Extreme Booming Medical Marijuana

09-10-2019    15:41   |    Reuters

In a white, sterilized laboratory on the outskirts of Uruguayan capital Montevideo, biochemist Javier Varela and his team are carefully cultivating plants for a booming multibillion-dollar global market in medical marijuana.

The company Varela works for, Fotmer Life Sciences, has just made the first commercial shipment of medical cannabis from Latin America, 10 kg (22 lb) of dried flowers with high levels of active ingredient THC destined for patients in Australia.

The small but landmark export underscores the country’s push into the burgeoning market for legal cannabis, that has medical uses including helping cancer patients manage chronic pain or treating spasms associated with multiple sclerosis.

“Our goal is to create a billion-dollar industry here in Uruguay in the next five to seven years,” Jordan Lewis, chief executive of Fotmer Life Sciences, told Reuters at the Montevideo lab. The firm soon hopes to announce shipments to the European Union, where Germany is the key market, he added.

Uruguay has been ahead of the curve. It was the first country to legalize the growing, sale and smoking of marijuana in December 2013 in a pioneering social experiment closely watched by other nations debating drug liberalization.

The number of countries legalizing the use of medical cannabis is expected to almost double to around 80 in the future, Lewis said, “creating a potential (global) market of $100 billion in the next ten years.”

In the coming weeks the firm will begin exporting 100 kg each month of dried flowers and cannabis extracts, Lewis said.

The potential is clear. While market forecasts range widely, advisory and investment bank Cowen Inc predicts the U.S. cannabis market alone could be worth $80 billion by 2030.

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Photo Credit: Andres Cuenca Olaondo, Reuters

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