Executive director of ASOLCOLCANNA talks to us about the associations role in the medical cannabis industry and its hopes for the future.
The Colombian Association of the Cannabis Industry (ASOCOLCANNA) seeks to promote, protect and guide the development of the industry in Colombia within the current regulatory framework. So what role does ASOLCOLCANNA have in regards to cannabis regulation in Colombia?
To date, the union consists of 19 Colombian industry bodies related to the production and sale of cannabis, encouraging good practices in the cultivation, manufacturing and commercialisation of cannabis products and derivatives for medicinal and scientific purposes.
The association holds a strong focus on issues of business management and the inclusion of the cannabis plant in the list of natural plants; development of prospective research into medicinal cannabis in Colombia; and a comprehensive identification of the needs of the industry. This can be addressed by the El Instituto Nacional de Vigilancia de Medicamentos y Alimentos (INVIMA) [The Colombian National Institute for Drug and Food Surveillance] in accordance with existing legislation, while ensuring the welfare of patients and the highest possible levels of industry productivity.
ASOCOLCANNA focuses on raising awareness of the importance of the medical and scientific cannabis industries, the importance of its legislation and monitoring by the corresponding authorities; as well as the dissemination of new information and research among all scientific organisations, for the collective benefit of patients and the community in general.
Health Europa spoke with the association’s Executive President Rodrigo Arcila Gómez about the role of ASOCOLCANNA in the growing medical cannabis industry, what progress has been made already, how the regulation has evolved already and the association’s hopes for the future.
Can you explain the history of medical cannabis in Colombia and what inspired the creation of the association?
The Colombian Association of the Cannabis Industry was created on 17 July 2017, due to the need for an official body to represent the cannabis industry which can at all times maintain a direct and representative dialogue with high government.
As Colombia has the ideal climate and conditions for growing cannabis, we have attracted substantial interest and require representation to ensure that the industry receives appropriate support.
What progress has the association made since its inception in 2017? What kind of challenges have been faced and how have they been overcome?
ASOCOLCANNA has been the most dynamic industry body in Colombia during 2018 and 2019. From only six founding companies we have grown to 30 affiliated companies who represent the most important areas of the industry and will be responsible for about 95% of cannabis production in the near future. The most important challenges currently faced by the association surround issues of promoting and guiding the cannabis industry. Similarly, consolidating the industry in Colombia so that we can succeed in meeting the expectations of becoming a world leader in this industry, thanks to both our administrative capability and our extensive natural resources.
We expect to achieve administrative success by promoting and adhering to effective legislation; we have projected positive macroeconomic scenarios and labour costs remain advantageous, among other factors. With regard to Colombia’s natural advantages, fields here hold the potential for producing four harvests per year; and the climate and light levels are highly beneficial for growing cannabis; with all these contributing factors, we can offer a remarkably competitive cost structure.
How has regulation evolved in Columbia since cannabis was formally legalised for cultivation and sale for medicinal purposes?
The medicinal use of cannabis and its derivatives has been legal in Colombia since 2015; and regulation in Colombia has been gradually evolving to the extent that companies have begun to enter initial production stages of cannabinoid extracts and oils. ASOCOLCANNA has kept a close dialogue with the Colombian government in order to encourage effective, productive regulation of the industry.
Looking to the future, what does the association hope to achieve? Will you look to expand across South America?
ASOCOLCANNA began in Colombia, but at its heart it is wholly a Latin American body. We have advanced a great deal since 2017, both in our size and the scope of our oversight; and there is plenty of room for us to expand further outside Colombia. We are a pioneer within the region; and we believe ASOCOLCANNA can act as a benchmark for other, similar national cannabis industry bodies.
About the author
Rodrigo Arcila Gómez is an industrial economist with postgraduate qualifications in Administration, Marketing and Financial Management and a Masters in Economic Development; he is a PhD Candidate from the Faculty of Economics of the University of Belgrade.
He has held management positions in private and public companies. He has been an advisor to the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism in the development of productive chains. He held the position of Executive Director of the Pharmaceutical Chamber of the ANDI; member of the Board of Directors of the Latin American Institute of Responsible Self-Medication (ILAR); and member of the Board of Directors of the World Self Medication Industry (WSMI).
Please note, this article will appear in issue 10 of Health Europa Quarterly, which will be available to read in July 2019.