Colombia Issues New Cannabis Foreign Trade Regulations

Colombia has issued regulations on the import and export of cannabis products. Joint Resolution 539, issued in concert by four Colombian ministries on April 1, 2022, follows up on Decree 811 from last July, which expanded the scope of legal activities involving cannabis.

The regulations specify which approvals are needed to import or export different cannabis products to and from Colombia. Approval requests must be submitted through Colombia’s Single Window for Foreign Trade (VUCE). Relevant agencies have 12 months to integrate their activities into VUCE. The new regulations also address the entry and egress of cannabis products to and from Colombia’s free trade zones.

Cannabis destined for “medical and scientific ends” may be exported by authorized persons, subject to approval by the relevant agencies. In the case of “psychoactive cannabis” (1% or more THC) approvals must be granted by the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) and the National Drug Fund (FNE). ICA’s approval requires that the cultivars whose export is intended be registered in Colombia’s National Register of Commercial Cultivars (RNCC). This requirement is waived if the cultivars are the product of genetic improvement activities sanctioned by ICA, and the export is pursuant to scientific purposes. In addition, a phytosanitary certificate must be provided as well, if required by the destination country.

For its part, FNE requires a documented “legal link” between the prospective exporter and a holder of either a cultivation license for research and/or export, or a license for manufacturing cannabis derivates for research purposes. In the latter case, the export activity must be connected to the licensee’s research. FNE also requires presentation of an export certificate, also issued by FNE, against which the products to be exported will be verified for compliance with traceability and quota requirements. The agency will also verify that the THC level corresponds to that listed in the RNCC. Finally, the exporter must indicate the products’ intended use (medical or scientific), as well as the quantity to be exported.

The new regulations have been hailed as a “great step” by Colombia’s cannabis industry. These advances with regard to foreign trade stands in contrast to the stalled efforts to legalize adult-use cannabis. Yet developments in Colombia demonstrate how countries can avail themselves of the economic opportunities presented by cannabis, even if they do not embrace full legalization.