Business & Economy

Medicinal cannabis: A growing industry in mountains of southwest Colombia

By Mario Baos

Dagua, Colombia, May 16 (EFE).- Cannabis production continues to expand in the mountains of the southwestern Colombian department of Valle del Cauca, although those plants are being grown for scientific, industrial and medicinal purposes and are not fueling a rise in small-scale drug trafficking or violence.

The Valle del Cauca municipality of Dagua, for example, is home to projects like Green Leaf Colombia, a venture launched in 2017 by four friends that in 2022 sold more than 800 kilos (1,760 pounds) of premium cannabis flower for medicinal use to more than 15 legal, licensed entities.

“We have crops (grown) for extraction purposes from which we make creams, ointments, oils and other derivatives. Over time, the companies we’ve sold to have created new products that are exported all over the world,” Camilo Martinez, Green Leaf Colombia’s founding partner, told Efe.

Like Martinez’s operation, more than 40 other business ventures in Valle del Cauca – and nearly 4,000 throughout Colombia – hold licenses to grow cannabis for medicinal and commercial purposes and see in that plant a new “green gold” that could serve as an economic growth engine.

“It’s about dispelling myths, about no longer saying it’s a ‘mata que mata’ (plant that kills). On the contrary, it’s a plant that heals. In (a space of) 1,500 (square) meters, we provide employment to 10 workers, several of them peasant farmers” involved in the extraction process, Martinez said.

Cannabis has been fully legal for medicinal purposes in Colombia since 2016, while government decrees and resolutions in recent years also have cleared the way for the food, textile and beverage sectors to make use of cannabis’ non-psychoactive components.

Additionally, a bill that would decriminalize the sale and use of recreational cannabis was passed last week by the lower house and is now pending approval by the Senate before potentially being signed into law.

Even so, voices within the medical community are calling for prudence, among them Dr. Maria Fernanda Arboleda, an anesthesiologist who specializes in chronic pain and palliative care and also is an expert on medicinal cannabis.

In remarks to Efe, she said people should exercise caution with cannabis and warned against practicing self-medication.

“Cannabis should be taken seriously and patients should only take it with a prescription … you shouldn’t consume a product sold in clandestine places; everything should be under professional supervision,” Arboleda said.

Universities in the southwestern Colombian departments of Cauca, Putumayo and Nariño also are conducting research into medicinal cannabis and are counting on effective regulations being put in place in the coming months that allow more thorough scientific investigation and ensure the growth of a promising industry for Colombia. EFE


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