The calculations of the Ministry of Justice are ambitious and leave no doubt. If everything goes as expected, Colombia can produce 44% of the demand for marijuana for medicinal use in the world in the coming years.
Not in vain, the International Board for the Control of Narcotics of the UN granted the country at the beginning of 2018 a quota of 40 tons and already 196 licenses have been issued throughout the country, of which 54 are for the production of derivatives as medicines, oils and ointments. The rest are for the use of seeds and psychoactive and non-psychoactive marijuana crops.
It is estimated that the first cannabis ointments and oils made in Colombia will be produced between 2019 and 2020. Only in Santander there are already 10 approved licenses, which are in the hands of six companies: Tailormed, Cannavida, Green Health Colombia, Cannamed RX, G Miracle and Medicolombia’s Cannabis.
One of the owners of the first company is Luis Hernando Serrano Ulloque, who was a partner in the Floridablanca photomultas consortium.
The first company to obtain licenses was Cannavida, which has already made the news due to the alleged internal conflicts and the rejection it has generated among a sector of Barichara due to the location of the crops in that municipality.
In addition, some experts who had been working with that company, such as Claudio César Martín Gómez, ended up in Tailormed, the company of Luis Hernando Serrano, husband of Luz Faride Mustafá.
According to the spokesmen of these six companies, the crops and factories will be located in the municipalities of Barichara, San Gil, Los Santos, Suaita and the metropolitan area of Bucaramanga.
Change in legislation, the starting point
The new Law 1787 of 2016 has led to dozens of investors are putting their eyes on the country. This is because Colombia has great potential as a producer of medical marijuana. For starters, it does not have stations like other producing countries (United States and Canada) and therefore the plant can be grown all year round. In addition, the greater hours of sun and the climatic conditions allow that the plants grow naturally and that there are organic processes.
Despite this, some obstacles have already emerged, largely because there is still a negative perception about marijuana. In some cases there have been voices of rejection among the neighbors of the crops. In addition, there are difficulties in obtaining financing for the projects, as the banks consider that it is still a high-risk business
Marijuana crops and factories in Santander: Where will they be located?
Although other departments such as Cundinamarca and Antioquia concentrate the majority of the 196 medical marijuana licenses that are already approved in the country, Santander plans to become one of the leading producers of cannabis medicines in the country.
In that sense, there are already 10 licenses granted in the department and alliances between the companies based in the region have begun to be formulated.
For example, Green Health and Tailormed told this wording their intention to work together in the production chain, the first taking care of the crops and the second focusing on the manufacture of derivatives.
In general, there are projects to locate crops (100% organic in all cases) or factories in municipalities such as Los Santos, Barichara, San Gil, Suaita and the metropolitan area of Bucaramanga.
But, who are these companies that from Santander want to invest in medical marijuana ?, Who are their owners ?, What are the expectations they have in the business and in the export of drugs to Canada, Europe and the USA?
Companies of Santander – Cannavida: 17,5 hectares in Barichara
Cannavida was one of the first companies to put their eyes on the department and identify its potential for medical marijuana cultivation, although it has not been without controversy.
His legal representative is the Canadian Ron Marzel, who ended up fighting with three of his collaborators (there is a judicial process under development).
They have a plot of 17.5 hectares in the village of Santa Elena de Barichara, 9 km from the town center. Of these, 8 will be for environmental conservation and 3 for marijuana crops.
Although a sector of the population of Barichara has opposed this project, Marzel assures that it is a minority. He explained, in addition, that the water they will use will have three sources: a jagüey, the collection of rainwater and an underground well, and this would not generate environmental impacts, nor will it go against the initiatives to supply potable water to that municipality.
They already have the four licenses and plan to start producing before the end of 2019. They will invest US $ 13 million in the next two years.
Tailormed and its links with photomultures
One of the companies that already have a license to manufacture medicines is Tailormed, whose offices are in Bucaramanga. Her legal representative is Luis Hernando Serrano Ulloque, husband of Luz Faride Mustafá, whose family (Serrano – Mustafá) was a partner of the concessionaire of the Floridablanca photomultas.
This concession, it should be remembered, was settled by mutual agreement in April of this year and has generated controversy over the allegations of alleged abuses and irregularities.
The pharmaceutical chemist is Claudio César Martín Gómez, who initially was part of Cannavida, but after an internal dispute decided to take another course and support the Tailormed project. The financial director is Jesús Manuel Rodríguez.
As indicated to this wording, this company, which only has a license for production of derivatives, will ally with Green Health, which will supply the raw material (the flower or the plant of marijuana).
Tailormed says it will invest up to US $ 85 million and is planning to locate in one of the free zones of the metropolitan area of Bucaramanga.
Green Health, 100% santandereana
One of the companies that will be located in Los Santos is Green Health, which has six partners, all of them Santandereans: Mario Di Zeo, Eduardo Mayorga, Omar Osma, Andrés Calderón, Darwin Saustoki and Jaime Daza.
They have already built a 1000 m² greenhouse there with the infrastructure required by the ICA. In addition, they also have projects in Pinchote and Lebrija.
The goal of Green Health is to invest US $ 6 million between this year and next, and US $ 20 million in the next five years.
They will have a first phase of research that will last a year and a half, and hope to produce marijuana extracts in the course of 2020.
For now, they only have a non-psychoactive cannabis license, but they affirm that two more licenses are about to be granted.
For now, they will ally with Tailormed, which already has a license to manufacture derivatives.
Colombia Cannamed RX, with his eyes on San Gil
The fourth company to be located in Santander is Colombia Cannamed RX, which will be located in the Jaral San Pedro neighborhood of San Gil, beyond the Bella Isla sector.
They already have a license for non-psychoactive cannabis and hope in the short term to obtain psychoactive cannabis and derivative manufacturing.
The partners are Garth Brosemer, an American carpenter with 25 years of experience in medicinal marijuana (he had crops in California), the Mexican Rodrigo Aguirre and the Colombian architect Laura Catalina García Forero.
According to them, the expectation they have is not only to enter the medicinal market, but also to take advantage of hemp (fiber obtained from non-psychoactive cannabis) to manufacture textiles, paper and other similar materials.
The goal of them is that by the second semester of 2019 they are already cultivating the first harvest.
G Miracle will be based in Suaita
One of the last Santanderean companies to obtain licenses was G Miracle, which will be based in the Vado Real de Suaita corregimiento.
According to the legal representative, Leandro McMahon, for now they have a license for the use of seeds and another for non-psychoactive cannabis, but they hope to receive soon the cultivation of psychoactive cannabis plants.
For this, they will invest 20 million dollars in the next three years and will support the local workforce affected by the sugarcane crisis. In addition, they have already made contacts in Poland, the Czech Republic and Canada to export the product.
Medicolombia’s: Los Santos is the ideal place
Holger Amaya Chacón said that he became interested in medicinal cannabis 8 years ago, due to a cancer for which his father died. From there arose the idea of creating Medicolombia’s Cannabis with its other partners: Luis Carlos Uribe (surgeon), engineer Alberto Villamizar and Miguel Amaya Cabellos (gynecologist and oncologist).
This company has a farm of five hectares and already has a license to use seeds for sowing, but they hope to obtain in the future the cultivation of psychoactive cannabis plants and the manufacture of derivatives. The initial goal is to invest one million dollars to set up the laboratory and the processor. Its first production would be ready in the second half of 2019.
The projection they have is to dedicate themselves to the manufacture of oils or resins with high levels of CBD or THC and export these products to Mexico. In addition, they do not rule out making alliances with other companies in the region.
Generalities of medicinal cannabis
1 – There are studies that show that it is effective to treat symptoms such as chronic pain, nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite related to some diseases or medical treatments such as chemotherapy (used for cancer). It is also useful for treating symptoms of certain disorders such as refractory epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
What is medical marijuana used for?
Solve your doubts about medical marijuana
Is the production and commercialization of medical marijuana legal in Colombia?
Yes, it is legal, as long as it complies with the provisions of Law 1787 of 2016 and the resolutions that complement it. The regulations specify the granting of licenses, the allocation of quotas and the control of cannabis production for medicinal and scientific purposes. In addition, the requirements for small producers are detailed.
2 – Medical marijuana applications
No, products of this type are still not being produced in the country. It is expected that some companies will manufacture the first cannabis drugs made in Colombia for the first quarter of 2019.
The only drug with marijuana that is circulating nationally is called Sativex, which is imported from England and has special control. This medication is used to treat moderate or severe spasticity (stiffness) of the muscles caused by multiple sclerosis.
Are medicinal marijuana products currently being developed?
Where can you buy cannabis products?
Once the marketing of products begins in 2019, it is estimated that products derived from non-psychoactive cannabis such as cosmetics, creams and oils can be purchased at any pharmacy. On the other hand, medicines that have more than 2 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) will be of special control. That is, they can only be purchased in pharmacies authorized by the FNE. In addition, medical formulas can not be prescribed for more than 90 days of treatment.
What are the side effects of medical marijuana?
Like many drugs that we already use, it has side effects. Some of them are drowsiness and cognitive alterations. When medications have a high degree of THC, it is considered to be psychoactive marijuana and in some cases can cause hallucinations and dependence.
Which doctors in Colombia would be able to prescribe medicines with medical marijuana?
All doctors who are practicing their profession legally, that is, who are enrolled in the National Registry of Human Talent in Health (RETHUS) can prescribe medical marijuana.
However, there will be a process of pedagogy, because they did not learn about the applications of cannabis in the university and it is hoped that “with courses and diploma courses they will be informed and able to prescribe based on evidence”, assured Andrés López, Director of the National Fund of Narcotics
What about the people who sell medical marijuana products on the streets and squares, protected by the slogan that they are ancestral or indigenous products?
According to the FNE, for cannabis it is not valid to hide behind the issue of being indigenous, because this is not an ancestral plant, unlike the coca that is in America millions of years ago. In these cases, it is up to the Ministry of Health to seize the products (which do not comply with the health measures of the Invima) and to impose fines if deemed necessary.
3 – Regarding medicinal cannabis licenses
What requirements are needed to process a license?
Any natural or juridical person, of Colombian or foreign nationality (who is domiciled in the country) can request a medicinal marijuana license, as long as it meets certain requirements, among them that he has no criminal record related to drug trafficking.
Among the specific requirements are the description of the equipment to be used, the cultivation plan and the safety protocol, among others. In case that the cannabis is going to be used for scientific research, all the documents that accredit the project must be added .
What are the entities in charge of issuing licenses and controlling the production of medical marijuana in Colombia?
It depends on the type of license. For example, the Ministry of Justice issues and exercises control over licenses for the use of seed for sowing, psychoactive cannabis and non-psychoactive cannabis.
For its part, the Ministry of Health grants the license to manufacture derivatives (oils, ointments, etc.), while the Ministry of Agriculture provides accompaniment in the aspects related to the crop. The National Police, the Invima and the Ica also fulfill control and advisory functions in some cases.
Can companies start their activities only with the license?
When the license is for the use of seeds for sowing or growing non-psychoactive cannabis, companies can operate immediately.
However, those who have a license to grow psychoactive cannabis or to manufacture derivatives or medicines also need a quota to start their activities.
To obtain it, it is necessary to comply with stricter requirements, from a financial, technical and control point of view. So far, although there are more than 196 licenses granted, only 14 places have been allocated throughout the country, of which three are for the manufacture of medicines.
What guarantees are there that the marijuana produced in these companies will be used to manufacture medicines and will not end up marketed on the black market?
The competent authorities (Ministry of Health or Justice) will monitor and report every six months to verify that the provisions of the license are being complied with.
If a person fails to comply, a request will be made to remedy it within a specific timeframe. If the problem is not resolved and persists, the license may be removed.
Vanguardia -August 31 of 2018- Reporting and writing: Vanguardia Liberal investigative