
Cannabis in Manizales
Wherever you are in Colombia, the sickly-sweet smell of marijuana being consumed wafts through the air. There is a long history of local cultivation and consumption. Take a quick dive into the streets downtown in el Centro or the Milan lookout, called a mirador in Spanish or the old cable station by Cable Plaza on a Friday evening and you will be engulfed by the sweet, what some describe as tantalizing, aroma.
Recreational cannabis consumption in Manizales is like almost any other city in Colombia, despite or perhaps because of its association as the intellectual capital of Colombia.
Despite being the most conservative city in the coffee axis, it has one of the very first Colombian cannabis doctors whose practice is focused solely on prescribing Cannabidiol (CBD) oil. They also offer support for those patients seeking to cultivate their own herb.
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Nataly Bolaños stays busy. The earliest openings are at least a week or two out. Plan ahead, or ask for a virtual consultation via Skype.
This is what she told us in a recent interview:
“We are in a boom, an important moment of legalization. But, we need to do small high quality production versus a big business which is only focused on quantity. In Cauca, there are generations of indigenous knowledge about this sacred plant which needs to be shared and given to the people.”
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Cannabis in Colombia
Essentially Colombian law approves medical cannabis with a prescription. Smokers can have up to 20 grams of the flower legally in their possession – but not in public. It is illegal to buy and sell the flower – especially now during the Duque Administration. The best situation is to get prescribed and then purchase high quality lab certified CBD oil, or grow your own Cannabis.
According to “CannaBiz” magazine’s (located in Ibague, Colombia) article titled “Cannabis, un Negocio con Licencia,” the law about home grow ops and personal cannabis products was passed and produced the current norms in 2016.
The article goes on to explain that without an INVIMA certificate, (a type of approval from an agency which enforces food standards); products with cannabis in them are technically illegal. A rarely enforced fact when they are in creams, tinctures, oil concentrates and edibles which are sold on many street corners and markets of Colombia.
For growing at home using “huertas caseras,” you can have up to and including 19 plants.
Of course, you must cover your “cola de paja,” or weak spot by ensuring you have a prescription written by a fully licensed doctor.
According to another article in the same publication called “Colombia, what has happened with regulation? (Spanish),” they draw conclusions about the failure of the war on drugs, and touch on what is known as the “Green Rush“, drawing parallels to the California gold rush
The aforementioned article states that, in 2018, ICA, or Instituto Colombiano Agropecuario (the controlling authority of exportation and product movements, like the FDA in the US) received more than 600 solicitations for grow/export licenses. It then goes on to say that the sheer demand has stretched them to their limits.”
Colombian Cannabis Potential
Regulation of recreational cannabis use has taken a large backwards step. This is because of conservative President Duque’s hard approach to drugs where policy is focused on prevention. There is a considerable social stigma attached to recreational consumption which is worsened by a lack of responsible use. Duque’s push to recriminalize consumption has not impacted licensed and compliant legal cannabis cultivation.
Colombia possesses a significant potential for legal marijuana cultivation which has yet to be fully recognized. An important market is exporting cannabis to countries which have embraced legalization.
The Andean nation has far lower startup and operating costs compared to many North American jurisdictions. Colombia also has a superior temperate climate in a variety of climatic zones where stable temperatures, long consistent periods of sunlight and ample access to water makes lower cost outdoor cultivation possible. This is enhanced by clear regulation and low-cost experienced labour. That gives the equatorial country a significant competitive advantage over Canada and the U.S..
How important is Cannabis cultivation to Colombia? In one article, via Motley Fool, “Oil’s prolonged slump has sharply impacted Colombia’s economy. This is forcing Bogota to find alternative economic growth drivers, illustrating the importance of successfully executing its strategy to make Colombia a leading medical marijuana producer.”
Could Cannabis become a major driver of world economy behind oil? Colombia seems to believe so – even if they continue to insist on following the demands of the Drug War overlords by keeping it socially taboo.
Publicly listed companies like PharmaCielo, Aphria and Aurora have already thrown their dice with Colombia, as their preferred cultivation destination. Legalization is still largely geared towards medical products.
New legislation is being proposed by Congress in July 2019 in an effort to legalize recreational use. It would take very little effort for an investor to begin with export and later branch out into recreational Cannabis tourism in a year or two.
Recreational cannabis has its place and advantages – need we mention that no one dies of overdose, in contrast with alcohol which is legal? Unfortunately, Colombia tends to show and attract the worst examples of users and investments by large multinational corporations alike which come and create large plantations.
This article will give you the basic outlook. For more details including contact information for the doctor in Manizales, numbers, statistics and data relating to cannabis regulations, legalization and issues, be sure to subscribe to our VIP Benefits Tier for only $5 per month!
- “Cannabiz: La Nueva Industria Verde” magazine – May Edition, 2019
“Cannabis: Un Negocio con Licencia” by Daniela Gonzalez Cifuentes
“Colombia Que Ha Pasado con la Reglamentacion” by Juan Manuel Galán