Colombia's cannabis industry is on the brink of collapse—and it could have been so different.
As recently as 2018, Colombia was poised to become the world leader in hemp and cannabis production. The country had the perfect climate for growing potent strains of cannabis, and, due to its long history of violence, the government was particularly desperate for new industries to reduce unemployment rates and keep citizens away from a life of crime.
However, since then, Colombia has lost its opportunity to dominate the global hemp and cannabis space. Although this wouldn't have been possible without the help of US-based investors, it was ultimately Colombian politicians themselves who made the decision not to push through their legalization plans.
In this article we'll explore why Colombia could have produced enough hemp and cannabis to supply the entire world, how they managed to get in such a strong position despite having no commercial legal cultivation prior to 2018, what went wrong inside Colombia that allowed these promising plans to fall through, and why U.S.-based investors are partly responsible for this loss of opportunity.
Colombia had everything going for it to become a key player in the cannabis and hemp economy. The country has a long history of cultivating the plant, with thousands of small farmers growing it illegally. With a tropical climate and rich soil, the country was uniquely positioned to produce the plant at scale.
But the government moved too slowly, according to industry experts.
"The government should have been much more aggressive in terms of promoting Colombia's strengths," said John Kagia, executive vice president of cannabis at New Frontier Data, which tracks the marijuana industry. "They had an incredible head start."
Is it too late for Colombia to become a leader in the CBD / cannabis industry?
As consumers around the world increasingly embrace cannabis, many countries are looking for ways to take advantage of this booming business. For some countries, such as Canada, the United States and Uruguay, it has been relatively easy to create a legal framework that allows them to benefit from this new market.
In Colombia, however, things have not gone so smoothly. Despite being well positioned to become a leader in the hemp and cannabis market due to its ideal growing conditions and lack of natural pests that plague other countries’ crops, the country has been slow to act on these opportunities. As a result, other countries have taken advantage of Colombia's inaction and have become leaders in this space instead.