Latin America has a prospective market of over 35 million adult use customers and 4 million patients. The size of the Latin America cannabis market has an estimated market value of $20 million in 2020 and in the second edition of the Latin America and Caribbean Cannabis Report – produced by London-based advisory group Prohibition Partners – is projected to reach over $500 million by 2024 with increasing production of cannabis cultivation. The region also benefits from low-cost labor and construction costs, meaning that the overall cost of production can be up to 80% lower than that of North America according to the report. The possible legalization of a recreational market in Mexico will have a significant effect on recreational sales in the region accounting for over 80% of projected adult cannabis sales.
|Population 2020 (m)||655|
|GDP 2019 (US$ t)||10.6|
|Share of total farming land worldwide||23%|
|Total pharmaceutical expenditure 2019 (US$ b)||157|
|Total medical cannabis patients 2020 (est.)||50,000|
|Total of potential cannabis users (est.)||5.4%|
|Source: World Bank/Prohibition Partners|
Legal medical cannabis has gained traction in Latin America in recent years:
- Antigua and Barbuda started drafting legislation to legalize recreational and medical cannabis.
- In 2017, the Argentine Senate passed a bill making medicinal cannabis legal. In 2019, Jujuy became the first Argentinian province to start cultivation.
- The therapeutic medicinal use of cannabis was first approved by Brazil’s National Sanitary Vigilance Agency in 2015 with limited options and for limited conditions.
- Cayman Islands approved medical cannabis imports and sales in 2016.
- Chile has become the first Latin American country to cultivate cannabis for oncology patients.
- On 6 July 2016, the Congress of the Republic of Colombia approved Law 1787, under which a regulatory framework was created that would allow safe and informed access for the medical and scientific use of cannabis and its derivatives. On November 25, 2020, the Colombian Senate’s constitutional commission voted in favor a bill (Proyecto de Ley 189 de 2020 or PL 189-20) that would legalize recreational cannabis use in Colombia. Next, the measure will be put to the Senate at large, and if approved will be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.
- The Ecuadorian National Assembly approved the production, commercialization, use and consumption of cannabis for medicinal use in September 2019.
- Jamaica decriminalized cannabis for medical, scientific, and religious uses in 2015, however, the country has not yet approved regulations to facilitate the export of medical cannabis in line with the new legislation.
- Mexico legalized medical cannabis in 2017 and approved regulations in 2021.
- Paraguay’s congress passed a bill in October 2019 making it possible to import cannabis seeds and grow the plant for medical uses. In February 2020, the Paraguayan authorities awarded the first medical cannabis production licenses to 12 companies.
- Peru completed the process for cannabis product legislation in February 2019.
- A bill to legalize cannabis for medical use in the Republic of El Salvador was introduced in July 2019.
- St Kitts and Nevis government decriminalized small amounts of cannabis for medicinal purposes in August 2019.
- The government of Trinidad and Tobago introduced two cannabis reform bills in November 2019 – one to decriminalize low-level possession and another to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.
- Uruguay legalized both medical and non-medical cannabis use in 2013 and in December 2019 Uruguay’s Senate passed a new bill to regulate medical cannabis.
Antigua and Barbuda
Following a legal amendment passed in March 2018, all adults can now legally possess less than 15 grams of cannabis, and cultivate a maximum of four plants, for personal use.
In 2017, Argentina passed a law legalizing the medicinal use and research of cannabis and its derivatives. In March 2019, the country announced deregulation guidelines and approved seed imports in the Jujuy Province, which has become the first to start cultivation. Also in July 2020, it was reported that the Jujuy province is planning to increase the area allocated for cultivation from the current 35 hectares to 500 hectares in the next few years.
In November 2020, the government of the South American country has issued new regulations, Decree 883/2020, allowing patients with a medical prescription to register in the country’s national cannabis program (REPROCANN) for personal cultivation of cannabis.
n December 2019, National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) approved regulations for launching medical cannabis sales in the country. According to current regulations, nonregistered medical cannabis products can be imported only by individual patients after approval by a doctor and ANVISA. More than 20,000 patients obtained permits from ANVISA to import medical cannabis from 2014, with roughly 50% of those prescriptions given in 2020 alone, according to data from ANVISA.
At the end of 2019, Brazil approved new rules allowing cannabis products without proven efficacy via clinical trials to obtain a “sanitary authorization,” valid during the early years of commercialization.
The judicial authorizations for cultivation, the growth of the associations and the new regulations were announced in August 2020. A total of 42 home or association cultivation permits were awarded via the justice system from January to July 2020, a 200% increase compared to 2019.
In Brazil, the market value of medical cannabis is forecasted to reach more than $200 million by 2028. Meanwhile, the recreational cannabis market value is expected to amount to nearly $10 million.
In 2015, Chile’s president, Michelle Bachelet, signed a decree that removed cannabis from the ‘hard drug’ list, and permitted medicinal cannabis in pharmacies.
In Chile, the market value of medical cannabis is forecasted to reach more than $3,347 million by 2028 while the recreational cannabis market value is estimated to amount to $1,649 million.
Colombia decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis in 2012 and in December 2015, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree legalizing medical cannabis, approving the commercial cultivation, processing, and export of medical cannabis products excluding flower.
The government started handing out the first licenses to grow, process and export medicinal cannabis in 2017. There are four types of cannabis licenses:
- Manufacturing of cannabis derivatives, issued by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection
- Using of the seed for sowing, issued by the Ministry of Justice and Law
- Cultivation of psychoactive cannabis plants, issued by the Ministry of Justice and Law
- Cultivation of non-psychoactive cannabis plants, issued by the Ministry of Justice and Law.
In 2020, the Colombian government issued a total of 968 licenses for hemp cultivation and the number of licenses for psychoactive cannabis cultivation added up to 642 while there were 116 licenses to manufacture medical cannabis-based products. Colombia reached the milestone of over 3,000 patients.
In 2021, the Colombian Ministry of Health and Social Protection published a draft, related to Law 1787 and Decree 613 from 2017, aiming to facilitate access to cannabis products for Colombians and allowing companies to export dry flower. According to the draft, Colombian National Institute for Food and Medicine Surveillance (INVIMA) would be responsible for license awarding while the National Narcotics Fund (FNE) would be in charge of supervising after licenses are given.
In Colombia, the market value of medical cannabis is forecasted to reach more than $400 million by 2028. Meanwhile, the recreational cannabis market value is expected to amount to nearly $200 million.
In September 2019, the Ecuadorian National Assembly approved the production, commercialization, use and consumption of cannabis for medicinal use up to 1.0% THC.
In 2015, Jamaica passed the “Ganja Law” legalizing cannabis for medical or therapeutic purposes.
There are 5 types of licenses that may be applied for: 1. Cultivators, 2. Transport, 3. Processing, 4. Retail, 5. Research & Development.
Jamaica’s Cannabis Licensing Authority had issued 22 licenses as of the end of August 2018 and an additional 126 are at the “conditional approval” stage, according to the Authority.
With the shortage of cannabis in Canada, especially after the recreational cannabis legalization, there is a great opportunity with synergies between Canada and Jamaica.
Mexico began changing its cannabis policy in 2009 when it decriminalized the possession of up to five grams. On June 19th, 2017, Mexico legalized medical cannabis, to be regulated and studied by the Ministry of Health. In February 2021, Mexico published regulations making it possible for companies to start applying for research licenses to bring products to market.
On March 11th, 2021, Mexico’s lower chamber approved a cannabis legalization bill to allow adults, over 18 years, to smoke cannabis and carry up to 28 grams, purchased in licensed stores, and citizens, with a permit, to grow up to six plants as well, while farmers will be able to have large cultivations, given priority to indigenous groups and small farmers in an aim for social equity. There will be six different licenses including vertical integration, production, distribution, retail, extraction and research. It is expected that the permits and licenses process will start in 2022.
Economists have forecasted that, with a potential base of over 1.4 million regular domestic users, Mexico could receive over $1.2 Billion in new, annual tax revenue.
Paraguay’s congress passed a bill in October 2019 making it possible to import cannabis seeds and grow the plant for medical uses. In February 2020, the Paraguayan authorities extended the number of licences (from the 5 expected in 2019) and awarded the first medical cannabis production licenses to 12 companies.
On February 23rd, 2019, the government approved the regulation of Law No. 30681 that regulates the medicinal and therapeutic use of Cannabis and its derivatives. Its purpose is to regulate the legal use, address provisions, encourage research, and provide a strict framework for products intended solely for medicinal and therapeutic purposes.
The Directorate General of Medicines, Supplies and Drugs (DIGEMID) grants production licenses, import licenses and the marketing, and control of pharmaceutical facilities.
There are three types of production licenses granted by the DIGEMID:
- Production license that allows for the cultivation of cannabis plants.
- Production license that does not include cultivation.
- Production license that includes seed production.
The decree estimates that a “minimum of 7,596” patients in Peru are in urgent need of access to medical cannabis and notes that “sufficient scientific evidence” exists for its use for several medical conditions, including:
- Chronic neuropathic pain.
- Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
- Multiple sclerosis spasticity.
- Pediatric refractory epilepsy.
In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize recreational cannabis and in July 2017, the country started selling. There are 17 government-run pharmacies which are the only places allowed to sell recreational cannabis in Uruguay.
Currently, Uruguay offers three legal options for the access to recreational cannabis: buying up to 40 grams out of four weed varieties (with higher or lower THC levels), offered at 17 authorized pharmacies; growing up to 6 cannabis plants at home; or becoming a member of one of the 114 cannabis clubs.
In accordance with Uruguay’s drug laws, cannabis is available to Uruguayan citizens and permanent residents 18 years of age and older and it is not available for sale to tourists.
Uruguay could become the first country to reach $1 billion in annual exports of medical cannabis products in as soon as five years.
Latin America and Caribbean Cannabis Market Infographics
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