Fotmer Life Sciences: The Uruguayan Experience And The Future Of The Medical Cannabis Industry

By Hernán Panessi, originally published on El Planteo.

On December 10, 2013, Uruguay passed a bill regulating the production and commercialization of medicinal cannabis. 

With this precedent set, North American Jordan Lewis took his experience from Aspen, Colorado, to Colonia, Uruguay. Thus his company, Fotmer Life Sciences, became the first international entity to obtain a medical cannabis license in the country.

"There were other companies with licenses for recreational programs, but we opened up the market to medicinal cannabis," says Lewis.

Founded in 2016, Fotmer Life Sciences is a company dedicated to the cultivation and extraction of medicinal cannabis. Their operations meet and exceed strict international quality standards.

“We have a production certificate, given to us under the highest standards. We are setting a very high bar to gain entry to any country in the world,” explains Colombian CFO, Mauricio Agudelo.

This way, they applied their know-how in Uruguay.

Jordan Lewis

‘Uruguay Is The Best Country’

“With changes happening in the political, economic and commercial system of South America, we decided to find Uruguayan partners and looked for a way to create employment. We were one of the first to jump-start the growth of the cannabis industry in the region,” says Lewis.

Now consolidated within the industry, Fotmer is looking to expand to different parts of South America and Europe. 

See also: YVY Life Sciences, A Cannabis Success Story In Uruguay

“We have active sales shipping to Australia and different parts of Israel. We also export products to the United States for medical research,” Agudelo adds. "We hope the business grows on an international scale."

And what were those beginnings in unprecedented terrain like? They were tough.

“The easiest part was to get the plant to grow, because we already had experience from previous projects. The tricky thing was setting up a company in Uruguay. There was a law, but its carrying out was somewhat new, both for us and for the government. The decrees are not always worded to establish an international cannabis sale business,” Lewis stirred.

However, Fotmer built bridges with the government from the outset. "Everything was being done for the first time," explains Agudelo.

In that context, many private companies were entering the cannabis business in Uruguay. Yet, for different reasons (fiscal, lack of investors, political details), several were giving up. "We have overcome those obstacles and have distinguished ourselves," continues the CFO.


The Seed In North America, The Plantlet Down South

Given that he is a veterinarian specialized in pharmacology, Jordan has a professional relationship with science.

“There are incredible cannabis opportunities. That's why I started out in the United States and, when there was a chance for the business to grow at an international level, I studied the variables and decided to come to Uruguay,” he describes.

“It’s an economic sector that’s going to grow a lot in the coming years. The field is still young, but I think that business in Uruguay and South America can be very strong.”
See also: Meet The Latino Behind The Company That Ships Cannabis Products From Colombia To The US

During 2014, several senators, politicians and social leaders in the Uruguayan government examined the United States in order to deepen their knowledge of the cannabis market. They researched Colorado and, through contacts, arrived at Lewis’ facilities.

That’s where the fuse was lit.

“This introduction established a dialogue between us and the government. This first approach helped us a lot in the genesis of our company,” says Lewis.

The Business

Fotmer has a broad license, which covers working with dried flowers, the extraction of medicinal oils and the sale of the final product.

"We have a long-term growth view," adds the CEO and founder. "In Uruguay we can produce and sell raw materials, dried flowers, oils and final products."

While focusing on nearby markets, Fotmer does not lose sight of international opportunities. "We want to be exporters to the whole world," Agudelo ventures.

And what about those who oppose the development of the medical cannabis industry?

“Medical cannabis does not impact marijuana use in young people. In addition, Colorado raised more than USD 1 trillion in taxes. Medical cannabis does not cause social inconvenience, nor does it cause consumption problems. Things are moving in the right direction."

See also: 2 Young Latino Entrepreneurs Commanded The Largest Cannabis Export In History

Eyes forward in favor of the regulation, Agudelo explains:

“There are some who think that approving medicinal or recreational use of cannabis will result in vice, but the figures do not show that. Everyone has taken the industry very seriously. It will only survive if we treat it as a very serious medical, pharmaceutical and pharmaceutical industry ”.

In political terms, Fotmer Life Sciences quickly takes a stand alongside decision makers. "We have to be on the side of those who grant regulations, instead of combating them," Lewis says.


So, what’s the next step?

“We have the support of our governments and we’re prepared to export to different countries in Europe. In the last 6 months, we have done much more than other companies have in their entire existence,” Agudelo boasts.

See also: Argentina's Only Operational Legal Cannabis Company And Its Future, Explained

“We are the only company in South America that has been able to sell high-quality THC products abroad. And not only because we offer the best price, but because we have the export permits. We are trying to create partnerships with all the largest supply chains in South America. We want to develop new business opportunities,” Lewis adds.

"We really are experts in what we do."

Posted In: CannabisNewsExclusivesMarketsInterviewEl PlanteoFotmer Life SciencesHernan PanessiUruguayUruguay Cannabis

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