From Cannaciencia, we welcome to Bibiana Rojas, she is one of the pioneering women of the Medicinal Cannabis industry in Colombia. She is currently co-founder and President of Colombian Cannabis SAS company.
We have made an interview, which we want to share, as an introduction to what will be your participation as a speaker of the Cannaciencia Symposium to be held on April 20 and 21, 2018 in the city of Bogotá.
RM: You are a vertically integrated Colombian company. How do you see the Canadian companies established in the country?
BR: Yes, we are very proud of our 100% Colombian roots. We are the first company in Huila state to obtain all the licenses for Cannabis psychoactive cultivation, non-psychoactive cultivation, and manufacturing in all its uses including national sales, scientific purposes, and exports. We also have a farm of 130 hectares (320 acres) with ideal conditions for growing Cannabis; and we have a space of up to 16,000 m2 in the industrial area of Neiva for the Cannabis extraction plant and future expansions.
Like most Colombians, we see in this industry the opportunity to transform a product / industry that was negative, into something positive both for the economy and for society in general. Our vision and goal is to position Colombia as a leader in this industry. We are convinced of the advantages we have as a country and local human resources to achieve this goal.
This without taking away that we also consider very important to leverage the knowledge and experience that exists in other countries that may have advanced more in the topic of medicinal Cannabis. This industry is becoming stronger thanks to international partnerships. Colombia is in a privileged position to shine on the international stage and it is important not to enclose ourselves within our borders. That’s why our slogan is: “Colombian Cannabis: medicinal cannabis from Colombia for the world!”
RM: How do you approach the Science of Medicinal Cannabis in your company?
BR: We have spent more than 2 years investing in knowledge and expertise of our team on the topic of Medicinal Cannabis. That is why we have attended more than 20 specialized cannabis conferences in California, Colorado, Oregon, Florida, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Canada, Jamaica, Israel, Costa Rica, and others within Colombia. We have also participated in Cannabis Advanced courses in the CCI (Corporación Colombia Internacional), the Cannabis University – Oaksterdam University, and even courses in the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Moreover, now I am an international speaker too, since I have given talks about Cannabis in Portland, Hawaii, Barranquilla, and Bogotá.
We have also visited doctors and leading Cannabis companies in Canada, the United States, and Israel who have shared their best practices with us. With several of these we are evaluating partnerships to deepen our understanding and participation in topics like clinical studies, dosage, variety of medicinal products including gel capsules, tablets, patches, inhalers, tinctures, sprays, creams, among others.
RM: What is the thought as a woman in the Medicinal Cannabis Industry, where most companies’ managers are men?
BR: It’s a challenge… in this industry and all the rest. For me it is common to arrive at a meeting of CEOs and be the only woman at the table. At the same time, it is a source of pride to be the leader of one of the first companies in Colombia to have all the licenses and be their leader regardless of whether I’m wearing a skirt or pants. The important thing is what I have in my brain and the passion I bring into this industry.
But this is the opportunity. We can stand out even more. This industry is so new and it moves at such an impressive speed that it is possible to break the “glass ceiling”, as it is not an “old guard” industry with a rigid establishment or a patriarchy. This industry is flexible and we are part of those in the front line fighting for its advancement. We are making history and as such it is in our hands to shape its destiny.
RM: What do you think is the role of women in the Medicinal Cannabis industry in Colombia?
BR: Women have already played a very important role in the Medicinal Cannabis industry in Colombia and in the world. It has been thanks to those brave, fighting, and dedicated mothers who refuse to take a “no” for an answer. It is them who have opened the eyes of many legislators to understand that the rights to life and health are above any other clause, and that in nature we can find answers to our illnesses if we stop stigmatizing a plant for political reasons or disinformation.
Furthermore, there’s also an incredible pool of talented women. In Colombia we have highly qualified professionals who will be indispensable in this industry: agronomists, pharmaceutical chemists, nurses, doctors, etc. In all the links of the supply chain there are opportunities for women to stand out.
This is an industry where all Colombians can participate and make a difference.
RM: What is the opportunity we are experiencing in Colombia with the legalization of Medicinal Cannabis?
BR: It’s a wonderful opportunity! This industry seems to have been designed specifically for Colombia. Our beautiful country has all the conditions and advantages to be world leaders.
We have excellent climatic conditions, fertile soils, abundance of sun and water, variety of thermal floors, possibility of multiple harvests per year, flexibility of outdoor, greenhouse, or indoor cultivation, human resources with specialized knowledge for this type of crop, and even an ideal geographical position for ease of international trade.
We also have a government that supports and bets on this nascent industry. We have the privilege that before Colombia legalized cannabis, they learned and researched how it was done in other States or Countries, so that they could take the best from each part and thus have a very complete and worthy model to be adopted by other nations later on. For our company it has been a real pleasure to interact with the staff of Minjusticia, MinSalud, FNE, Invima, ICA, among others, where we appreciate the dedication of each of them to take this industry forward even when it is such a novel subject. Their support has been magnificent!
RM: Is there a possibility for more women to join this industry?
BR: Yes of course! This is just beginning!
RM: At this time, what are the main challenges the medicinal cannabis industry in Colombia faces?
BR: Being able to execute. We must move from theory to practice without drowning the entrepreneurial spirit.
There are a few issues on the government side that need to be further clarified and/or need more personnel and resources. For example, issues of characterizing and legalizing the Colombian genetics, allowing the importation of other genetic material, balancing the concept of allocation of quotas vs. a quick response to demand in the market, obtaining sanitary registries, allowing foreign capital inflows, and eventually monitoring and being more strict to those who have not followed the steps properly. Based on the successful execution of these topics, we will be able to tell if Colombia really becomes a world leader of Cannabis or dies in the attempt.