In the heart of Cauca, Colombia, a place renowned for illegal production of cannabis, now this will also be produced for medical and scientific applications.
The news is twofold, because those who will produce it will be members of the department's Misak indigenous community, which on May 15 became the first indigenous community to which the Ministry of Justice granted a license to grow the plant.
To get here they had to go a long way, from gathering together and collecting the more than 10 million pesos necessary for these licenses, to setting up a company and meeting multiple technical and legal requirements.
Obtaining the license was the first step: the project is still in the initial stage, but they hope to start planting in early 2021. Since the license granted by the Ministry is to produce non-psychoactive cannabis, there is no limit to how many plants or hectares they can plant . And in addition to the production of cannabis derivatives, which are licensed by them, they are also legally authorized to produce seeds for planting.
Liliana Pechené, Misak indigenous leader, explained that this project is important to change the concept of Cauca, which has been “stigmatized by illicit crops and by conflict. So for us, this project is a great challenge, but also a hope for the community, and an opportunity to work for peace."
The leader commented that everything is coordinated by the Misak Manasr Indigenous Pharma Society; in Misak language, Manasr means ‘immortal plant that connects the human being with the medicinal being’. In addition to cannabis, Misak Manasr also works with other traditional medicinal plants.
About 100 Misak people will participate directly in this project, and another 500 people indirectly, including Misak farmers and Afro-Colombians. Among them, there are also mothers, youngsters and victims of the armed conflict. And the profiles are diverse: doctors, accountants, agricultural engineers, traditional doctors, traditional midwives, among others, explained Luis Enrique Ulluné, leader of the cannabis project.
The Misak already have the support of two universities in the country: the Universidad del Cauca and the Universidad de los Andes, which are advising them academically and technically, but have also partnered up with indigenous peoples of Canada and the United States.
They have partnered with the latter in the recent five-year period to share knowledge, especially since these peoples of North America already have practical experience in the economics of medical cannabis.
On the other hand, although Misak Manasr begins in Cauca, they have established agreements with other indigenous peoples in the south and north of the country, especially the Arhuacos and Kankuamos of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. With them they share ancestral knowledge about the cannabis plant bilaterally, but in the future they also hope that these peoples can also join the medical cannabis economy.
"We are not a large company, but we are convinced that communities must be given the opportunity to participate in these projects, and more so in this industry, which could in the future become the second largest economy in the country," said Pechené.
In addition to participating in this economy, they also want to bring the ancient knowledge about this plant that native peoples have to other people and who can benefit from its properties. "This is a space to publicize what we know about cannabis, we want to share its importance and the opportunity these plants have to save lives, we want to bring the essence of this plant to society," explained Ulluné.
In this sense, the Misak aim to ensure that their medicinal cannabis production not only reaches national markets, but that they also want to become exporters, and for this Europe and North America are in their picture.
That is why Ulluné concluded by saying that the indigenously produced medicinal cannabis project is an opportunity for Cauca and Colombia to be seen as much more than the violence and drug trafficking they have experienced. "Hopefully we take another look at the country. We are working for peace and for a country for all, "he said.
There are more than 650 licenses throughout the country
Since 2017, when Colombia regulated the production of cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes, and until April 30 of this year, the Ministry of Justice had issued 656 cannabis cultivation licenses in the country.
Most of the licenses are concentrated in Cundinamarca, followed by Antioquia. Of all the permits issued, 394 are for the cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis; 164, for psychoactive cannabis, and there are 98 licenses for the production of seeds for sowing.