The Colombian government has sharply eased restrictions on medical cannabis, opening the door for companies to become the first in the South American country to export their products to the world.
Venezuela’s socialist administration has banned the export of cannabis products and its influence has encouraged Colombia’s right-wing government to take a cautious approach to allowing medical cannabis.
The new regulations were issued in a draft in early June and came into effect on July 1. Though recreational use remains illegal, government officials hope the new measures will boost Colombia’s global image as a key center for medical research and serve as an indicator of how legal marijuana would be regulated in other countries.
Alexandra Ortiz Trujillo, president of the Royal Society of Colombia, the nonprofit society of Colombian scientists, told Fox News Latino that Colombia wants to take a leadership role in scientific research and set best practices for other countries to follow.
Trujillo said her organization has long sought to study medical cannabis and is proud that the government’s new measures make that possible.
“This is a way for us to lead and contribute to the world of research on this particular medicine,” she said.
The move to ease the restrictions appears to show Colombia’s willingness to benefit from the large trade potential of medical cannabis. Of Colombia’s 48 million people, nearly 23 million, or 43 percent, are aged 16 to 60 and those without health insurance are considered a large potential market for the production and distribution of medicinal cannabis, as well as marijuana products.
Medical cannabis, a plant considered an untapped economic resource in Colombia, has many uses in different industries, including the treatment of cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other chronic illnesses. Medicinal cannabis is presently cultivated in 48 farms in Colombia and has been sold internationally by various companies but exports have been halted.
The Colombian government still has to pass legislation to establish regulations for the sale and use of marijuana and to regulate which specific medications from the plant can be approved. Since July 1, no exports are allowed. A new wave of social or recreational use of the drug is prohibited.
“We want to give the companies who have been working on the chemical composition and processes of the chemical oil the opportunity to see if they can export,” Colombian Industry Minister Sergio Diaz-Granados told Fox News Latino in a telephone interview.
Diaz-Granados noted that restrictions on marijuana exports are being eased as Colombia looks to industrialize its borders to increase regional trade in agricultural products, including cannabis.
At the same time, the importance of medical cannabis is not lost on Colombia’s leaders, who have invested the country’s economic resources in promoting medical research.
In Colombia, an estimated 300 graduates complete medical cannabis research every year, Trujillo said. “This allows us to be part of the research process that will take us into the pharmaceutical industry and not only the medicinal industry,” she said.
Fentanyl was recently detected in drugs that have been brought into the United States. Though a powerful painkiller, it is also a chemical used in making marijuana.
Trujillo, who is studying to become a pharmacologist, said that although she has no idea what other Latin American countries will do with similar export rules, she believes that the potential of the industry in Colombia and other parts of the region is great.
Arnulfo Sanchez contributed to this report.
Danna Flood is a contributor to Fox News Latino. She can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @dannieflood
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