COLUMBIA – Pot farmers in Columbia are burning their own marijuana crops and joining the legal drug trade in an effort to avoid the black market, according to Reuters.
Columbia passed a law legalizing medical marijuana two years ago and regulation is being overseen by the Colombia National Narcotics Fund. The program demands that any cannabis farmer that wishes to be part of the medical marijuana program must first destroy their pot crops.
President Juan Manuel Santos believes that legalizing marijuana can curb the violent drug cartels and turn Columbia into a global mass producer of medical marijuana. The focus would be as a supplier for the pharmaceutical companies making medicine from marijuana. Colombian experts say that the country could produce one-fifth of the worlds medical marijuana and earn $40 billion annually.
A community organizer in Cauca, Ariel Huetio, said that the farmers are happy about the new medical marijuana industry and see it as a chance to be part of a legal system instead of the illegal one. The community has just partnered with FCM Global located just outside Medellin to cultivate medical marijuana.
Columbia has a reputation for producing a lot of cocaine. Despite almost 20 years and $10 billion being spent to combat the drug trade in Columbia, the country is producing more cocaine, not less, and America has a high demand for the drug.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reported that at least 92 percent of the cocaine confiscated in the U.S. was produced in Columbia, according to The Washington Post. Believing the war on drugs has failed, officials in Columbia think that regulating marijuana is a better approach.
The country is already giving farmers an alternative to cultivating coca by helping them transition to growing bananas, coffee, and cacao. Transitioning pot farmers to the legal market is another means to combat the illegal drug trade in the country. Studies show that legal marijuana can reduce opioid use by giving people legal access to marijuana.
Officials also say that the country has the best climate to produce marijuana even though countries like Canada and Israel are at the forefront of the legal industry, believing Columbia to be the future for the legal market.
Columbia did provide the U.S. with the majority of its weed in the 1970's, and experts say that the legal market could benefit more than 60 million people across Latin America suffering from diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's, as well as millions in Columbia living with chronic pain.
The Columbian market will make cannabis oils, creams, inhalers, and other cannabis products but will not distribute smokable pot. The country has already issued more than 30 licenses and expects to grow over 40 tons of marijuana annually.