A new and successful career has cropped up in Colombia. The master grower, title conferred to the agricultural production manager with a rare specialty: cannabis culture. They are yet few and well sought after. There are no more than ten in the country. All foreigners.
In 2016, Colombia approved medicinal cannabis growth for the national market and exportation. A surprising path. In the past, the country became notorious for waging bloody war against the drug trafficking introduced by Pablo Escobar, in the region of Medellin.
The country set its sights on becoming a medicinal cannabis leader. First came the big companies and then the plantation specialists. “I moved to Colombia as soon as I heard about the legalization”, recounts the American Ryan Douglas, 41. He’d been in Canada. There, he worked 5 years for Canopy Growth, one of the market giants.
“Colombia has great potential,” explains Douglas. “Medicinal cannabis production is highly dependant on environmental conditions. As it is located on the equatorial line, it’s got 12 hours of sunshine and heat throughout the year, which is perfect for that kind of crop.” Canadian indoor plantations have higher costs than the outdoors.
As of yet, there are barely any special plantations in the country. Companies are still following the steps determined by the country’s laws to obtain all their licenses. That isn’t an impediment to the master growers who are already in full swing, choosing the best lands and planning large scale production.
“Medicinal marijuana requires a land without heavy metal poisoning, agrotoxins or pesticides - meaning, it has to be organic,” says Douglas. He explains: “In a vegetable plantation, for example, leaves can be washed, which would lessen contamination. Since only the cannabis buds are used, though, and they are delicate, there’s no such thing.”
Another successful name in the Colombian market is that of American Lygle Dillon, 42. About a year ago, he was working in his family’s small organic farm in Humboldt, in the county of California, in the USA, where he’d thought to remain until his dying breath. Then came the invitation to work in Colombia. “I learned the trade from my father. He planted vegetables and weed. Very small scale.”
His wife Rachel, 43, was worried. “Colombia was uncharted territory,” she says. Dillon, on the other hand, was as excited as surprised. “The land of drug cartels was now heading towards an official and controlled market. Not to mention, working with a medicinal product seemed more challenging and noble,” explains Dillon.
His first day in Cali, he was in a grave accident. His car’s driver fell asleep at the wheel and lost control of the vehicle. Dillon lost the movement in his legs, but not his determination. “I’m not going back to the United States. I am going to stay here and make it work.”
Now a few companies plan to make their plantations accessible exclusively for him. Dillon works as a consultant. Professionals such as him make around US$10 thousand, per month, per client.
“People think the USA is a sophisticated country. There, Americans die in a concert because a lunatic decides to gun down the crowd,” says wife Rachel. “Here we have safety and quality of life.” For Dillon, the biggest draw was reaching a new horizon. The global cannabis market can grow to US$30 billion in three years.