When Beatriz Porras was studying agronomy at a university in Tunja, Colombia, she thought her career would lead to growing coffee, like her parents, or flowers, the traditional agricultural staples for the country’s export market. Back then, growing marijuana was illegal, and security forces targeted plantations with forced eradication campaigns aimed at stemming illicit trafficking. Five years later, the 29-year old engineer oversees the cutout process at Clever Leaves, one of Colombia’s largest medical marijuana companies and the first in South America to receive the EU certification to trade pharmaceutical products. With more than 130,000 medical cannabis plants, Clever Leaves’ farm, a former cattle ranch a few hours north of Bogota, represents Colombia’s turnaround on marijuana and its aspiration to convert one of the world’s largest ecosystems for illegal drugs into a legal weed powerhouse. Although marijuana cultivation has been legal since late 2016, for the past five years Colombian companies could only export active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and therefore were banned from the most lucrative parts of the business.
Stefano Pozzebon, CNN Profiles – Jose Pagliery – Reporter, CNN Investigates – CNN, 10/23/2021 20:00:00