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Cannabis is illegal in Colombia for public consumption and commercial sale. But there are exceptions for medical cannabis and personal use.

Colombia Cannabis: A Guide to Recreational and Medical Cannabis Laws – Update 2023

Cannabis is illegal in Colombia for public consumption and commercial sale. But there are exceptions for medical and personal use.

Several Medellin Guru readers have asked about Colombia’s laws about cannabis. In addition, we have received many other legal questions from readers.

So, we are starting a new series on this website about legal issues in Colombia. And lawyers from the Cuadro Legal law firm in Medellín are helping with these legal articles.

Note the above photo is of Clever Leaves’ medical cannabis cultivation in Colombia, photo courtesy of Clever Leaves.

Medical and Recreational Cannabis – What is Legal in Colombia?

In 2015, President Juan Santos signed legislation that legalized medical cannabis production for domestic use and exports. Medical cannabis patients in Colombia need a prescription from a doctor. And clearly this law that permits the use of medical cannabis in Colombia does not permit recreational use.

However, in 2012 the Colombian government legalized the possession of up to 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of cannabis for personal use. And in 2015, the Colombian Supreme Court ruled that it is legal for any individual to grow up to 20 personal use cannabis plants. But this doesn’t mean you can grow and sell, it is only for personal use.

In addition, President Ivan Duque signed Decree 1844 in late 2018, which bans people from carrying even small amounts of marijuana in public. This is even though the counts have said such possession shouldn’t be punished.

Also, in June 2019, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that portions of President Iván Duque’s Police Code, which banned public cannabis consumption among other things is unconstitutional. The court decision means that people are again allowed to smoke pot and drink beer in public, according to the constitution. President Ivan Duque said he “accepts and respects” the ruling.

In addition, Duque said the police would continue to confiscate drugs and impose penalties on those carrying drugs.

The decree in 2018 enables Colombian police to search people and confiscate any drugs they have on them including marijuana. Offenders can also be fined up to 208,000 pesos or less if a class is taken. But there are no criminal consequences for possession of up to 20 grams (0.7 ounces).

Finally, Decree 811 of 2021 made visible uses of cannabis, in addition to medicinal ones, such as the manufacture of fibers, beverages, food, biofuels and dietary supplements, which could be produced in the country.

Penalties in Colombia for Possession and Trafficking

So, what happens if you are caught carrying more than 20 grams of marijuana in Colombia? Or are caught selling marijuana?

If you a caught with over 20 grams (0.7 ounces) of marijuana or are found selling marijuana, the police can arrest and can prosecute. In Colombia, the maximum penalty for drug trafficking is 30 years. This is higher than the maximum penalty for rape.

If caught with under 1,000 grams of marijuana the penalty can be 1 to 3 years in jail. And for under 10,000 grams the penalty can be 4 to 12 years in jail.

The bottom line is if you are caught for possession or trafficking drugs in Colombia you can spend a long time in a very unpleasant prison. And Colombian police reportedly make several arrests a day at the airports in Colombia, catching many foreigners with drugs.

Also, about 15 percent of people in jail in Colombia are in jail for having committed drug-related crimes (trafficking, manufacture or possession).

Medical Cannabis – Why Colombia?

In 2018, Colombia obtained for the second consecutive year a quota of 40.5 tons to legally produce cannabis for medical purposes. This is equivalent to 44 percent of the production of that year authorized by the International Board for the Control of Narcotic Drugs (INCB).

Colombia potentially could become the largest producer of medical cannabis in the world. In time, some have estimated that the Colombia could capture as much as one-fifth of the global market for medical cannabis estimated to be worth $40 billion a year.

This is a huge opportunity, as one-fifth of $40 billion is $8 billion, which is more than current Colombian exports of coal or is more than Colombian exports of flowers and coffee combined.

In addition, Colombia and Medellín have a unique attraction for cultivation thanks to its optimal climatic conditions and much lower costs. So, countries such as Canada have shown a strong interest in producing cannabis in Colombia.

Investors have reportedly poured about $600 million USD in medical cannabis, including farms and laboratories of by-products in about three years. Currently, there are 160 companies with licenses operating in 22 of Colombia’s 32 departments

According to the consultancy firm Crop America, a gram of cannabis flower costs between $0.50 and $0.80 USD to produce in Colombia. And in Canada it can cost $2.10 USD. But some producers in Colombia claim even lower costs.

Colombian-Canadian company Pharmacielo says the country’s strong sunlight, fertile soil and the 12-hour day and night cycle makes this country the best place in the world to grow cannabis. According to Pharmacielo, their producing costs per gram of dry flower are $0.04 USD. While in Canada, the cheapest any produced has claimed in $0.95 USD.

Colombian think tank Fedesarrollo expects to see export revenues from the cannabis industry bringing in $109 million USD in 2020 and forecasts growth to $800 million USD in 2025

Note that medical cannabis production in Colombia does not produce smokable marijuana but focuses on oils, creams and inhalers produced in laboratories and personalized by prescription to each patient.

Clover Leaves' cannabis agricultural production facility in Colombia, photo courtesy of Clever Leaves

Clever Leaves – the First Company to Export to Canada

Clever Leaves was the first Colombian company to receive approval – from Health Canada and the Colombian National Narcotics Fund – to export medical cannabis from Colombia to Canada.

The company is currently cultivating medical cannabis in the first phase of a 1.5 million square foot agricultural production facility.

By the end of 2018, Clever Leaves was operating 5 hectares of cultivation. And the company has a goal of operating on over 100 hectares by 2023, which will reportedly make it the world’s largest medical cannabis grower.

Clever leaves is backed by the investment fund Northern Swan, which has raised almost $100 million USD for portfolio companies like Clever Leaves.

Other Companies Starting Production in Colombia

Other companies starting cannabis production in Colombia include the well-funded private outfit Grupo Flor and small publicly-held companies like PharmaCielo (PHCEF) and Khiron Life Sciences (KHRNF).

Also, some big marijuana companies are reportedly hedging their bets with investments in Colombia including Canopy Growth, Aurora, Aphria (APHA) and Cronos Group (CRON).

Medical Cannabis: Colombia’s Laws and Regulations

In Colombia, there are several regulations in the field of law for medical cannabis. Law 1787 of 2016 is one of the main laws on this topic, which regulates access to cannabis for medicinal and scientific purposes in Colombia.

This law permits the cultivation of plants, the manufacture of cannabis products and the use of seeds as long as their purpose is medicinal or scientific.

In addition, the activities related to this last aspect, such as marketing, exporting and storing, are also allowed and regulated by the legal system, so it is necessary to have a lawyer who understands the regulations in Colombia.

What is Medical Cannabis Used For?

There is a growing amount of scientific evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of cannabis use in treating several symptoms or discomforts caused by diseases or chronic pain.

For example, the side effects of chemotherapy or advanced epilepsy attacks that resist traditional medications, have a higher improvement rate with the use of medical cannabis.

This cannabis used for medical purposes must be free of impurities. And it’s important to know exactly how many milligrams of the active ingredient are present in each milliliter of extract.

People who use this as a treatment for diseases or unfavorable health conditions need a specific amount that helps them to control their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

With medical cannabis, use does not increase with time, as is the case of recreational cannabis. And doses are defined by a doctor with a specific amount assigned to each person depending on their particularities.

Colombia Cannabis Group is a vertically integrated group that operates within Colombia's Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulations Law 1787, photo by Melaniev5

Requirements for Producing Medical Cannabis in Colombia

Different people, whether natural or legal, native or foreigners, residing in Colombia, who are interested in projects for medicinal or scientific purposes must request and obtain a license for the manufacture of products derived from cannabis prior to the start of these activities. And this license is processed by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

Also, for the cultivation of cannabis and the use of seeds, licenses are processed by the Ministry of Justice and Law.

These licenses are not transferable and are granted for a term of five years. And licenses are subject to renewal as many times as necessary. Furthermore, we recommend using a lawyer with knowledge in the subject, who can perform the process more efficiently.

In addition, there are additional requirements for holders of licenses. For example, the use of seeds needs to be registered with the Colombian Institute of Agriculture (ICA). To trade restricted seeds or plants, a company must register with ICA and this process can take multiple years as regulators evaluate the compounds from the field to final product.

In addition, for the manufacture of derivatives it is necessary to get a certification issued by the National Institute of Drug and Food Surveillance (INVIMA).

Entrepreneurs who are interested in obtaining an authorization for the development of cannabis must apply and support it with studies about the market and its demand. And the Colombian government evaluates the application through technical groups and approves each application completely or partially.

The Bottom Line: Colombia Cannabis – Recreational and Medical

Cannabis is illegal in Colombia for public consumption and commercial sale. But there are exceptions for medical and personal use.

To use medical cannabis in Colombia requires a prescription from a doctor. And for personal use this is limited to possession of 20 grams of cannabis and the ability to grow up to 20 personal use cannabis plants.

However, with a new decree in late 2018, police in Colombia can now search and confiscate any amount of cannabis in possession and even fine offenders. And if caught with over 20 grams of marijuana you can be arrested and prosecuted.

Medical cannabis is a huge opportunity for Colombia due to having a lower cost of production due to its less seasonal climate and low wages. So, this is a competitive advantage compared to other countries, which makes Colombia very attractive to investors.

But if you are looking to invest in medical cannabis in Colombia, it’s important to find lawyers that are experienced in obtaining the necessary licenses and authorizations in Colombia.

Also, we previously provided a guide to renting unfurnished apartments in Medellín, which included information about common sections in rental contracts and information about rental laws in Colombia.

If you have other legal issues you would like us to cover, please leave a comment below.

Sign up for the Free Medellin Guru Newsletter – You can see all of the previous Medellin Guru weekly email newsletters and sign up here.

Editors note: updated on June 16, 2019 to add other companies starting cannabis production in Colombia and add information about Colombia’s Constitutional Court decision in June 2019, which overruled a ban on the consumption of drugs and alcohol in public.

Editors note: updated on February 19, 2020 with current information about the medical cannabis market in Colombia.

Editors note: updated on July 04, 2023 and adding Decree 811 of 2021.

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36 thoughts on “Colombia Cannabis: A Guide to Recreational and Medical Cannabis Laws – Update 2023”

    1. Geoffrey July 10, 2021

      Medellin has thousands of apartment buildings where residents become well aware of how their way of life affects others and vice versa. For years I was awakened every morning at 6 by the smell of a ghastly cheap perfume. The lady on the floor below thought she was putting that last extra touch into her careful grooming but to me it was a dreadful stench. It smelled like something you could buy for 10,000 pesos a gallon. Then one fine day she ups and moves out. Ah, free at last,

      Then the new people moved in. Four adults in their 20’s with three barking dogs, possibly two French hens and a partridge…. The volume of the “music” would put Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin to shame. Promptly at 5:30 a.m. they fire up what had to be giant spliffs which wafted through each and every crevice of my apartment including settling in on my clothes. I can tell the difference in the smell of cheap corner boy weed and the super deluxe supreme royale gold medal signature series perker upper brands and at least these kids buy the good stuff but the residents of this 10 floor building are not keen to have their children getting stoned with this wake & bake ganja.

    2. J johnson July 10, 2021

      Thank you for the article. I would like to point out that much ‘recreational’ use would be more properly identified as medicinal, but patients prefer to skip the arduous legal ‘medical’ route.
      I live in Colorado, USA and suffer severe insomnia issues. I have tried EVERYTHING, with varying degrees of success. I have found that 10mg THC, with 10mg CBN affords me consistent 8-9 hour wakes sleep. I do not enjoy the affects of marijuana, outside of it’s medical use of relieving my insomnia, and this do not partake in it’s use during the day. I hate the smell and taste of the smoke, and so do not smoke it, and do not enjoy the effects it has on me (beyond sleep), but do not judge othes’
      who may wish to partake.
      .
      I am a libertarian and was active in the work to get Colorado’s recreational marijuana legalization passed, because I do not believe that a human should need to seek permission from doctors and lawyers to obtain their blessing to be allowed to sleep through the night.

      I looked up this article because I am in Colombia for an extended vacation to assist a friend who life’s here with some issues which will take several weeks. I have been here two days, and absent my THC/CBN gummies, my insomnia is back (I got 3 hours’ sleep last night.

      I thank you for this resource, and am deeply saddened that my health has to suffer because Colombia’s politicians believe that they are ‘all-knowing’ and can best dictate what is best for people whom they have never met, let alone know our personal circumstance.
      People fear marijuana for ignorant reasons (as I once did). I was once asked: “aren’t you afraid of driving on the road alongside someone who smokes pot?” To which I replied: “aren’t you afraid of driving on the road alongside someone who only had 3 hours’ sleep?”

      Thank you again for the article, and please consider the ‘rest of us’ in future articles about this topic.

      • J johnson July 10, 2021

        My apologies for the ‘auto-correct in some of my reply… the THC/CBD gives me “wakeless sleep”

    3. As a foreigner, am I allowed to smoke weed in my apartment? And if so, how would I go about dealing with the security guard and neighbours constantly knocking on my door? I’d prefer to smoke it at home rather than outdoors as I don’t want to get into any trouble with the law.

    4. Thank you for the article Jeff. However, it does not mention whether these laws apply only to Colombian citizens or foreigners. As it cannot be neither, is the default both or only citizens/residents? Does the prohibition on ‘carrying in public’ mean in one’s bag/pocket, or only if exposed, such as smoking? Also, what is defined as ‘public’? Does the privacy of one’s home extend to the patio if neighbours can see the activity? Is a hotel room a public or private space?

      I know, ask the law firm who wrote the article!

    5. David Ursprung November 10, 2019

      Eric, I am not interested in cultivation. I want to know how an advanced epilepsy patient in Envigado can get cannabis treatment when all other doctors have failed to help. I haven’t found any medical treatment centers in Medellin.

    6. I was reading your article and found it extremely interesting. I’ve been looking into the legalities of marijuana consumption in different parts of the world and found a website that talks a lot about Spain. If anyone is interested, I’ll leave the link. https://marijuanagames.org/the-best-cannabis-club-in-barcelona-2019/

    7. Scott Thomas July 8, 2019

      Hello.
      Are Americans who live in a legal state and have a doctor’s note able to take less than 20g of cannabis into Colombia?

    8. Hello,
      My name Eric and am from the United States, currently living Columbia and under doctor medical care for an incurable disease. I am on meds and very strong medication for my illness. But the suffering and pain are unbearable So for quite some time, I have been contemplating and thinking about opening a medical cannabis store for medical use here in Columbia. I was Just curious on how do I go about doing it? What are the steps or process, I should take in upholding all Colombian laws and license? and regulations?

    9. Sergio gomez June 3, 2019

      Hello! Great article! What do you know about buy seeds and ship to Colombia for personal use. Its legal? I found so many seeds at grow shops but what about buy myself and send to my house through regular mail? can I do this? thanks in advance!

    10. In your article you mention that Clever Leaves will have 100 hectares by 2020, are there limits in size of cultivation? Also, could you reference any lawyers with experience in the field (English speaking or not)?

    11. Tyler Johnson May 22, 2019

      That’s interesting that cannabis is a lot cheaper to produce in Columbia since it has a temperate climate and cheaper labor. I would think that it would be a good time to invest in it since the use of it has been higher than ever. I’ll have to think about investing in some medical cannabis from Colombia if I decide to open a dispensary.

    12. I don’t use marijuana medicinally or recreationally but has there been known instances where marijuana was planted in someone’s pockets by Colombian police. And if such were the case, what can the person do to prove the police put it in the person’s pockets ?

      I raised a parallel issue once before and I’ll suggest it again.
      It is possible to provide a list of Colombian attorneys who are bilingual ?
      ” Gringos” are sometimes in need of legal advise for various reasons.

    13. John Schaeffer March 28, 2019

      Who are good doctors in Medellin that understand the different strains used for different ailments? I have tried a lot of different cbds some with thc and received no help for insomnia or essential tremors.

    14. But hasn’t Duque gone after the marijuana farms that were supposed to replace cocaine production? He is not the moderate that he would have us believe.

    15. Many companies are really investing in Colombia in the marijuana industry and I believe it will be one of the top exports

    16. Ernie Torricelli March 24, 2019

      i think the marijuana is more than that. People take drugs including alcohol for a number of reasons. Having a lager or a little smoke no big deal.
      The problem is when that turns into substance abuse and there inability to fuction and impacts there life and family. Addictions are a progressive disease.
      Thank god for AA & NA to help those people

    17. The beginning of the article is confusing to me – Is personal use with limited quantity legal or illegal?

      • Illegal in Colombia for commercial sale and public consumption. But exceptions for medical and personal use. The exceptions are defined later in the article. Medical you need a prescription from a doctor. And personal use is defined as < 20 grams in possession or grow up to 20 personal use cannabis plants.

    18. Hugh Horton March 23, 2019

      How can a presidential decree override the law as interpreted by the courts?

      • Legal analysts have debated whether the presidential decree contradicts the high court ruling. Though the decree does not say anything about putting drug users in jail, it does allow police to confiscate drugs and sanction anyone carrying small amounts of marijuana or cocaine, even if they are not consuming the drugs in public.

      • You’re allowed Private use in your home- does that include a rental home? I have an apartment through an agency but the owner lives on the bottom floor and has said for me to stop smoking it because the whole building is full of older people. They knocked on my door, I’m sure if it was illegal to consume in your home they would have called the cops. What are the rights or a foreigner with a Visa privately consuming marijuana in his rented house?

        • J Johnson July 10, 2021

          The bigger question here is one of property tights. You do not own the building, and therefore should not continue to engage in an activity that the owner prohibits (leal or not). I’m curious about property ownership laws in Colombia which would protect an apartment building owner’s rights against tenants who violate rules set by said owners.

    19. Eric, thanks for the very informative article. A legal topic I would like to see covered is prenuptial agreements.

      • Great topic ; stay with colombian women – gets 50 percent of assetts in two years- period – love and leave

    20. Ernie Torricelli March 23, 2019

      Jeff : In regards to legal issues of interest – Please consider the following
      EXTRADITION BACK TO UNITED STATES
      As both of us have probably came across there is a lot of expats that come to Colombia with baggage – i don’t mean the backpacks – i mean the IRS tax liens – the divorce settlement – the unpaid alimony and child support – sex offender registration – parole violation – legal issues they are running away from. What is United States and Colombia’s position and legalities on extradition of United States citizens back USA on criminal and civil matters.

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