RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – For the first time legally, Colombia exported to the US an extract with a high THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) content, the main psychoactive cannabinoid derived from cannabis and a controlled substance under international treaties.
On March 30th, the Colombian company NatuEra, a subsidiary of the Canadian Cronos Group, sent THC extract to the U.S. company Biopharmaceutical Research Company, which will use it for scientific research composition and safety of cannabis in vapor form. The results of this study will serve to guide the public policy discussions that are advancing in that country on the legalization of cannabis at the federal level through a responsible regulatory framework based on science.
In other words, the study will be decisive for the legalization of the consumption of this substance. Colombia was the country in charge of participating in this process since it is believed that the country has the necessary measures to offer a product of good quality and control.
In a conversation with Nicolas Nannetti, CEO of NatuEra, the director told Infobae the importance of this collaboration and why pharmaceutical companies are looking to study TCH medicinally. He also assured that the product exported from the country is adequate for the academy to prove that the substance can be used medicinally.
The amount of TCH exported from the country was 30 milliliters, in three containers of 10 milliliters each. This amount is the one normally used for research and development. Generally, a minimal amount is used to submit it to the necessary analysis in this research.
This first shipment of cannabis with high THC content was exported by NatuEra from Colombia, with the National Narcotics Fund’s authorization, and imported into the United States under a DEA permit granted to BRC.
This is the first export-import of psychoactive cannabis extract with high THC content from Colombia to the United States in compliance with applicable regulations.
Legal Colombian cannabis exports reached $5 million in 2020, with an increase of 1,600% in relation to foreign sales in 2019, as reported in recent days by the Colombian Association of Cannabis Industries (Asocolcanna), which brings together 32 companies, representing 90 percent of the country’s legal production.
“This is a very positive growth because we are already starting to see that companies are reaching the time of the market. This means that they are finding demand for their products and, although it is a result below expectations, the route to the international market is opening up,” commented the president of the trade association, Rodrigo Arcila.
According to the association, the most exported products are juices and natural extracts (US$2,909,361), followed by products related to beauty, makeup, and skincare, which are in second place with US$673,684; in third place are other chemical compounds derived from cannabis, known as polyphenols (US$622,468).
Despite the good figures, Colombian cannabis producers insist that the national government grant permits to export dried flowers for medicinal purposes.
“Dried cannabis flower, in addition to being a raw material, is also a finished product. In fact, it is the most prescribed and with the highest sales in the United States, Canada, and Germany, where it represents more than 50% of sales to patients in dispensaries”, said Camilo de Guzmán, legal vice-president of NatuEra, in an interview with Portfolio.
However, the authorities still have reservations about this. “This generates greater challenges for the control and prevention of the diversion of narcotics, as well as the re-evaluation of the possibility of allowing in Colombia the prescription of cannabis without transformation when the competent entities have not accepted it due to the lack of national research that proves its benefits”, reflected the Minister of Justice, Wilson Ruiz.
Legalization in the United States
Currently, cannabis for medicinal purposes has been legalized in 36 of the 50 states of the United States of America. However, psychoactive cannabis (i.e., containing more than 0.3% THC) remains a controlled substance in the United States under the most restrictive category of the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, which is reserved for those drugs without accepted medical uses and which present a high potential for abuse.
In December 2020, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, in a landmark decision, accepted the recommendation of the World Health Organization to remove cannabis from the most restrictive schedule of controlled substances, recognizing its importance and usefulness for medical and scientific purposes for the first time.
In this context, the United States has been advancing a national debate on how to legalize and regulate cannabis and transition from an inconsistent state-led regulatory framework to a federal regulatory framework guided by science, patient/user safety application-consistent quality standards.