Bob Hoban blog post

Hope for Yarumal: The Case for a Plant-Based Economy

Last week, myself and fellow HLG attorney, Jeff Frazier, visited several regions of Colombia to meet with government leaders, local economic development representatives, our clients, and our Colombian-based HLG counsel, Henry Munoz Vallejo.

We were engaged in beneficial conversations on clarifying opportunities and challenges the country faces as it enters the global cannabis economy, but one project, spearheaded by cooperation between the Antioquia government and HLG client, International Hemp Solutions, left me particularly inspired. 

In One Hundred Years of Solitude, Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote about a community suffering from memory disorders. For one region of the novelist’s homeland, his fictional story has a tangible counterpart: Yarumal. A small community of 35,000 in Antioquia, Yarumal has the highest occurrence of early on-set Alzheimer’s in the world. Recently, a team of researchers traced back the local genes to one Spanish Conquistador. 

For years, pharmaceutical companies have conducted Alzheimer drug treatments in Yarumal, with few positive results. It’s time to consider alternatives. 

To date, a handful of studies have suggested that certain cannabinoids can remove plaque in the brain thought to cause Alzheimer’s, including an Austrailian study published in 2014 and another 2016 preliminary study by the Salk Institute in California

The principal basis of our project in Yarumal and Antioquia was to demonstrate that a micro plant-based economy can be built around a single hemp field. You can collect and condition seed, harvest fiber, and extract the cannabinoids all from one crop. This will not only create an abundance of jobs, but show farmers a lucrative alternative to keep from defaulting to growing coca. 

Further, those extracted compounds will be used by physicians and researchers to create cannabis-based formulations to be tested for efficacy of Alzheimer's treatment in the Yarumal region. With these compounds there’s hope that the region with the highest occurrence of Alzheimer’s could become the lowest. While this wouldn’t qualify as a clinical trial, the data gathered could be the basis for a clinical trial in Europe (or hopefully, not too distant future, in the United States). 

After a whirlwind tour across Colombia, I felt grateful on the flight home. It’s an honor to work with leaders of a country that’s had a long history of strife, who are starting to address issues of economic growth and long-term public health, using cannabis.