Raúl Elizalde Garza
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15 Years That Changed My Life and an Entire Industry

By Raúl Elizalde Garza | Mon, 07/25/2022 - 15:00

I could say that the last 15 years have been the best years of my life; these years have also been the most challenging. During these years, I started my family and had the chance to be part of a paradigm shift that settled the ground to create the cannabis industry in Mexico and around the globe.

My daughter, Graciela, was born 15 years ago. From the beginning, my wife, Mayela, and I had to experience the suffering that thousands of families have when they see that a loved one suffers from a rare medical condition. These events have a huge emotional, social, and economic impact on people's lives. Still, I must say that the most challenging part is the inability to find a proper solution to improve the life quality of the ones we love.

In 2015 and due to Grace's medical condition, I decided to take advantage of my experience as a lawyer. Along with a legal firm, we processed the first injunction that would allow us to import a product derived from cannabis. It was the same product that previously had become a solution to the medical condition of a girl in the US, and we were able to help reduce the more than 400 epileptic crises that Grace had every day. Because of that decision, my life and the life of millions of people with neurodegenerative diseases changed. After that first legal battle, I was able to help hundreds of families, making their legal journey easier and allowing them to access nonpsychoactive cannabis-derived products legally. This also became part of a journey that led me to participate in national and international debates and forums about the uses and benefits of cannabis to improve people's health. In this way, we laid the foundations for the change in Mexico's General Health Law in June 2017. This change in the law became a turning point for an entire industry. It was also in 2017 when I was invited to the World Health Organization's Committee of Experts on Drug Addiction and became part of an analysis regarding the classification and characteristics of cannabidiol, or CBD, that concluded that it is not a psychoactive substance and recognized its therapeutic potential.

In recent years, I've been part of the political and social changes that allowed the development of the cannabis industry, starting with the promulgation of the Cannabis Act in Canada and the signing of the Farm Bill in the United States —changes that made growing and processing hemp legal throughout North America. These two moments in international politics became the cornerstone that opened an industry that, in 2022, could reach sales of US$33 billion just in the US.

In addition to the regulatory changes, the cannabis industry is experiencing social changes. People are not looking for a plant to smoke for recreational purposes; they are looking for products that help them feel better, fight stress, rest, or enjoy general well-being. And that is the main achievement of products with isolated cannabinoids, to the point that sales of cosmetic products with CBD totaled US$3.07 billion in 2021.

Because of all these changes, I can state that these last few years have become my life's best and most challenging. My wife and I found a solution to our daughter's medical condition, and I have been closely involved with the changes in the cannabis industry, seeing how it has become what some analysts consider the industry of the future. The attention around the cannabis industry has made some countries rush to adopt laws that allow its use for industrial or recreational purposes, seeking the tax revenue that it entails, as in the case of the US, where the recreational marijuana market garnered around US$3.7 billion in taxes in 2021.

In Latin America, the expectations are different and various countries are beginning their transition to legal or partially regulated markets for cannabis-derived products. But unfortunately, in some cases, those countries have forgotten the benefits of a legal standardization with their commercial allies. Now is the time to examine those public policy decisions because, in the coming years, those laws are the tools that some countries will have to take the lead in producing and exporting raw materials. In contrast, other countries will become producers, and finally, some other countries will become consumers of finished products.

Photo by:   Raúl Elizalde Garza