In Ecuador, a young company sees cannabis as raw material of the future

By Fernando Arroyo Leon

Quito, Jul 24 (EFE).- In Ecuador a year ago, company CannAndes began the challenge of generating an industry dedicated to making medicinal and therapeutic products based on cannabis, a plant stigmatized in the country for decades but that could become the raw material of the future.

The company settled in the vicinity of the city of Tabacundo, about 80 kilometers north of Quito, on an Andean plateau dominated by the snow-capped Cayambe volcano.

Company president Klaus Graetze told Efe that he has no doubt that CBD (cannbidiol), a non-psychoactive component of cannabis, offers a huge range of health benefits.

His company was formally established last year, after Ecuador in 2019 decriminalized the production of cannabis with less than 1 percent THC (psychoactive) content for medicinal and therapeutic purposes.

Graezte and his partners had been watching the United States market, where cannabis use, even for recreational purposes, had grown exponentially.

On a rose farm and among giant greenhouses, Graetze had one hectare of land to start growing cannabis plants.

Tabacundo is one of the best places in the world to do this, according to Graetze, who pointed to the light in the area, where the sun falls perpendicularly at noon, and the water coming down from the Mojanda and Fuya Fuya hills.

The perennial spring climate allows for better photosynthesis and flower growth, he said.

Next to the plantation, CannAndes has drying, storage and cold spaces, and a laboratory in which CBD is extracted to make a range of products.

Shampoos, soaps, skin cream, aromatic drinks, candies, oil tinctures, inhalers and other items emerge from this business initiative.

Graezte, however, said he was aware that cannabis has had a bad reputation in the country for almost 90 years, since marijuana was declared illegal, and added his firm has the challenge of showing people that CBD is also a victim of that stigmatization.

For this reason, he is meticulous in indicating that his products strictly respect the current regulations on cannabinoids and hopes that soon he will have the documents that allow him to fully enter the Ecuadorian market.

He also awaits the regulations that will allow him to export his products to foreign markets such as the US and Europe.

Felipe Norton, general manager of CannAndes, is the agronomist who rigorously monitors the quality of the processes. At the site, he shows the plantation and explains that cannabinoids are found in the calyces, from which the resin is extracted for refining.

He added that the plant provides fibers that can be industrialized, as well as seeds with high nutritional value.

The company’s plants come from seeds purchased in the US, although the best individuals are cloned at the Tabacundo plantation to boost productivity.

Nina Tapia, the company’s development expert, is in charge of devising the products, and she sees no limits.

“They can add CBD or cannabis in absolutely anything you can eat or spread,” she said.

For example, the use of cannabis-based shampoo gives body and shine to the hair, but also facilitates its growth, while body creams help the skin, soothe it, and banish blemishes.

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