Colombia: First Medical Marijuana License Granted — Amid Dissent

PharmaCielo Colombia Holdings, local subsidiary of Canada-based PharmaCielo Ltd, announced June 28 that it has won a manufacturing license from Colombia's Ministry of Health to process cannabis plants for medical and scientific purposes. This allows PharmaCielo to apply for a license to cultivate cannabis, primarily for production of oil extracts. The company is the first to be granted such license since President Juan Manuel Santos issued a decree in December establishing a legal framework for a medical marijuana program in Colombia. The operation will be based in Rionegro, Antioquia region.

The PharmaCielo press release stated: "There are many advantages to growing this industry in Colombia. In addition to its equatorial location and ideal microclimates, it is one of the most economically advantageous countries in the world for the production of large volumes of high-quality, low-cost cannabis due to its expertise in the flower industry, knowledgeable and skilled labor force and supportive government."

This is quite a turn-around from just a few years ago, when Colombia's government ran TV spots urging peasants not to grow cannabis, "the herb that kills."

Jon Ruiz, CEO of PharmaCielo in an interview with Bogotá's El Espectador emphasized Colombia's year-round growing season, anticipating higher yields for a fraction of the cost in Colorado, where expensive and energy-intensive grow lamps are mandated.

But there was some dissent—and not only from anti-drug hard-liners. Green Party senator Jorge Iván Ospina released a ballsy video of himself standing in a field of cannabis plants in Corinto, Cauca region, where he blasted the Health Ministry for granting the license to a foreign firm. Instead, he called on the government to "legalize cultivation for our indigenous and peasant communities."

photo: Getty Images

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