In Colombia, there are many companies that are ready to enter the final phase of the commercialization of medical cannabis both within the territory and abroad. Even various companies with cannabis licenses have big amounts of flowers that could not be processed due to the lack of clients, and large foreign investors have stopped entering Colombia because there are not enough sales; this implies a reduction of major investment into the country.

At the time we adopted our regulation of medical cannabis in the country, entrepreneurs were completely centered on the external market as the focus of macro purchases of Colombian medical cannabis. Unfortunately, the multiple restrictions in places like the United States, the United Kingdom, and the countries that make up the European Union, limited the possibility that Colombian companies could envision and achieve globalization around cannabis. In addition to that, the National Institute for Food and Drug Surveillance – INVIMA, as an entity that monitors and controls drugs, food, cosmetics, biological products, among others, has further hindered the local and international marketing of the different products that can be made from medicinal cannabis.

For this reason, there are mainly two possible solutions that will allow cannabis companies to have higher sales, continue with the cannabis productive stage, and reinforce Colombia’s position worldwide: 1) Through the focus on the domestic market and 2) Through the facilitation of the export processes from Colombia.

Consumers Of Medicinal Cannabis

Firstly, it is necessary to strengthen the domestic market to create more consumers of medicinal cannabis within the country; this could be achieved mainly through a more open policy and by reducing restrictions on advertising for cannabis products. This will allow national producers not to depend to a large extent on international demand subject to various restrictions, but rather to sustain and develop their business around national consumption.

Although INVIMA has currently issued specific regulations for the handling and sale of cannabis-based compounding pharmacy products and cosmetics, the market for herbal products, cannabis food, and beverages are not yet open; this being a fundamental part of it. Despite the fact that business owners in the country have asked INVIMA to regulate cannabis-based foods, beverages, and phytotherapeutics, the regulation is not yet in force.

On the other hand, the opening of the domestic market is extremely complicated due to the prohibition to advertise cannabis products, the flower, or its derivatives. In this sense, the cannabis market in Colombia is considered passive; in other words, the activity of manufacturing, selling and consuming medicinal cannabis is tolerated and, therefore, legal, but it cannot be promoted through advertising intended to influence the consumer decision towards acquiring specific products and services.

INVIMA: Latin America

Secondly, although INVIMA is one of the most rigorous and stable entities in Latin America, it is extremely important that they use different procedures to analyze products destined to export than those taken into account at the local level to determine whether a product is legal or not. In Colombia, companies who seek to export certain cannabis products are being controlled by INVIMA, and many times, the process is denied because distribution is not legal within the national territory, although in the destination country is permitted. 

This negative of the surveillance entity to export commonly occurs with cannabis-based foods, merely because it is not a regulated and freely permitted product in Colombia, whether it is at its destination country or not. For this reason, INVIMA should not verify compliance with export requirements taking into account the internal consumption regulations in Colombia, but compliance centered on the provisions of the country of destination; this, subject to certain control and surveillance minimums that guarantee the observance of provisions.

Therefore, Colombian authorities need to regulate sufficiently the domestic market, in order to give a complete, yet flexible framework to the entities in charge. And, in the same way, INVIMA must adjust its control and surveillance policies on the products to be exported so that, instead of being an obstacle for cannabis national entrepreneurs, they encourage the growth of the industry of the cannabis worldwide.