Medical cannabis expert Dr Sandra Carrillo details the history and future of medical cannabis in Colombia.
Dr Sandra Carrillo is a medical doctor and renowned expert in the medical use of cannabis and cannabinoids, with certifications in cannabis medicine from the University of Puerto Rico’s School of Pharmacology and Oaksterdam University in California.
She is a leading advocate of cannabis legalisation in Panama, where she has appeared as an expert witness at several sessions of the government’s Health Commission responsible for devising and implementing policy and regulation on medical cannabis. In Colombia, she is President of the Medical Colombian Association of Medical Cannabis (ASOMEDCCAM), which advocates evidence-based education on the medical applications of cannabis for doctors and patients. Dr Carrillo details the history and future of medical cannabis policy and education in Colombia.
Regulation and licensing
On 6 July 2016 the Congress of the Republic of Colombia approved Law 1787, under which a regulatory framework was created that would allow safe and informed access for the medical and scientific use of cannabis and its derivatives. This law was driven by former Senator Juan Manuel Galán, to open new health and wellness options for patients. It further promoted the creation and development of a new industry in the economic sector of the country, thanks to the unique advantages that Colombia offers through its privileged geographical location, climatic conditions, skilled labour, and agricultural traditions.
Through Decree 613, enacted in 2017, a regulatory framework was set out for the beginning of this new industry. The decree stipulated guidelines for the appropriate evaluation, monitoring and control of the cultivation and processing of cannabis and its derivatives, for medical and scientific purposes.
Guidelines were also established to grant separate licences for:
- The manufacture of cannabis derivatives
- Sourcing and planting cannabis seeds
- The cultivation of psychoactive cannabis plants
- The cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis plants
In addition, a comprehensive regulatory framework for the preparation and distribution of cannabis-derived magisterial preparations was created.
Four years after the law was passed, doctors in Colombia still face great challenges, since the availability of magisterial preparations and pharmaceutical grade preparations are very scarce, limiting our ability to respond to the needs of patients suffering from different types of pathologies, whose pain and suffering does not wait. We also face the challenge of the limited information and prevalent misinformation available to doctors, health personnel and the general population regarding the proper use of medical cannabis treatments. In addition, we face limitations on the development of research which will allow us to ensure secure access to patient prescription treatments based on evidence-based science.
It is for this reason that we created the Medical Colombian Association of Medical Cannabis (ASOMEDCCAM), the first not-for-profit medical cannabis association in Colombia. Our association is comprised of doctors and healthcare practitioners from a range of different specialities, who have come together to promote evidence-based scientific education and research in order to ensure safe access for patients to cannabinoid-based treatments. We have a growing number of specialist doctors interested in using cannabinoid therapies to help patients, with universities willing to create education programmes and offer formal training for doctors and healthcare practitioners who wish to be certified in the use of medicinal cannabis. We have formed international alliances and partnerships with scientific societies which share our mission of education and research.
Our goal for the future is to help patients gain greater accessibility; not only in terms of medically prescribed cannabis but also through improving economic accessibility, via the creation at the government level of programmes that allow increased coverage of medicinal cannabis-based therapies throughout the health system.
Colombia is positioned as one of Latin America’s leading countries in the medicinal cannabis sector, with the most comprehensive set of cannabis regulations and standards in the region. We hope that the regulatory framework will improve year after year, supporting the legal market which allows safe access to the patients in need who are our reason for being doctors.
Dr Sandra Carrillo MD
Colombian Medical Association for Medical Cannabis (ASOMEDCCAM)