Learning your cannabis ABCs

CCI attended a recent cannabis workshop hosted by Khiron Life Sciences and Asocolcanna. It took delegates through the ABCs of this flourishing industry and looked at the main concerns and challenges.

By: Juliana Salazar

Khiron Life Sciences, a Colombian- owned company listed on the Toronto Venture Exchange, has been one of the more active – and noisy – players in the local industry. Last year it launched the Kuida CBD cosmetics brand and in June this year it completed construction of its extraction plant in Ibague, north of Bogotá. In July, in conjunction with industry association Asocolcanna, it hosted a workshop for local journalists which, beyond the inherent marketing value, shed some light on key issues confronting the sector.

BACKLOG UPDATE: The company’s vice-president of regulatory affairs, Juan Diego Álvarez, reminded attendees that bureaucratic and regulatory risk remained one of the industry’s principle challenges, highlighting some important numbers. According to Álvarez, 29 different permits are required for export extracts, while 22 are needed to launch a finished product. Combined with the backlog of 1,000 license requests, eight- month ICA procedures and a lack of clarity from INVIMA, it is clear why government delays are one of the main concerns for licensed producers (LPs).

Banking options remain limited but are improving. According to Asocolcanna director Rodrigo Arcila Gómez, Banco Agrario is already opening corporate bank accounts, while second-tier financial entity FINAGRO is granting credit lines. Monetizing foreign investment remains a challenge, for which Banco Agrario is expected to propose solutions in the coming months. Lastly, Arcila spoke briefly about Asocolcanna’s proposal to design a parafiscal fund to benefit small farmers and producers as well as creating a national cannabis research center to boost scientific research on the plant and its applications.

DOCTORS ORDERS: Khiron’s medical director Dr María Fernanda Arboleda went over the myths and realities of medicinal cannabis. Cannabis medicine is a complementary treatment, but it does have side effects and there are cases where it should not be used. The human body naturally has an endocannabinoid system, which regulates certain functions like sleep and appetite. But, according to Dr Arboleda, excess THC levels in non- regulated products can have serious consequences for certain patients. Street commercialization of cannabis creams and extracts represents a serious health concern, and misinformation tied to the medicinal cannabis “boom” has not helped either. The cannabis train is buffered by constant changes and more and more jurisdictions that come on board. It is difficult for medical professionals to keep up, which adds confusion to the already complex task of prescribing and understanding cannabis medicines. In addition, the American market is complex for large scale cannabis production due the lack of standardization and federal prohibition.

COSMETIC CHANGES: In 2018, after the Personal Care Products Council (PC-PC) approved CBD as a cosmetic ingredient in the US, INVIMA quickly took the same line and authorized the commercialization and production of CBD cosmetics in Colombia. However, while international and local regulations have opened the door for cannabis cosmetics, Kuida Skin Care Director, Elsa Torres says that understanding the limits of this market remains a challenge. As cosmeceutical products, CBD creams may avoid the requirement for clinical trials by claiming aesthetic benefits, but not medical ones. Which means marketing and advertising campaigns must tread a very thin line to avoid crossing into the territory of medical claims. Even so, CBD companies face constant rejection from many online marketing channels. Facebook did recently allow paid advertisements for CBD cosmetics, but if cannabis brands are to create a safe and trusting environment, they must carry the burden of positioning the cosmetics organically and creating close relationships with end-consumers.