By Nelson Bocanegra
BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia on Friday gave the green light for exports of dried cannabis for medical and other industries, as the Andean country took another step to develop its marijuana industry, where progress has been slow despite high potential.
President Ivan Duque signed a decree lifting a prohibition on exporting dried cannabis flower, a move seen as crucial by investors.
The directive also allows for the expansion of sales of cannabis-based medicines and streamlines regulatory procedures.
While Colombia has been hailed as a pioneer in regulating the possession, production, distribution, commercialization and export of seeds, plants and substances derived from cannabis – like oils, creams and extracts for medicinal purposes – investors have long complained about what they say is a tortuous export-approval process.
“This means Colombia can enter to play a big role in the international market,” Duque said after signing the decree, adding the new rules would allow Colombia’s cannabis industry to expand into food and drinks, cosmetics and other sectors.
Latin American cannabis exports could be worth $6 billion, Duque said.
“Lifting the prohibition on exporting the dry flower will start a regulatory process which we hope will be performed in great detail, to the highest international standards,” Juan Diego Alvarez, vice president of regulatory issues for cannabis producer Khiron, told Reuters.
Colombian cannabis industry association Asocolcanna urged the country to seize the opportunity to make the most of its competitive advantages.
“It’s crucial for Colombia to achieve its potential at a time when the global cannabis industry is being refined,” Asocolcanna said in a letter published on its website.
In countries where the medicinal cannabis industry has more mature regulation, like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Israel, dried cannabis is the most developed sector of the market, accounting for more than 50% of all sales.
(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra in Bogota; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Matthew Lewis)