While Canada sorts out the inevitable challenges that arise when an entire country legalizes cannabis, it remains a money magnet for cannabis investors, who are throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at the Canuck kush scene. After initial hiccups, sales are like you after a seventh dab—really high, and getting higher. But supply shortages are an ongoing problem, as it appears Canadians like to get high AF. Another country is lining up to stake out, and reclaim, its place in the rapidly growing global cannabis industry, and is doing so with some sizable Canadian investments.
MSN has a fine piece about a country whose cannabis exports were once eagerly sought out by earlier generations of stoners, and were even famously celebrated in a song by a popular band named after a sex toy that your mom enjoys (the band, that’s what your mom enjoys, not the sex toy)*.
Colombia is gearing up to be a cannabis production powerhouse, and though it faces its own challenges, Colombia looks like it could offer Canada a run for their beautifully designed and brightly colored money. The country Americans most likely associate with cocaine rather than cannabis has a number of factors in its favor. And Canadian cannabis companies have recently invested more than $100 million into Colombia operations, with Canadian cannabis giant Canopy dropping $60 million for a 126-hectare Colombian farm with a production capacity of 4.5 million square feet.
As with all the cannabis produced produced in Colombia, per the CBC, it’s required to be processed into “marijuana oils and other medical products rather than smokeable buds, which are still prohibited. Colombia legalized medicinal cannabis production and exports in 2015, but recreational use remains illegal.” Canopy plans to develop and produce for the Latin American regional medical cannabis marketplace, which totals 630 million people.
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One reason for the Canadian influx is cost. In Canada, the average cost to produce a gram of cannabis through a licensed and taxed producer is $10. (Prices in the CBC article are in Canadian dollars.) Compare that to the estimated $5 to $7 per gram that it costs illicit growers in Canada to produce. Canopy recently announced they expect to bring production costs down to $5.47 by the end of 2019, a new personal best.
“Sostenga mi cerveza,” said Colombia. Per MSN, “Analysts believe that on average it will cost around $0.50 to produce a gram of dried flower in Colombia, roughly a 20th of the average industry cost in Canada.” One Colombian company reported that they could produce a gram of cannabis oil for $.05. That’s a gram of cannabis oil for a nickel.
The CBC examined how much of the price difference are related to wages—the minimum hourly wage in Ontario is $14, while in Colombia it’s $1.64. Costs are further favored by geography, with Colombia’s longer growing season and fantastic growing conditions having made it a long-time leader in the production of other agricultural products such as coffee, flowers, and, yes, cocaine. Add to that a skilled workforce highly proficient in working in greenhouse settings who can be easily trained to handle new technology and growing systems specifically for cannabis.
These investments come with a built-in social justice component as well. Cultivation licenses in Colombia require that 10 percent of the cannabis production be performed by “small farmers, Indigenous people, and other groups who have been particularly hard-hit by the country’s drug violence.” Some of those Indigenous farmers have been developing and cultivating strains such as Colombian Gold for centuries, which could lead to wide-scale, high-quality production of rare landrace genetics to used for that nickel gram of oil.
* “The Cuervo gold/the fine Colombian/makes tonight a wonderful thing”—”Hey Nineteen,” Steely Dan