(Newswire.net -- June 3, 2016) -- On May 25th, Colombia’s congress voted overwhelmingly, 83 to 3, in favor of a bill introduced by Sen. Juan Manuel Galan to legalize cannabis nationwide for medicinal and scientific purposes. The bill, which will take effect following approval by the Constitutional Court, mandates the nation’s Ministries of Health, Justice and Agriculture to oversee the licensing system and monitor the bill’s implementation.
Licenses will be required for cultivation, production, manufacture, purchase, import, export, storage, transport, marketing, distribution and possession and use of the seeds of the cannabis plant, its derivatives, and products containing active compounds.
President Juan Manuel Santos – who has long supported decriminalization of drugs as part of his plan to bring peace to the embattled country, strengthen the economy and reduce crime – had issued a decree in December 2015 legalizing the cultivation and sale of cannabis for medical purposes. During the signing ceremony, Santos described the new rules as “a major step that put Colombia at the vanguard and forefront of the fight against illnesses.”
Even as long ago as August 2014, Santos told a United Nations Drug Control summit in Bogotá that legalizing the medical and therapeutic use of cannabis is “a way to stop criminals from acting as intermediaries between the patient and a substance that is going to ease their suffering.” The nation has long stood at the forefront of rethinking the world’s approach to drug problems.
Chairman and CEO of The Wile Group Ltd. Anthony Wile, a long-time cannabis markets observer and active industry investor, applauds the Colombian government in taking this long anticipated next step. Last November, even before Santos’s executive order, Wile penned an editorial commending the “giant step forward” in which the president was guiding the country.
Wrote Wile, “No nation on Earth has seen its soil and society scorched more than Colombia … It's simply indisputable that more than any other nation, Colombia and its citizenry deserve the opportunity to show leadership in this worldwide industry and to reap the inherent associated financial and societal benefits.” He called the decree a “mature, environmentally conscious leadership approach to regulating and standardizing one of the very same plants that has been at the root of so much agony and international reputation damage.”
In an interview with the Colombian national newspaper El Tiempo, Sen. Galan pointed out the new bill includes an initiative, to be funded with a portion of licensing fees, that “will ensure that schools have the resources to invest in prevention, to train teachers in prevention, and therefore enable students to develop healthy environments, or improve sports infrastructure in schools.”
Anthony Wile elaborated on the value of this aspect of the bill. “This is a perfect example of the leading-edge, public-health focus Colombia is embracing in its new policies. Colombia is a beautiful country full of industrious, gracious people, which is why I’ve spent the last 15-plus years living and working throughout the country. But its reputation has, sadly, been marred by drug-war violence and instability.”
“This new medical cannabis legislation positively impacts the entire nation in part by helping to repair Colombia’s reputational image. That shift benefits the economy, through foreign investment and tourism, and creates a more promising and hopeful future for all of Colombia. Education that shows children the country is changing for the better and empowers them to take personal responsibility for their own decisions is instrumental in preventing substance abuse and thereby opens a world of opportunities,” noted Anthony Wile.
Colombia is taking a decidedly scientific, medical approach to the developing cannabis industry. The December presidential decree, like the recently passed bill, limits legalization to non-flower cannabis products, moving the country in a direction focused on standardization and setting the quality-assurance bar high for cannabis oil extracts, finished goods products created with the refined products and exports.
The medical community’s evolving medical cannabis treatment practices along with generally healthier lifestyle choices by consumers reveal that a non-flower, nonsmokable trend is growing around the world. Many of the states in the US that have legalized medical cannabis, for instance, restrict allowed products to nonsmokable forms only. Standardized oil extract products, which Colombia has legislated as acceptable, allow medical practitioners to carefully prescribe medicine according to the constituent ratios of THC, CBD and other cannabinoids and terpenes as well as desired dosing instructions.
Producers and distributors are able to accurately compound and dispense medical cannabis prescriptions when utilizing oil extracts as opposed to loose flower, in which the composition of constituent elements is difficult to ascertain, as is THC strength, which will likely be capped by regulation as more nations legalize medical cannabis. Pharmacists and other dispensaries can offer better guidance to patients about the use of their medicine, possible interactions and side effects with exact knowledge of its constituent elements.
Further, the vast majority of physicians will not prescribe any product that must be burned and smoked. Likewise, as understanding of the dangers of smoking becomes more widespread, consumers are unlikely to want to smoke their medicine – especially when the patient is a child. Colombia’s decision to authorize only nonsmokable forms of medical cannabis only enables consumers to utilize a healthier option than that available from the black market, which is focused on cannabis flower.
Anthony Wile supports the move toward pharmacies as medical cannabis distributors. “Like pain management, which requires different medicines of differing strengths for particular types of pain, there is no one-size-fits-all plan for treating conditions that may benefit from medical cannabis. Physicians must be able to prescribe cannabis using specific ratios and dosing, so pharmacies can accurately dispense the medicine. And patients want to know what they’re ingesting and why, and what results to expect.”
Wile concluded, “Colombia is moving in the right direction for so many reasons. Even its position of leadership on the environmental side of production is laudable and offers another advantage to the world. With its ideal conditions, production requires far less electricity than in locations farther from the equator where the light cycle must be heavily augmented in order to coax cannabis to flower, a situation that is straining the grid in other locations. As the industry matures, consumers’ desire for natural, more organically grown products with a net positive environmental impact will be preferred among cannabis consumers, as is the case with other products. Colombia is in the uniquely fortunate position of being blessed with numerous advantages to bring leadership to world by offering the world a healthier option, and I’m thrilled to see the country taking another step in this direction.”