Cannabis in Colombia: sector asks regulators for clarity of criteria

The medical cannabis sector has been the star of 2019 in Colombia. Hundreds of articles have been written describing the medicinal benefits of the plant, the economic impact that the industry will bring to the country and the interest of foreign investors in the competitive advantages that Colombia presents to become a world power. But little has been written about the enormous challenge that the regulatory entities are facing to organize the sector in an efficient, fair and transparent manner.

Like any new sector, medicinal cannabis in Colombia is still in a period of adjustment. The Ministries of Justice and Law and Health and Social Welfare have made an enormous effort to absorb the demand for licenses and coordination with other entities such as ICA, FNE, or INVIMA has been adequate. However, 3 years after the publication of Decree 613, the private sector still suffers from a lack of clarity and unification of criteria, especially when it comes to issuing licenses.

The Ministry of Justice and Law has repeatedly shifted during 2019 in its interpretation of the law and the legal requirements for the issuance of licenses, particularly for companies that did not register seed source in 2018. In this period they have gone from not making particular requirements, to require a contract with a seed source holder, to demand that the seed supplier be registered as a Selected Seed Producer before the ICA and finally, according to legal requirements analyzed by 613 Partners in recent weeks, to the producer having his seed source approved and registered in the National Registry of Cultivars. For its part, in late November 2019 the government unexpectedly communicated the transfer of responsibilities of the Ministry of Health regarding cannabis to INVIMA, without providing further details. Managers of both institutions consulted by our lawyers did not know how to provide clarity regarding the transfer of functions.

The medical cannabis industry has a long and bright future in Colombia, and the public sector has a critical role in realizing the industry’s potential. 613 Partners will continue to work hand in hand with regulators to remove unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles and defend the interests of local and international entrepreneurs.

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