Cannabis law and legislation in Colombia

Medical use

Growing, selling and importing cannabis for medical use is allowed in Columbia.

There are several authorities involved in the authorisation processes. The ICA (the Colombian Agency for Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Products) will confirm that any kind of industrial crop farming has obtained certain phytosanitary and food safety approvals. The Ministry of Justice authorises the cultivation. The Ministry of Health issues the authorisation to process the raw materials into processed ingredients, such as resins and oils that are not to be sold to the public. INVIMA is the agency that conducts market approval procedures for finished products.

As per these regulations, patients are not supposed to have access to raw cannabis. The regulations aim for patients to have access to pharmaceutical products. If a patient prefers to use raw cannabis, the regulations provide for the possibility of growth for personal consumption (up to 20 plants). No processing or commercialisation is allowed for this personal consumption option.

Being a product with a very sensitive background in Colombia, and strong enforcement against recreational use, any breach that attempts to profit from commercialisation of recreational use will be sanctioned as a criminal offence.

Specifically, for the medical use regulations, licences might be cancelled if an administrative probe has proven that the regulations were not complied with. In relation to pharma products, the legal framework for “magistral formulas” (pharma products developed for an individual, not massively produced) are now allowed and actually being produced.

Recreational use

Recreational use of cannabis continues to be illegal and will be prosecuted as a criminal offence.

Consumption is not punished but any commercial activity, import, export or production is prohibited and criminally prosecuted.

Industrial use

The regulations provide for the possibility of industrial use for non-THC cannabis (CBD) but do not specifically describe which industrial uses these are.

Sanctions connected to industrial cannabis are the same as described above for violations for medical cannabis.

The regulations provide for the use of both THC and CBD. THC can only be used as an active ingredient on pharmaceutical products, but CBD can be used as an active ingredient in cosmetics, dietary supplements and pharmaceutical products.

Patentability

The patenting of cannabis-based products is possible in Colombia to a certain extent.

Pursuant to patent law, Decision 486/2000, an Andean Community Act enforceable in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, cannabis-based inventions are in general non-patentable inventions that go against moral principles or public order.

Given that in Colombia certain commercial exploitations related to cannabis are allowed, an invention where scope falls within those limits could be granted.

An invention that goes beyond that authorised exploitation and enters illegal fields would be rejected.

It is also interesting to point out that Colombian patent law provides protection for traditional knowledge of local indigenous or Afro-American communities. If an invention was developed using material or knowledge from these sources, it needs to produce evidence on the proper acquisition and compensation for said materials.

Latest developments

Lately there has been cause to suggest that Colombia is losing its edge as a forerunner in the field of cannabis. After a few years of a pioneering legal framework, investors feel that the country is slowing its pace. It has been difficult for the industry to actually get to the point of selling of products for a proper return on investments. Practical issues relate to access to financial services and assignment of production quota, and other more structural issues like exporting procedures.

There is currently a proposal to allow the export of dry flower (which is currently prohibited). However, according to some, that might not be beneficial for the local cannabis industry as we would be exporting raw material and not finished products.

Finally, in elation to recreational use, this subject has been debated in the news. Recently there was a draft bill in congress aiming to legalize all drugs (including cocaine), but it is not expected to progress far.

Portrait of Karl Mutter, LL.M.
Karl Mutter, LL.M.
Partner
Bogotá
Portrait of Luz Helena Vargas
Luz Helena Vargas
Associate Director
Bogotá