Clever Leaves recently announced that they will stop their production in Portugal and will solely grow cannabis in its Colombian greenhouses. “We want to produce the best products for our clients, and Colombia is where we feel most comfortable. With our Colombian production, we have everything we need: the EU-GMP certifications, the scale to have a wide assortment of varieties, and a more sustainable business practice,” says Andres Fajardo, CEO of Clever Leaves. When it comes to the Colombian medical cannabis market, some recent developments occurred that will help propel the domestic market forward. “Colombian government-funded health insurance now covers medical cannabis, increasing patient access. For us, this is a new opportunity to more proactively serve the Colombian market.”
Andrés Fajardo (Photo credit: Clever Leaves Holdings Inc.)
Clever Leaves is currently winding down its production in Portugal, which is expected to fully cease by the end of the first half of 2023. “We are now concentrating all operations in Colombia, where we feel most comfortable because of several reasons. First of all, our Colombian flower meets the high technical requirements of the market, and we have EU-GMP certifications for the production of both cannabis extracts and dry flower. Moreover, our flower also meets the market demand when it comes to THC, terpene profiles, appearance, etc.”
Clever Leaves’ Colombian operations span over 1.8 million square feet of cultivation capacity. “The scale we have in Colombia is another reason why we made this decision, as it allows us to produce a large assortment, in terms of quantity and variety, at a relatively low cost and to have the ability to launch products at a faster pace. Our Colombian operations house a genetic discovery and development platform, comprised of both outside strains from major cannabis brands and in-house developed products. For example, we recently announced our partnership with House of Kush, to be their exclusive grower and distributor of proprietary genetics outside of the United States and Canada. This allowed us to further expand our flower portfolio with globally renowned genetics.”
“This decision to scale down to just our Colombian production also makes our business much more sustainable,” Andres explains further. “Because of the optimal Colombian climate, we don’t have to use supplemental lighting in our greenhouses, we don’t have to use heating, and we use much less water.” Andres also mentions that they were running into some hurdles concerning their Portuguese cultivation. “Many might underestimate how challenging it is to grow flower at a pharmaceutical standard. Consistency is hard. Especially because it’s not just about the CoA, it’s also about terpenes, the quality of the buds, etc.”
“Adding the Portuguese complexities to our already strong position in Colombia, we decided to focus all our operations in Colombia. This is where we had everything we needed from the start. We are prioritizing our footprint, making the right product for our clients, and keeping our balance sheet stronger,” Andres adds.
Photo credit: Clever Leaves Holdings Inc.
Improved patient access
When it comes to the recent developments in the Colombian cannabis market, Andres explains that the Colombian healthcare system is a universal coverage system. “Everybody in the country can access healthcare coverage, regardless of whether you are working or not. So the Colombian people are used to getting minimum copay for medicines. Until now, cannabis had been, for the most part, an out-of-pocket market, so only accessible to a limited number of people. Many others did not have the resources or willingness to fully pay for cannabis, when other medicines are practically free.” Therefore, Andres explains that this change is profound as it opens the possibility of medical cannabis being a part of the insurance system. “From an affordability perspective, it will increase access to cannabis. It will take some time before we can really see the influence, but I do think it’s a positive change.”
Clever Leaves has already supplied the domestic market for years. Yet this new opportunity had them considering how to more proactively serve the Colombian market. “We want to make sure the product is desirable with physicians, while also continuing to work on affordability. Moreover, we want to continue finding ways to make the distribution of the product to patients more seamless, within the regulatory possibilities,” Andres adds.
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