PharmaCielo Targets 2018 Start-up for Medical Marijuana Commercialization
Having now won crucial Colombian government licenses for cultivation and production of medical marijuana products with “unlimited” percentages of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), Toronto-based PharmaCielo now aims to launch production and commercial marketing in 2018.
In a November 7 interview with Medellin Herald, Federico Cock-Correa, the Medellin-based CEO of PharmaCielo Colombia Holdings, told us that the company now faces only one remaining regulatory hurdle: a production “quota” that he expects would be approved soon by Colombia’s Justice Ministry.
The Ministry must issue such quotas following limits mandated by the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) — or, as known in Spanish, the Junta Internacional de Fiscalización de Estupefacientes (JIFE).
INCB works with national governments “to ensure that adequate supplies of drugs are available for medical and scientific uses and that the diversion of drugs from licit sources to illicit channels does not occur,” according to the agency.
INCB also “administers a system of estimates for narcotic drugs and a voluntary assessment system for psychotropic substances and monitors licit activities involving drugs through a statistical returns system, with a view to assisting governments in achieving a balance between supply and demand,” the agency adds.
According to Cock-Correa, following issuance of the “quota,” Colombia would be the first target market for PharmaCielo’s pioneering medical-marijuana products.
Potential distribution chains could involve feedstock sales to third-party pharmaceutical producers as well as direct sales through retail pharmacies and supermarkets.
But the company is also targeting international markets including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Peru and South Africa — along with more than a score of other countries that are moving to legalize medical marijuana, he explained.
While some U.S. states have enacted marijuana legalization measures, the U.S. as a whole has yet to adopt a single, uniform regulatory-permission scheme. As a result, PharmaCielo might have to wait a few more years for future U.S. regulatory evolutions that would enable broad market penetration there, Cock-Correa explained to us.
Despite U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recently expressed hostility toward marijuana legalization, ironically there’s a growing rationale for broader legalization of medical marijuana in the U.S. — thanks in part to U.S. President Donald Trump recently declaring that the U.S. is in the midst of a horrific opioid-addiction epidemic.
Rationale for legalization: In recent years, several health researchers have published studies concluding that relatively non-addictive medical marijuana could at least partially substitute for highly addictive opioids in pain control — hence potentially helping to stem opioid abuse.
Other claimed health benefits for medical-marijuana products include stress reduction, sleep inducement, appetite enhancement, nausea reduction (for patients using certain cancer drugs), headache relief and glaucoma relief. However, researchers also have cautioned that medical marijuana can have detrimental effects on attention-span, judgment and balance.
Asked what factors are key to achieving success in the emerging medical-marijuana market, Cock-Correa pointed out to us that scientific research, development and quality control throughout the entire process — from cultivation to manufacturing of extracts – are critical.
For example: Artisanal and illegal marijuana-extract producers (whose products are found in the Colombian market today) don’t necessarily ensure that an end-product is free of harmful metals, chemicals or other contaminants. Nor can the efficacy of certain illegal products be guaranteed.
But besides ensuring relatively high quality products, legal producers also could benefit from being first-to-market with certain specialties, he added.
High-quality research-and-development, cooperation with quality, licensed producers of marijuana feedstocks, potential deals with third-party pharmaceutical manufacturers, marketing deals with big retail chains, and ability to produce a suite of high-quality products for various niche markets are all factors that could favor legal producers over illegal producers, he added.
Colombia’s more-than 50-years’ experience in ornamental flower production on a massive, industrial scale – plus its relatively favorable climate and competitive costs-of-production– are additional factors favoring legalized medical-marijuana producers here, he said.
As for potential misuse of medical marijuana for recreational use, Cock-Correa pointed out that this same problem already occurs with alcohol or other products that have both medical and recreational — and sometimes addictive — applications.
So, while legalized medical-marijuana producers can do their best to warn against misuse — and also employ control methods to prevent illegal diversion — consumer education and government enforcement also must be part of the solution to minimize this problem, he concluded.