3 years have passed since the issuance of Decree 613/2017, which regulated the use of cannabis for medical and scientific purposes in Colombia. It established the rules, conditions or obligations applicable to those natural or legal persons, public or private, of Colombian or foreign nationality and domiciled in the country, engaged in any of the following activities: import, export, cultivation, production, manufacturing, storage, transportation, commercialization, distribution, use of seeds, cultivation of cannabis plant, its extracts and finished products containing it.
Since the issuance of Decree 613, a notable interest has been observed in the investment of projects or businesses related to the medical and scientific use of cannabis in Colombia, so much so that to date and according to official figures, more than 656 licenses have been granted in the modalities of use of seeds for sowing (98), cultivation of psychoactive (164) and non-psychoactive (394) cannabis plants and approximately more than 171 cannabis extracts manufacturing licenses. Likewise, over 4,191 registrations have been made of small and medium national growers, producers and distributors of medical cannabis. Those figures only show the importance of this business and the opportunity it represents for the country.
In addition to the foregoing and pursuant to the study conducted in December 2019 by Fedesarrollo, it was estimated that this industry may generate as of 2030, 41,748 jobs, of which 26,968 will be agricultural jobs and the others would be related to transformation and management.
It should be mentioned that the decree has been subject to strong criticism and questionings by the different business actors, who have manifested the need for reforming it in order to include provisions that make this market a more competitive one. In that sense, for example, some of them deem important a reduction and acceleration in the times for obtaining the licenses and registrations, as well as the increase of quotas defined for the country and/or flexibilization in the export regime.
Even though the decree tends to an adequate control and monitoring of the regulated activities, in certain specific cases it can be excessive and even generate burdens that imply unnecessary or additional delays or costs to the licensees, which could discourage domestic or foreign investment in this type of projects. Notwithstanding, it is expected that the National Government evaluates these observations and makes prompt amendments to the decree to correct and mitigate these obstacles.
Beyond that, it is worth noting that last June 1, the Ministry of Justice and Law, in compliance with Decree 613, enabled the technological platform called Information Mechanism for Cannabis Control (MICC), a tool that will be applicable to activities and/or licenses of use of seeds for sowing, cultivation of psychoactive or non-psychoactive cannabis plants.
The platform will allow, among other things, that interested parties virtually process their licenses, that the competent authorities may perform a detailed and updated control of the information and/or activities submitted for monitoring and control; and that the licensees
also register safely and quickly their information for licenses, modifications or registrations, for which they shall take into account the different guidelines and forms established by that Ministry.
It should be noted that according to two circular letters of the Ministry of Justice, also from June of this year, the information of those licensees or holders available in hard copy as of April 30, 2020 will be directly uploaded to the platform. On the other hand, once the respective transition period has ended, the information of the licenses must be directly registered in the MICC, since this will be the sole authorized means for the registration of information and filing of processes.
We must applaud the fact that the platform will come into operation now that virtuality has become the new reality, and it is expected to be an expedited mechanism that serves both users and competent authorities, so that the cannabis business for scientific and medicinal use will be strengthened in the coming years. It is also to be expected that the MICC platform will end the obstacles that have arisen in relation to the formalities and evaluation of information by the competent authorities.
Notwithstanding and facing the economic situation, it is necessary to accelerate the modification of the decree in order to attend the needs and non-conformities presented by the industry; and that such modification is conceived as an opportunity to create new jobs and revenue opportunities for the country.