It wouldn’t be right to talk about Canada and international cannabis without mentioning PharmaCielo. This Canadian firm has deep roots growing in Colombian cannabis, and are they are the very first to do so in the South American nation.“[This] is an important undertaking for Colombia as a nation,” said spokesperson for PharmaCielo, David Gordon, in an interview with Marijuana.com. “The government down there has demonstrated real leadership in the [cannabis] space.” PharmaCielo is currently preparing to grow their crops in Colombia, with one of the goals being export to countries that have also legalized medical cannabis. “We are preparing for cultivation. It was [over] a year ago that PharmaCielo was the first recipient [in Colombia] of a license for the manufacture and processing. Since that time, we have commenced on developing the infrastructure to allow both manufacturing and processing, as well as to allow cultivation.”
In a July 13 story in Maclean’s, a Canadian national current affairs magazine, Brian Hutchinson, who spent time on the ground with PharmaCielo’s leadership team at the company’s operational headquarters in Rionegro, Colombia, writes, “The facility is Canadian-controlled, its Toronto-based parent company, PharmaCielo Ltd., run by a board of globe-trotting executives and investors, several of whom are from Big Tobacco and Pharma. But the heart of the operation is here in Colombia.” The government’s legalization of medicinal cannabis, he writes, means “Colombia is moving in step with other countries, recognizing that cannabis has medicinal and economic value, that it can be exploited and taxed just like any other commodity, such as cut flowers.” PharmaCielo Colombia COO Marcelo Siqueira explains, “The government believes Colombia has paid its price in blood and treasure with the war on drugs, that it’s time to move on.” The company has been granted a processing license and is now awaiting receipt of its cultivation permit. “Unlike other countries where dried marijuana flower is legally exchanged, Colombia has decided to allow only the sale of cannabis oil, for medicinal use inside the country, and for export to countries that allow it. [PharmaCielo’s crop] will be processed into oil, then shipped to markets inside the country and to legal markets around the world, including Canada.” PharmaCielo Ltd. president and CEO Patricio Stocker said the company plans to eventually produce cannabis from 1,000 hectares of Colombian farmland. To put this in perspective, MacLean’s notes that’s “enough to yield at least two million of kilograms of dried marijuana flower per year, and as much as 250,000 kilograms of oil,” and points out Colombia’s natural advantages for cannabis cultivation include a warm climate, abundant rainfall and 12 hours of daylight year-round. “Factor in low labour costs and the company figures it can produce dried flower at 10 cents a gram, one-tenth or better the cost of production in marijuana-friendly countries such as Canada, where plants are grown indoors – at great effort – by 50 federally-licensed companies for the legal medicinal market.” Siqueira adds: “The costs and the carbon footprint associated with cannabis production in Canada are absurd. It’s like growing coffee beans indoors. It can be done, but should it? Energy consumption, water diversion, pesticides, water contamination, these are already issues.”
With the appointment of PharmaCielo Ltd. Chairman Simon Langelier as a non-executive director, “Imperial Brands Plc gained the services of a leader in the field of medicinal cannabis as the British tobacco manufacturer seeks to further its push beyond cigarettes,” writes Bloomberg. Langelier joined PharmaCielo in 2015 after a 30-year career at Philip Morris International, which included heading up the next-generation products unit from 2007-2010. During that period he established a joint venture for the worldwide commercialization of Philip Morris’s smoke-free products. Bloomberg notes Langelier’s experience at PharmaCielo will be beneficial should Imperial choose to enter a future federally legal US cannabis market, which is projected to surpass $50 billion in sales this decade.
If illicit pot plants flourishing covertly in the Colombian countryside represent the marijuana industry’s past, then Canada’s commercial-scale medical licensing system represents its future. PharmaCielo Ltd., a privately held medical marijuana producer with global ambitions, is hoping to capitalize on both those traditions. The company, which has board members from U.S. big tobacco and big pharma, is headquartered in Canada — a decision made due to this country’s sophisticated medical cannabis regulations, friendly financial markets and growing base of accountants, lawyers and bankers with cannabis expertise. But for production, it’s focused on Colombia, where it is hoping to become the first government-approved marijuana producer following the country’s decades-long battle against drug trafficking. ... President Juan Maneul Santos legalized medical marijuana in 2015. PharmaCielo was the first company in Colombia to be granted an extraction licence, but it is still awaiting a cultivation licence — it is ready to grow as soon as that goes through and plans to start selling mid-2018
Colombia’s cannabis business was long overseen by the country’s largest rebel group, which dominated this region of Cauca, taxed its drugs and became internationally notorious for trafficking in billions of dollars in illicit substances. But when the government signed a peace deal with the fighters last year, the state swept in and reclaimed this remote mountain village, threatening to end the trade. But now, local citizens have an unlikely option: growing marijuana with the government’s blessing instead. A Canadian company called PharmaCielo, with the government’s approval, is working to produce the drug legally in Colombia and is looking to hire. It is an unorthodox experiment by Colombia, one that underscores the region’s changing attitudes toward drugs after decades of fighting them. In the coming weeks, the government says, it will begin processing licenses for a small number of companies, including PharmaCielo, under a 2015 law that allows the cultivation of medical marijuana. Rarely has a country taken an illegal drug overseen by a criminal organization and tried to replace it with the same crop produced legally, sold by corporations. “Here we have an entirely new opportunity,” said Alejandro Gaviria, Colombia’s health minister, whose agency is issuing the licenses. He argues legal drugs could become an important economic tool for postconflict Colombia. Federico Cock-Correa, who heads up PharmaCielo’s Colombia subsidiary and promises to pay his growers far more than what they earned during the war, said government officials were fascinated by the idea of using legal, medical cannabis as a tool for development once the rebels were out of the picture. The 2015 law allows medical marijuana cultivation for the domestic market and the export of medical marijuana products like oils and creams.
In Colombia … “The medical marijuana industry can become bigger than coffee, bigger than flowers,” said Patricio Stocker, CEO of PharmaCielo, the first company licensed to roll out production of medical marijuana in Colombia. “Our aim is to help the most [troubled] regions in the country [as] Colombia is getting out of a war and getting into a peace process,” he said. “It is not just developing the cannabis business. This will help generate funds to develop other businesses. Politicians and local communities want to develop the region and cannabis, combined with other agricultural activity, will take them out of poverty.”
Jim Rogers, who retired from the Quantum Fund, cofounded with George Soros, at age 37 and is well known for his insight into commodity markets, seems pretty bearish these days on almost everything, but one commodity he likes is cannabis, especially that which will be grown in Colombia. According to the New York Times, Rogers is an investor in PharmaCielo, a Canadian company we have featured several times over the past few months that is developing an export business in the Rionegro region. He also serves as an advisor.
Like many drug barons in Colombia, Federico Cock-Correa wants to sell his product globally. Just 15 miles outside Medellín, Mr. Cock-Correa is looking to replace vast acres of flowers with marijuana plants, with plans to export the harvest. But unlike the brutal heroin and cocaine trade that once flourished nearby, his operation has the government’s stamp of approval.
As Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed into law on July 8 the scientific and medical use of marijuana, it offers new prospects for turning illegal drugs into positive uses. This law, first drafted in 2014, met with strict opposition from conservative political forces, before Santos approved it, stating it was part of a new strategy to deal differently with the war on drugs in the country. Colombia has strict rules concerning the production, sale, import and export, transportation or use of the seeds of marijuana.