In the past month, Paradise Seeds has been back in South America to enjoy some southern hemisphere summer sunshine and catch up with the latest developments in the cannabis scene on this continent.
In November we made our first visit to a Colombian cannabis expo, taking a stand at the Expo Mede Weed in Medellin. It was a fantastic experience and we got some sense of the changes that are happening in this country. It is particularly inspiring to see that cannabis is now being perceived as a force for the good in a country that for so many years suffered from the tragic consequences of the cocaine trade.
We have the impression that Colombia is ready for an exciting new cannabis era – especially as the country is a place where some of the best cannabis in the world grows. The combination of climate and equatorial sunshine means that in Colombia it is possible to have up to 4 outdoor harvests in a year!
Colombian Government says yes to medical cannabis
A year ago, Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree to legalize the domestic use of medical marijuana and also allow commercial cultivation, which includes the processing and export of cannabis products (although not in flower form). The president has made no secret of the fact that he smoked cannabis as a student in the 1970s. He announced that the change in policy would place Colombia “at the vanguard and forefront of the fight against illnesses”.
With a population of just over 47 million people, it is estimated that approximately 400,000 Colombians, suffering from conditions such as epilepsy, cancer and MS, will benefit from the new legal situation. Although progress so far has been slower than many would like (mirroring the experience of Uruguay post-legalization), a handful of licenses have already been granted to process medicinal cannabis products.
There is a hope that the new medical cannabis era may bring a positive Colombian social effect too. The drugs trade was a prominent feature in the conflict, with the FARC rebels taxing cocoa and marijuana growers to fund their guerrilla activities during the 52 year long bloody civil war. However, following a peace accord agreement between the government and FARC, some are seeing this as an opportunity to use alternative development programs to build a more stable future for the country.
Edward García, mayor of Corinto, at the center of Colombia’s marijuana cultivation region, recently told The Guardian newspaper that it “would do away with the illegal economies that have been the fuel of the conflict.” He has been at the forefront of efforts to set up a cannabis growers’ cooperative, with the hope of becoming a key link in the medical cannabis supply chain.
As we have been reported previously in Paradise Seeds news, cannabis change has been sweeping across Latin America for the past couple of years with a number of countries have committed to experimenting with legalization and decriminalization of cannabis. What we find particularly encouraging about developments in South America is the progressive atmosphere that accompanies the changes.
Just as in Chile, where the Daya Foundation is working hard to establish a more social (instead of profit based) medical cannabis model, Colombia is focusing on putting the health benefits of the cannabis plant at the heart of its legal changes. After the devastation of Colombia’s cocaine era, in the words of Bob Marley, here’s hoping that cannabis can contribute to a new era characterized by the healing of the nation…