Photo: High Times
In November, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos told BBC Mundo that he intended to legalize “marihuana” by executive decree. The legalization is two fold - Colombia will formally legalize medicinal marijuana and will also create cannabis export licenses and industries. The new regulatory framework will cover everything from production and distribution to commercialization and exportation.The comprehensive marijuana policy will allow the Colombian health center to make sure everything stays safe. While Santos’s promise hasn’t yet been made into law, the coming shift in official Colombian drug policy already has the world a buzz because of the potential ramifications. In his BBC Mundo interview, Santos conveyed his desire to have Colombia catch up to other countries in the world when it comes to medicinal marijuana. Santos said:
“There is big demand. There are already firms in Canada and the United States that are using marijuana for a variety of therapeutic, medicinal treatments.”
He thoroughly believes that Colombia will have a large future role to play in the international cannabis industry, just as it has in the past. Santos’s move to fully regulate medical marijuana isn’t just about curbing the power of drug lords or getting a piece of the growing international cannabis industry, Santos has estimated that at least 400,000 Colombians suffer from epilepsy and could directly benefit from medicinal marijuana. Santos has been championing decriminalization and sensible regulation of cannabis and coca since his days as a Senator. While it is currently legal for Colombians to possess 22 grams or 20 plants for personal use, a set regulatory framework would allow for the import and export of the cannabis strains that have the most medicinal properties. Cannabidiol (CBD) dominant strains are necessary to create the CBD oil that is used to treat children with epilepsy. Mexico and Brazil have already relaxed marijuana laws to allow the import of CBD products, and they will soon have a nearby country that is ready to export to them.
Whether or not there is international demand for legal Colombian marijuana, that is high in THC, remains to be seen. According to statistics from the Canadian government agency that oversees marijuana regulation, local sources are more than able to supply Canada’s projected medicinal marijuana consumption. As legalization of recreational marijuana sweeps the globe, each country’s tallied domestic production grows quite quickly and resiliently - like a weed. In most jurisdictions where medicinal marijuana is allowed, growing up to six plants per patient is also permitted. We can’t forget that much of domestic production happens in microgroweries located in personal residences around the world. In the case of Canada, import and export of cannabis plants and seeds is allowed if you file the proper paperwork and are approved. The medicinal marijuana friendly country is home to a growing chain of shops that only sell cannabis seeds, which owner Joel Capin contends is entirely legal. Capin may soon be able to import prized and rare seeds directly from Colombia and be 100% certain of the legality.
While Colombia’s reputation in the outside world is often overshadowed by Escobar and cocaine, marijuana has been a staple export of the region since before the cocaine craze. Colombia is the homeland of certain marijuana landraces that have long been utilized by the indigenous population. Landraces are native cannabis strains that grow in many countries around the world. Colombia’s geographical location by the equator provides these plants with a nearly perfect 12-12 natural light cycle during the flowering process. Punta Roja, Colombian Gold, and Limon Verde are three Colombian landraces that cannabis enthusiasts will recognize from bygone decades. Alejandro Gaviria, Colombia’s health minister, voiced his support for President Santos’s decree. He stated:
“There’s a global market that is going to grow and Colombia can participate in through big companies.”
The first big marijuana companies, like Green House Seeds, have popularized “strain hunting” for landraces in different areas of the world like Colombia. Now, the Colombians that have served as the stewards of these strains for the past centuries are soon going to be able to legally provide their product, from seed to medicine, to the entire world.