Culture

Northern Swan and Clever Leaves: Pushing the Medical Cannabis Market Forward from Seed to Patient

Petar Petrov
Written by Petar Petrov

Our knowledge of the different effects of recreational cannabis has become quite nuanced over the years, and creating cultivars to this end is regarded as an art form. But when it comes to medical cannabis, art is not good enough – it’s precise science that’s also pursued.

And being vertically integrated, that’s exactly the kind of accuracy that Northern Swan and their Colombian subsidiary Clever Leaves are confident they can consistently achieve as they can choreograph the entire process of growing and distributing cannabis, “from seed to patient,” as Clever Leaves’ CEO, Andres Fajardo, puts it.

“We cover the entire chain of medicinal cannabis at a point in time in which the industry is in its early development. Thinking about the patient’s well-being, we work from their needs to find the appropriate genetics, and with scientific rigor, create highly effective products that contribute to a better quality of life,” he explains.

Northern Swan has made an $8 million-dollar investment in Cansativa, a GDP (Good Distribution Practices)-certified German cannabis distribution and wholesaling company, and being that Cansativa also operates as a vertically integrated company, independent of third-party contractors, the two companies might make the perfect match.

Beyond the independence factor, which in this case serves as a vital guarantor of the final product’s quality and origin, being vertically integrated also means full control over scalability, which is “of the essence to remain competitive and to be able to grow fast and with the right quality standards,” and yet “has proven to be one of cannabis industry’s greatest pains,” the way Fajardo sees it.

“We currently have over 1 million sq.ft. of cultivation and are increasing to over 2.5 million sq.ft. by the end of 2019 and over 10 million by 2021.”

Besides vertical integration, Northern Swan’s investment is also based on the qualities of Germany as a market. Not only is it “one of the largest potential markets in the EU that is open to medical cannabis at the patient, physician, pharmacist, and government levels,” but also a “highly demanding market in terms of quality, reliability, and service levels,” and “a pioneer in the pharmaceutical world,” Fajardo says. Add to that its location, which is at the center of major European markets, and the fact it “is highly interconnected with the one of the best road, rail, and airport infrastructures in the world,” and you possibly have the ultimate cannabis hub of the EU.

And what Germany is to the EU in terms of its strategic location for cannabis distribution, Frankfurt is to Germany, and naturally, a lot of Northern Swan’s funds will go toward the expansion of Cansativa’s Frankfurt facility. On top of it being a “financial and business hub in Germany which facilitates the growth across all industries,” “the pharmaceutical industry has been based out of Frankfurt for a very long time making it easier to find the right talent,” Fajardo explains.

Something that couldn’t have been better scripted is the reputational side of things, and it’s where this German connection can potentially prove to be the biggest game-changer from a more cultural standpoint.

On the one hand, Germany has an outstanding reputation as a legal cannabis market.

“In Germany, the patients, physicians, pharmacists, and government officials are being pioneers in the implementation of a well-articulated piece of regulation around medical cannabis. This strict yet efficient model has allowed patients to have access to medical cannabis while minimizing the impact of any social or government biases or stigmas,” Fajardo says.

On the other, Columbia doesn’t given its drug history, but Fajardo believes this collaboration can be the start of a new chapter.

“We believe that Colombia’s painful history with illegal drugs can and must be transformed into a positive one. This history has resulted in awareness of Colombian cannabis in people’s minds – ‘Colombian cannabis is good’ so it is the responsibility of companies like Clever Leaves to take this awareness derived from a painful history and turn it into something very positive: ‘Colombian cannabis is the best at helping improve life.’”

How can they achieve such a tall order? First and foremost, by focusing on quality, as there’s no substitute for it.

Northern Swan isn’t just bringing money to the table, but an “innovative, expert and multidisciplinary team, which not only provides knowledge of various industries such as: pharmaceutical, agroindustrial and floriculture, consumer products, organic chemistry, biotechnology and business, but also, a great passion for the mystique of medicinal cannabis,” Fajardo says.

This all-around professionalism is evident in Northern Swan’s attention to detail.

“We operate under Good Agricultural and Collection Practices (GACP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (eGMP) guidelines and devote significant time and resources to develop products that are safer, easier to use, and more effective for patients. To do this we have an independent Medical Advisory Board, a team of highly experienced pharmaceutical product development professionals, and a series of partnerships with marquee institutions around the world.” Fajardo continues.

But to trigger a shift in the public perception, quality alone isn’t enough, despite being indispensable. What puts a very necessary exclamation point on it all is the way business is conducted, and Northern Swan does so with full awareness of the moral responsibility they have as a powerhouse in the grand scheme of things.

“We have a strict focus on the environment. Over 70% of the water we utilize is from rain that we capture in reservoirs. We use organic fertilization and pest control, and we are embarking on a solar power solution for our grows.”

“In Colombia, we are already over 400 employees of which approximately 70% are women. We are creating true social and economic impact in regions like Pesca, Boyaca, where our cultivation is located and in which we have become the largest employer.”

Northern Swan is positioning itself to take both the EU and global medical cannabis markets by storm, which is good news for patients worldwide.

About the author

Petar Petrov

Petar Petrov

Petar is a freelance writer and copywriter, covering culture, art, society, and anything in-between that makes for a nice story. And as it so happens, cannabis is a great element to add to each of those conversations.

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