Cannabis medicinal

The euphoria is great globally, the prospects are good for 2020 but there are still obstacles.

"Do not estimate the money more or less than it is worth, because he is a good servant and a bad master," says the famous phrase of the French playwright and novelist Alejandro Dumas, but the advice seems to matter little to those who only see the multimillion-dollar profits that the legal marijuana business could bring them this year.

Since President Juan Manuel Santos sanctioned and Congress approved law 1787 of 2016, which allowed the medical and scientific use of cannabis and its derivatives in Colombia and, since more than fifty countries have partially or fully legalized it, the The so-called 'vegetable gold' business has grown rapidly and is expected to consolidate in 2020.

"The world trend is towards legalization," says Hugo Ramírez, an economist and expert on the subject.

“There is euphoria and optimism throughout the world. In Colombia, regulation, issuance of licenses and permits, and matters related to legal certainty still need to be perfected. ”

"In the United States, it is expected that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soften its position in this regard and that at least 90% of the 50 states legalize it this year for both therapeutic and recreational ”, added Ramírez.

The cannabis market could grow globally from around US $ 12,000 million in 2019 to US $ 55,800 in 2025, with an optimistic scenario of US $ 166,000 million, according to a recent study by Fedesarrollo that concluded that medical cannabis could generate more jobs and growth for Colombian agriculture than bananas and flowers.

Also, it represents an opportunity to diversify Colombian exports since agricultural products represent only 16% and there is plenty of room to grow.

The study recommends, in addition to this prospecting, take advantage of the knowledge that Colombia has regarding the export of flowers to continue betting on the cultivation and processing of the oil extracted from the cannabis flower.

The study estimates that the cultivated area of ​​medicinal cannabis in the country reaches 7,358 hectares and that of ornamental flowers 7,700 hectares, which leads to the conclusion that it could produce about 21,000 jobs, more than floriculture.

The impact of this venture on rural employment would be outstanding because, as it is an intensive cultivation, 10 and 17 people per hectare would be required, who would receive all the benefits of the law, to carry it out, according to what Juan Carlos Echeverry, former minister, said publicly. de Hacienda and one of the authors of the Fedesarrollo study.

The scenario is so optimistic in terms of job production that it is estimated that “it would approach the one generated by the entire plastics industry or the production of vegetables and legumes. You could talk about up to 100,000 new jobs, "said Echeverry.

Six months ago the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) expanded the quota for the export and handling of cannabis for medicinal purposes from 1.2 to 14 tons, as announced by the Government.

More than 135 licenses have been issued in Colombia, but the number is expected to increase as procedures are streamlined, according to official reports.

Interest in the local medical marijuana industry has grown considerably. Between 2017 and 2018, around ten requests were received per month, but last year they shot up and 37 were received, that is, 400% more, according to former public minister Juan Pablo Uribe.




In the United States, considered the largest market for cannabis in the world, optimism is also overflowing.

"There will be a lot of movement" this year, admitted Chris Walsh, CEO of Marijuana Business Daily, a marijuana industry trade publication, which defines itself as "the leading trade news information resource for the medical marijuana industry and the cannabis retail trade ”.

It is estimated that it will be a decisive year for the industry in this market because the number of the 35 states that legalized therapeutic cannabis and the 14 that did so for recreational purposes are expected to rise.

Illinois, the third most important state in the United States, for example, legalized the recreational use of marijuana last January, and at least 18 other states are expected to follow in the remainder of 2020. Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota would be on the legalization list, and Alabama, Mississippi, and South Dakota may become new cannabis markets.

In 2019, between 20 to 30 companies, large and medium, were building the scientific, legal, technological and industrial route to germinate a business with an estimated global potential market of about $ 146,000 million until 2025, according to a report by Grand View Research, market research and consulting firm based in India and San Francisco, USA. USA, whose database includes thousands of statistics and analyzes of 46 industries in the 25 most important countries in the world.

Ramírez affirms that the interest of governments for legalization is not only related to the therapeutic benefits attributed to Cannabis, but also to the economic impact that its commercialization can generate, especially in terms of taxes.

The numbers speak for themselves. Americans are estimated to have spent about $ 11 billion on marijuana in 2018, making their country the world's largest market.

But, that's just the tip of a big iceberg. The publication MJBizDaily (Marijuana Business Daily) claims that the total impact of marijuana sales in the United States will rise by 220%, from $ 20 trillion in 2017 to $ 77 trillion in 2022.

But, despite the fact that 34 of the 50 states of the United States have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, the great economic potential that the business opens in that market is currently unattainable for companies from other countries, as marijuana is classified as a drug without medical benefits and great addictive power on the agenda one of substances controlled by the federal government and can not be imported or exported.

But, as a growing business, there is optimism. Additionally, Ramírez says that "once the shadows are diluted, the uncertainties disappear and the business is consolidated, there will be no one to stop it."

Gloria Helena Rey
Special for Portfolio