Cannabis: Window of Opportunity?By Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 01/27/2021 - 17:58
The legislation that permits the development, production and commercialization of pharmaceutical products derived from cannabis is a major economic opportunity for Mexico. However, a lot of details remain that need to be worked out. This was the consensus during the panel, 'Cannabis: Window of Opportunities', at this year’s Mexico Health Summit held on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Erick Ponce, President of GPIC, kicked off the discussion by asking participants what we can expect for Mexico’s economy now that cannabis’ medicinal use has been legalized and that legalized recreational use is on the horizon.
Guillermo Nieto, President of the Mexican Association of the Cannabis Industry (ANICANN), said the new regulation is unique in the world, as it specifically focuses on pharmaceutical products derived from cannabis. This, he stated, opens the window for pharmaceutical research that can generate patented products both for the domestic and global market. He pointed out that there are over 100 conditions that can be cured or palliatively treated with cannabis-derived medical products.
There is a huge difference between herbal artisanal products and pharmaceutically developed and tested products, Nieto emphasized. He supports a model where doctors will have to prescribe a product before patients can use it. This, he says, adds to the value of the products. Without a doubt, the economic potential of clinically approved pharmaceutical products is huge. There is only one cannabis-derived product that is currently partially approved by FDA and last year, its manufacturer, the British company GW Pharmeceuticals, netted over U$500 million. Nieto also pointed out that now is a good moment for legalization, since Mexican pharmaceutical companies are struggling. “Mexico needs to think how it can become the biggest producer of cannabis medicine patents worldwide,” he said, full of optimism.
Cristina Viruega, Director General of Total Integridad & Certeza International, said the new regulation still requires more details to be defined. Pharmaceutical development would have to be subject to regular pharmaceutical standards to ensure security, quality and effectiveness. Considering the novelty of cannabis-derived medications, new molecules will need to undergo clinical studies. This will need to be done at laboratories, which also need to meet the same standards as any other pharmaceutical player. Furthermore, pharmaceutical companies will need to ensure that their primary active ingredients are traceable and that best practices are followed in the production of cannabis products and the supply chain. This requires elaborate documentation and management of information. Viruega warns that a lack of detail in regulation may create a grey area for certain products. She advises more detailed categorization of different types of cannabis-derived products. Any oversight should be managed by COFEPRIS, like with any other pharmaceutical product.
Fernando Becerril, Senior Partner at Becerril, Coca & Becerril (BC&B), said the most promising area is the legalization of recreational use of cannabis. This, he stated, will provide greater opportunities to Mexico’s entrepreneurs. He also points to the massive potential of industrial hemp, which can be transformed into paper, food supplements, biofuel, material for construction and much more. He emphasizes that for any cannabis-derived product, there needs to be 'judicial security' for authorities, growers, manufacturers, sellers and users. Entrepreneurs should have a comfortable environment to develop and sell their products. The same is important for state governments, which will need to anticipate and prepare services for entrepreneurial hubs in advance. On the other hand, he warns of the danger of overregulation. Bureaucratic burden could hinder emergent entrepreneurship, he said.