Back in the day, as they say, I was a young college student at the University of South Florida enjoying the forbidden fruit of marijuana. The year was 1967 and it was all so clandestine.  It  felt very wicked, especially one regular batch of product called “The Big O.”  It was rumored “The Big O” came across the Gulf of Mexico on container boats from Panama, off-loading on the Tampa docks. We locals got the first pickings and they were very good.

Alice and her late husband Robert C. Randall “back in the day.”
Copyright (c) Alice M. O’Leary

My how things have changed. Today I am in Panama for the CannaTech Panama 2019 meeting and as I prepare for the kickoff tonight I’ve thought a lot about “The Big O” and how far I’ve come — how far everything has come — from those furtive days of the late 1960s.

The latest CannaTech meeting will explore cannabis and the Latin American market. The globalization of cannabis is mind-boggling and complete. Every part of the globe is contemplating massive cannabis reform. As a sign of how complete the reformation has become, CannaTech messaged a “teaser” to the Panama conference goers asking if they would prefer Cape Town or Victoria Falls for an African CannaTech locale. Stay tuned for that decision.

For the moment we are in Central America and the roster of attendees is heavy with participants from the region. But many of the “players” that I am accustomed to seeing at these events — Canopy Growth, Aurora, and Tilray — are absent, replaced by TheraCann, Khiron, and New Cannahub. For the moment there appears to be an emphasis on capital investment and ancillary companies as opposed to large producers, although the ubiquitous Bedrocan is present.  With the region’s long association with illegal cannabis cultivation I found myself wondering if producers are still a little shy about “stepping out” (or stepping in, for that matter).  Perhaps a more important question is whether Latin American (LATAM) countries will allow large scale cultivation given the past history as well as the significant competition from already established countries such as Canada and Israel.

Another aspect that cannot be overlooked is the detrimental impact of the antiquated drug war policy foisted on LATAM primarily by the U.S.A. At times, illegal drug sales, including those from LATAM, were actually used to fund covert U.S. operations, usually conducted by the CIA.  

But that is past. Today nations are lining up to take advantage of the cannabis reform movement. Let’s hope that Latin America, with its ideal cannabis cultivation climate, is not blocked from earning its share of the new cannabis market.

Over the next couple of days I will be providing commentary from CannaTech Panama. Stay tuned. ❖

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