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Cannabis: a growing industry in Latin America

Cannabis is one of the most well-known drugs in the world. It is commonly associated with being a widely illegal recreational drug, however, in recent times some countries have taken a more liberal approach towards it as new research is undertaken. As well as being used recreationally, there are markets for medicinal and also industrial cannabis appearing across the globe, including opportunities which are now being seen in Latin America.

While cannabis and products deriving from it are still not seen in every country within the region, one example where it has been successfully integrated into everyday society is Uruguay. In 2013, the legalisation of cannabis in recreational and medical forms was written into legislation, paving the way for the introduction of legal cannabis on the continent. Since then, Mexico has become the most promising country in the region to appear to be considering a move to legalise cannabis for recreational use in 2021.

Away from its recreational uses, Latin America is exhibiting a growing market in medicinal cannabis. One country which is ahead of the rest is Colombia. In terms of revenue, it has been reported that year upon year, exportation of medicinal cannabis plants generates been US$3000 and US$17000 million, a figure which would appear to have no limit if more countries around take the world take the view to write legal forms of cannabis into official legislation. This is seen in the US$500 million that has been pumped into Colombian medicinal cannabis businesses from abroad since it was made legal in 2016. However, although Colombia is further ahead in the industry, the following countries permit the use of medicinal cannabis in some circumstances:

· Argentina

· Brazil

· Chile

· Mexico

· Paraguay

· Peru

· Uruguay

The market for industrial cannabis use, such as in construction, is also an area of future opportunity. Manufacturers of products such as hempcrete, an alternative to traditional cement using hemp could be attracted to the region if more countries decide to relax legislation. Furthermore, industrial hemp can be used in other sectors, such as farming where it can be used as a material in animal bedding, but also in more everyday occurrences such as paper products. An alternative argument for industrial hemp use is in food. Lorenzo Rolim da Silva mentioned in an interview that hemp grain contains proteins and Omega fats, which could make it an attractive food source in the Latin American agricultural industry.



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