El Gobierno colombiano ha concedido licencias a tres empresas para procesar extractos, resinas y aceites con los que tratar enfermedades como el cáncer, la epilepsia y la esclerosis múltiple.

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Colombians called it the bonanza marimbera (marijuana bonanza). In the 1970s and 1980s smokers in the United States were especially partial to Santa Marta Gold, a variety of cannabis grown on the slopes of Colombia’s Sierra Nevada. It has “a sweet, intense aroma” and “powerful psychedelic effects”, says WeedWiki, a website. But government fumigators, plus competition from American-grown weed, ended the Santa Marta Goldrush. Farmers switched to coca, the raw material of cocaine.

Now Colombia hopes to cash in on a new cannabis-based bonanza, set off by legalisation in parts of the United States and elsewhere. The government recently licensed three companies to process extracts, resins and oils for treating such ailments as cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. Its ambition is to build medical marijuana into a business as big as cut flowers, which bring in more than $1 billion in export revenue. Colombia could be “the winner of this emerging global market”, said Alejandro Gaviria, the health minister.

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Thumbnail: Flickr CC Claudio Toledo