Interview: Strength in Numbers

Rodrigo Arcila Executive President ASOCOLCANNA

After gaining over 11 years of experience in the pharmaceutical sector, Rodrigo Arcila became Executive President of ASOCOLCANNA, a guild with over 16 members created to promote the development of the cannabis sector within the legal framework established for medicinal cannabis.

CCI: How did you get involved in the cannabis industry and in ASOCOLCANNA?
RA: I used to work in the pharmaceutical sector in ANDI, Colombia’s biggest chamber of industry. I was in charge of the national and multinational sectors. It was very interesting to understand how to reach consensus amongst several parties, and ANDI was the center of negotiations. I was finishing my cycle at ANDI and got a call from to start working in the medicinal cannabis sector. ASOCOLCANNA was created one year ago, it didn’t have an executive president or business events for cannabis companies and laboratories, we now have these discussion rounds with technical and juridical representatives of our members. This is a young industry, but it understands very well how to work together. The government really appreciates that we present ourselves as a unified front and we understand how to negotiate and propose viable alternatives and solutions.

CCI: What are your concerns regarding security for cannabis companies?
RA: In several presentations I have made, and after visiting cultivation sites and laboratories, analyzing implemented security systems and regulations, I can say this is a highly regulated industry. It’s extremely difficult to challenge security protocols, the government has its eyes on this industry and to steal a plant or flower from a cultivation site is nearly impossible. Not only are we extremely regulated, but the government has put a lot of institutions and entities destined to watch over the entire sector, and each one has their specific roles and objectives.

CCI: What are your future perspectives on the cannabis industry?
RA: The difference between us and other sectors such as coffee and oil is those products were exported without any added value. Now, things have changed for Colombia and we have learned to refine oil, we export coffee products other than the bean itself and it is a finished product. The cannabis industry’s biggest challenge and perspective is to create added value for the entire product. The pharmaceutical industry exports $500 million each year, and the cannabis industry will quickly exceed these numbers. Quite impressive when you consider that the pharmaceutical industry has been around for many decades. The most important aspect for us is for Colombia to become a world-wide quality reference and to develop the “made in Colombia” brand as an international reference.

The cannabis industry’s biggest challenge and perspective is to create added value for the entire product. The pharmaceutical industry exports $500 million each year, and the cannabis industry will quickly exceed these numbers.

CCI: What is the current status of exports, do companies expect the government to allow cannabis flower exports?
RA: Some companies in Colombia are completely integrated and will export finished medicinal cannabis-based products. Because of Federal Law, Colombian companies are not going to export cannabis extracts to the US, not even to those states who have already legalized medicinal cannabis. The Colombian market, under the existing regulation, is only contemplated for medicinal and scientific cannabis. At the moment, industries are working in this sector are completely focused on medicinal cannabis, maybe in the future there will be recreational cannabis, we don’t know. All the companies are focused on the medicinal and scientific aspects of cannabis because of the existing issues with other sectors, so we are not focusing on the recreational aspect at the moment.