Interview: cannabis is like whine: the Chilean perspective

Nicolás Dormal Co-founder Fundación Daya

Fundación Daya was the first organization to receive a permit to grow cannabis in Latin America and was the first to begin cultivation in Chile. Daya has been treating patients with medicinal marijuana for four years and in January entered into partnership with Khiron Life Sciences to develop clinical trials in Chile.

CCI: What cannabis-based treatment options are open to Chilean patients?
ND: After a medical appointment to determine if they are eligible, we provide patients with two options. The first is to cultivate their own plants at home, which is allowed by Chilean law. We teach them how to grow as well as some basic recipes for extraction. The second option is to get a prescription. Knop Laboratorios are distributing Cannabiol in 15 cities in Chile through their associated pharmacies. Cannabiol is the first cannabis-based medicine in Latin America, and sells at a value 12 times cheaper than Sativex. However, it is the only licensed formulation, and it does not cover the number of pathologies we treat. Take refractory epilepsy, the treatment mostly requires higher CBD formulations, even with some THC presence. These formulations still don’t exist in the market, and self-cultivation is replacing this need.

We also believe that thanks to our climate – and given the right regulations – Chile has the potential to be a producer.

CCI: Why have the Uruguayan and Colombian cannabis markets taken off while Chile has remained slow?
ND: We were the first to start medicinal cannabis development and now are the last. There is a lack of vision from the authorities in creating a set of clear rules that attract foreign or local investment. Aside from Decrees 404 and 405, which allow for imports, exports and prescription, there is no specific regulation for cannabis. We don’t even have licenses: companies have to ask for permits each year, and this is not attractive for investors. Nevertheless, there has been an interest due to our progress for local and international companies starting their activities. Sooner or later regulators will need to update their procedures.

CCI: Even so, major Canadian firms are entering the market via distribution agreements...
ND: Yes, they are coming to the market with their brands and will begin clinical trials to register products in Chile. However, we also believe that thanks to our climate – and given the right regulations – Chile has the potential to be a producer. We have Mediterranean and mountain climates with summers of up to eight months without rain, many hours of light, and clear water sources coming from the mountains. We can cultivate huge plants that produce three kilos of dry flower each. The production on one hectare can be up to 1.5 tons of dry flower. This is equivalent to indoor cultivation in three harvests, so one harvest produces the same as of three in Colombia, with lower costs than indoor and greenhouse cultivation.

CCI: What is the long term potential of Chilean cannabis?
ND: In my opinion, Chilean cannabis is a bit like its wine: very high quality, at low costs. We have high microbiological safety, with very high-performing plants. Also, Chile has a very high level of phytosanitary control. The key is to cultivate in September and harvest in March.

CCI: Are Chileans open to medicinal cannabis?
ND: Yes, 86% of Chileans support medicinal cannabis, the highest level in the region. Daya has worked with 25,000 patients, all of them using medicinal cannabis and most of them cultivating in their homes using our protocols. Historically, Chile was also a hemp producer – in the 1940s it was the third largest in the world. We have a huge culture of decriminalization, the Chilean society is not conservative, but the political elite is. They are the ones who need to change their perspective because this is an industry like any other.