It is no secret that Colombian society has been quite quite conservative in the past. Indeed, many people there—as with many other countries—have grown up under outdated beliefs, based on antiquated ideas about right and wrong. That's what happened to a commodity that was unfairly judged in the 20th century: hemp.
The plant, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis, was used by most cultures to manufacture paper and textiles for thousands of years. Due to its virtues, hemp accompanied man throughout its history and was, for several centuries, one of the most popular crops in the United States, Colombia, and the world.
Despite its benefits, many prohibitions fell upon the plant in the 1930s due to the war on drugs. These resolutions were adopted worldwide due to confusion because of hemp's physical resemblance to its cousin, the psychoactive cannabis marijuana. It was only until the 21st century when hemp was again considered a viable option to replace various petroleum products.
The State of Things in Colombia
Colombia presents an encouraging outlook regarding the new and growing cannabis industry, given that in 2017 the new regulations for the cultivation, commercialization, derivatives, and use of cannabis seeds for medicinal and scientific purposes came into existence. The country is looking to compete in local and international markets with hemp and cannabis for medicinal purposes. According to Procolombia, at the end of 2018, the Ministry of Justice and Health had issued 42 licenses to cultivate psychoactive cannabis plants and 57 for non-psychoactive ones.
Viviana Giraldo, local hemp and medicinal cannabis entrepreneur behind the company Colombiana de Cannabis, told us that she sees with "very positive eyes all the progress that Colombia has had, especially after legislation has allowed companies to evolve and move towards being recognized internationally." She compares Colombia's potential hemp market with its flower industry, which started small and now is one of the world's biggest flower markets.
Colombian society is also losing the taboo towards the cannabis plant. The country is observing cannabis as a boost for the economy. This plant can generate a revolution in the Colombian industry and increase its exports as no other product has ever been done.
All of this is linked to the economic, social, and technological development of Colombian agriculture, which will benefit the thousands of people who have been victims of the late armed conflict, which ended after peace treaties. One example of this is Giraldo, who asserts that "our company is also pushing to improve the quality of work in Colombia, so, for example, as a private company we are going to start offering a better salary; we are going to start to really show where the industry of cannabis can go and that it is reflected in the people who work for companies."
The environmental challenge
As we have reported, hemp is in the process of adapting itself to the tropical climate of Colombia and adjacent countries. As Giraldo explained to us, this process is called "tropification," in which a foreign seed is introduced to the local climate little by little.
Now, hemp is native in Colombia, but not its industrial strand, which means that the country has all the pieces of its hemp puzzle; they just have to put them together.
Giraldo is sure Colombia's future is prominent in the industry and could be another milestone in her country's long agricultural history.