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HomeNewsColombian leader sees opportunity in cannabis, but not coca

Colombian leader sees opportunity in cannabis, but not coca

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Tel Aviv, Israel (AP) – Colombian President Ivan Duka has high hopes for the medical marijuana industry in a country that has been waging an expensive war against another drug – cocaine – for decades.

But in an interview with the Associated Press during a visit to Israel, he said that promoting cannabis for medical and other purposes is a “different story” from cocaine, which is, among other things, terrible for the environment.

“To plant one acre of coca in Colombia, two acres of tropical jungle are being destroyed,” he said. “The second thing is that to produce cocaine you have a very high carbon footprint. You use a lot of gasoline, a lot of cement,” and processing chemicals are thrown into the woods.

There are also the murderous drug kings – one of whom was only caught last month On an American order – cartel violence and the scattered remnants of the FARC rebel group that fought despite a clear peace agreement reached five years ago.

But fresh from the UN climate summit, in which Colombia pledged to be carbon neutral by 2050, and the opening of a Colombian innovation center in Jerusalem, Duca was keen to discuss how Colombia and Israel – “start-up countries themselves” – could work together to make the world a better place. .

“Innovation is probably the solution to most of our problems. Even those created by innovation, they will still have to be solved by innovation,” said Avi Hasson, CEO of Startup Nation Central, which connects governments and international businesses to Israeli entrepreneurs, and hosted Tuesday Close to a discussion panel.

One chance is cannabis.

In July, Colombia lifted the export ban on dried cannabis flowers. Duka said his country is looking to harness derivatives for everything from medical treatments and food production to cosmetics. “We see a lot of international investment coming to Colombia,” said Duka, who will be replaced following next year’s presidential election.

Maybe Israel can lend a hand. Medical marijuana was legalized years ago, and more than 100,000 Israelis – out of a population of over 9 million – are licensed users. Israel approved marijuana exports in 2019, becoming only the third country to do this.

Israel boasts more than 110 cannabis technology companies, most of them in the healthcare sector, which have attracted nearly $ 350 million in investments since 2015, according to Start-Up Nation Central. Israel is too Among the major importers Of medical cannabis flower.

Duka says there is a difference between harnessing beneficial components from drugs and completely abolishing the ban.

“We do not use cannabis for recreational purposes. We use it for medical purposes,” he said.

For Duka, who makes himself a conservative of law and order, standing on cannabis in a country that has been a mainstay of the U.S.-led drug war for decades is more than a bit of a character. Drugs in public spaces, and challenges a Supreme Court ruling in a country that allows Colombians to carry small amounts of marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.

He is also committed to renewing the aerial pesticide of coca crops that are behind a record rise in cocaine production, although legal challenges and protests by farmers in remote areas have prevented him from realizing this goal.

In the years since the peace agreement, rebels who had just been disarmed abandoned the remote areas where they had been sheltered for decades under the canopy of the jungle. Cattle farms, miners, miners, subsistence farmers and crime groups have gone to waste, according to a report Earlier this month from the International Crisis Group.

Columbia lost 747,000 acres (2,885 square miles) of forest during the four years following the 2016 peace agreement – 10 times the size of New York City, according to the National Institute for Environmental Research. This compares with some 562,000 hectares (2,170 square miles) of forest loss in the four years prior to 2016, when many parts of the country where the FARC operated were out of bounds.

Colombia is also among the most dangerous countries in the world for environmentalists. About 65 were killed in 2020 alone, representing nearly a third of the global total of 227, According to Global Witness, Human Rights Organization.

Duka defended his environmental record, noting that he established the country’s first National Forest Prevention Council, supported a bill to increase sanctions for environmental crime and pledged to zero deforestation by 2030.

At the summit of UN climate change in Glasgow, he promised to turn 30% of the country’s land into protected areas by the end of his administration. National parks and government-managed reserves now make up about 15% of the country’s territory.

He blamed the attacks on environmentalists on the cartels, including that led by Dairo Antonio Osuga, a drug baron known as Otonial, who closely compared Pablo Escobar.

“One of the most dangerous criminals in the world, and especially in Colombia, who ordered the killing of environmental leaders, was Otniel, the king we captured two weeks ago,” he said.

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Contributed by the Associated Press, Joshua Goodman of Miami and Manuel Ruada of Bogota, Colombia.

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