Colombia sees billion-dollar bonanza from legacy of marijuana trade

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CORINTO/RIONEGRO, Colombia (Reuters) – Tired of living in fear of arrest or running afoul of drug traffickers, Romairo Aguirre is ready to destroy his illegal plantation of 1,500 marijuana bushes in the mountainous Cauca region of southwest Colombia and become legitimate. Like many of the farmers who grow cannabis near the town of Corinto, Aguirre hopes President Juan Manuel Santos’ plan to turn Colombia into a major producer of medical marijuana means he can find work from one of a dozen companies launching in the South American nation. Santos – who leaves office in August – passed a law two years ago legalizing medical cannabis for domestic use and export. It aims to take the marijuana trade from the hands of Marxist rebels and traffickers, transforming Colombia into a multibillion-dollar producer for the pharmaceutical industry. “We’re just realizing marijuana’s potential. It could be the next economic bonanza – like coffee was,” said Aguirre, 61, before a man and a woman arrived at his farm to buy sacks of dried cannabis buds. “I could go to jail for this but that won’t happen if I’m working in medicinal.” Farmers who want to be part of Colombia’s medical marijuana project are required to destroy their illegal crops. Colombia sees billion-dollar bonanza from legacy of marijuana trade

thumbnail courtesy of reuters.com

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