Colombia has launched an ambitious initiative to provide a legal market for peasant cannabis cultivators, supplying a new facility that will produce extracts for the Israeli medical market.
This week, the company One Colombia, which now produces coffee infused with medicinal herbs, broke ground on the plant at the highland town of Corinto, in the southern region of Cauca, the Vanguardia newspaper reports. With an investment of $1.5 million from Israeli partners, the plant is projected to produce 300 tons of oil extracts annually, from 10 times as much “primary material”—all provided by local small producers.
This new “CauCannabis Cooperative” brings together small campesino growers from the Cauca municipalities of Corinto, Calotó, Toribío, Jambaló and others. These are areas long afflicted by naro-gang and guerilla violence, and the initiative consciously seeks to daylight the cannabis economy and bring it out from under the control of criminal cartels.
Caracol Radio reported that the ground-breaking ceremony for the Corinto plant was attended by the mayors of these municipios, as well as a representative from Gobernación, the executive body of Cauca’s regional government. The plant is expected to begin operations early next year, pending license from Colombia’s national government. Peasant growers will be producing up to 30 varieties. La FM Radio reported that up to 50 percent of Cauca’s growers could be legalized under the plan.
The initiative is the fruit of a campaign by advocates for Cauca’s mostly indigenous campesinos. After Colombia granted its first medical marijuana cultivation license earlier this year, advocates protested that it had gone to a Canadian company, operating out of the Antioquia region in the north—bypassing the indigenous peasantry of Cauca, the country’s traditional cannabis heartland.
El Tiempo newspaper quoted the words of Corinto mayor Edward García at the ceremony: “We hope this medical marijuana will be an opportunity to transform the reality of violence, of conflict. There are nearly 1,500 illegal cultivators, and we are confident that with this proposal they can be legalized as soon as the licenses are authorized.”
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