Cannabis used for therapeutic purposes has been officially legal in Colombia for two years. It's a booming market. The companies that produce medicinal marijuana are multiplying. However, this opiate still enjoys, as in many countries around the world, a bad image among Colombians. To try to change the situation and raise awareness, Colombian entrepreneurs are launching numerous initiatives.
From our correspondent in Medellin,
Despite threatening storms, residents of Medellin made the move to the park "De Ciudad del Rio" in the south of the city for an original initiative. That of the group of Thani patients. The organization, which produces medical cannabis for 400 patients across the country, organized a fundraiser in exchange for the distribution of marijuana seeds.
Juan Pasko, the director of the collective puts forward his arguments on medical cannabis and tries to transmit as much information as possible. " The donations will feed the sick in need. We have 110 seeds to trade for about a ton of food . " " This collection is an opportunity to communicate about marijuana and even to organize the next cannabis march, scheduled for May ."
In a few hours nearly 200 people came to offer foodstuffs (rice, pasta, cans, bottles of oil and even kibble for dogs and cats). Juan Camilo Toro was touched by the social aspect: " This initiative is very interesting. I know this plant, but I never thought I could help people through it. This plant has a lot of benefits. Even our grandmothers used it. We have a lot to learn .
Victims of Armed Conflict Producing Medical Cannabis
Another initiative in northern Antioquia Department is also trying to make medicinal marijuana trade a social action. The private company, Sajona, is challenged to help families in difficulty. In the past year, some fifty indigenous and Colombian women have been cultivating marijuana plants for the Canadian market. They are all victims of the armed conflict and live in vulnerable areas of Colombia.
The director and founder of the project, Olga Lucia Ramos Sajona, wants " a part of the profits not only to benefit the company and our investors, but also directly to improve the lives of women and families, for example through home construction and vocational training. Women are regularly apprenticed. They have already been trained to learn how to manage their financial inputs . "
A 6-hectare pilot project is currently under preparation. The goal is to reach 100 hectares in two years. In total, 600 families will be included in the social program. Women, mostly women farmers, work for a Colombian minimum wage of about 260 euros. Before the medical cannabis production project, they were unemployed or in a precarious situation.
A heavy story with the narcotrafic
Patients and doctors who use medical cannabis are the first advocates of the plant. This is the case of neurologist and pediatric specialist Orlando Carreño. He believes that the bad image of cannabis comes from its past linked to another plant: the coca leaf, used as a base for making cocaine. " It's not just stigma that drives a bad image. There is also a social history and the violence generated by drugs in our country. Any illegal trade generates high incomes. This has marked generations of Colombians who have been destroyed because of this image. The consumption of drugs and its trade have deteriorated everything .
Orlando Carreño follows about 200 patients a year. He is also researching the use of medical cannabis. " It has been found that for some types of epilepsy, cannabis derivatives, cannabinoids work. But we are still far from understanding everything that is happening. Because it is not a miraculous plant. Everything depends also on the patient ".
Negative image or not, the medical cannabis market is exploding, both in Colombia and around the world. Although its use is legal in only twenty countries, its trade accounted for $ 11 billion worldwide in 2015. It is estimated that in 2025, it will reach $ 54 billion.