Colombia is notorious as the world’s most significant supplier of cocaine. Now it is positioning itself as a producer and exporter of yet another drug, one particular that is increasingly legal about the globe — cannabis. With interest in healthcare marijuana booming, the major North American cannabis organizations are increasingly searching abroad for areas exactly where they can develop plants conveniently and cheaply. Colombia, with its equatorial climate and 12 hours of daylight all year round, fits the bill. Land and labour is fairly affordable, and a skilled rural workforce has practical experience in the reduce-flower business. It is far less costly for Colombian farmers to generate cannabis than their counterparts in North America and Europe, exactly where growers have to invest dollars on climate-controlled greenhouses to combat harsh winters. The Colombians can generate a gramme of dry flower for $.50-$.80 even though in Canada it expenses about $two, says Mat Youkee, editor of Colombia Cannabis Investor, an business newsletter. As a outcome, some major North American pot organizations have piled into Colombia.
The biggest, Canopy Development, with a marketplace capitalisation of a lot more than $13bn, has spent about $60m to make Spectrum Cannabis Colombia with a cultivation web-site in the southern province of Huila. In June final year, Khiron Life Sciences, a Canadian-Colombian firm, became the very first cannabis producer with core operations in Colombia to list on the Toronto stock exchange. Nearby operator Clever Leaves has teamed up with US venture capitalists Northern Swan and is making cannabis in Boyacá, north of Bogotá. Julián Wilches, a co-founder of Clever Leaves, believes Colombia has the possible to develop into “the top exporter of healthcare cannabis in the world”. Toronto-listed PharmaCielo has a Colombian cannabis subsidiary in Rionegro, close to the country’s former cocaine capital Medellín. It describes Colombia as “the most price-competitive and environmentally friendly nation” on earth for cannabis cultivation. The incentives for this flurry of investment are clear. The legal cannabis business is one particular of the quickest increasing in the globe. In just a handful of years, most of Europe and Latin America as effectively as Canada and more than 30 US states have passed laws to permit the medicinal use of cannabis. Canada and Uruguay have gone additional, legalising recreational marijuana use, as have some US states, most not too long ago Illinois. Grand View Investigation, a Californian-primarily based consultancy, expects the international marketplace for legal cannabis to develop by 24 per cent per year more than the subsequent six years from $13.8bn now to $66.3bn by the finish of 2025. The excitement more than cannabis in Colombia has reached fever pitch with some regional media reports suggesting the nation could provide two-fifths of the world’s marijuana and earn a lot more from it than it does from coal or reduce flowers. Farmers have been encouraged to switch out of classic crops like coffee and bananas to develop weed alternatively. But business authorities sound a note of caution. The production of pharmaceutical-grade cannabis is a hugely specialised course of action — it is not as very simple as planting a handful of marijuana seeds, harvesting the crop and turning it into medicine.
“It may possibly be correct that Colombia is the ideal nation in the globe for cannabis cultivation since of the climate and sunlight and since land and labour are affordable,” stated Andrés López, a former director of the National Narcotics Fund, a state physique that regulates the legal drugs trade in Colombia. “But that is not adequate. To generate healthcare cannabis you need to have the really highest good quality requirements.” That demands the sort of investment that quite a few modest-scale Colombian farmers can’t afford. Khiron, for instance, has invested $five.5m in its state of the art processing laboratory in Tolima. Some regional growers worry that without the need of the backing of North American money, they will be squeezed out of the cannabis marketplace by a handful of major players. A different challenge is safety. Even though Colombia is far safer than it as soon as was — especially because the government signed a historic peace deal with the Marxist guerrilla group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in 2016 — it is not Canada. Some observers worry that if the cannabis business proves as profitable as quite a few predict it will fall into the similar criminal hands that manage the cocaine trade. As he walks about Khiron’s cultivation centre in the sweltering heat of Tolima, a classic rice-increasing region, the company’s CEO Alvaro Torres explains that all the cannabis extract developed at the web-site will be flown to Bogotá by helicopter. “Each flask is worth about $100,000,” he says. “There’s no way we’re transporting it by road.” Khiron also has the backing of former Mexican president Vicente Fox, who is on the board of directors. “The speed at which this firm and this business is expanding is special,” he stated throughout a current take a look at to Bogotá. There is a specific irony in the concept of Colombia — so usually related with drug-trafficking — making and exporting drugs legally, specifically from these components of the nation that have been worst hit by the cocaine trade and the extended civil conflict. Tolima and Huila, the regions exactly where Khiron and Spectrum Cannabis Colombia have their cultivation web pages, have been exactly where the Farc very first emerged in the 1960s. Coca and marijuana have been grown illegally there for decades. Rionegro, exactly where PharmaCielo operates, was as soon as blighted by fighting in between the state, guerrillas and rightwing paramilitaries. In a bid to assistance some of the victims of the conflict, PharmaCielo is functioning with a group of a lot more than 60 farmers who it says have been “at the front line of challenge from revolutionary forces more than previous decades”. They are becoming educated to generate cannabis pure adequate for medicinal use. The firm is also functioning with indigenous groups who have grown cannabis in Colombia’s fertile hills for centuries. As the nation embarks on this most current stage of its complicated and usually fraught connection with narcotics, they as well, PharmaCielo says, “must have their rightful seat at the table of the cannabis industry”.