Colombia has issued its first license for domestic sales and exports of cannabis that contains a high quantity of THC.

The South American nation has a fledgling medical marijuana industry, but it has previously focused on products high in CBD. Now Khiron Life Sciences (TSXV: KHRN) has been permitted to cultivate 560 kg of high-THC cannabis before the end of 2019 and sell it to Colombian patients and export markets.

Cannabis with a THC content greater than 1% is strictly regulated in Colombia and Khiron had to complete stability testing and prove legal demand before gaining the license. It has now registered strains with the Colombian Agricultural Institute’s national cultivar registry, and received quotas for commercial cultivation and fabrication.

It is also permitted to export whole plant extract as raw material to Uruguay – the first country to legalize recreational marijuana – and Brazil, via the Mercosur trading bloc. This venture will commence in Q1 2020.

Khiron now plans to treat 15,000 Colombian patients suffering from chronic pain, anxiety and nausea with its first batch of THC-based medicinal cannabis.

Juan Diego Alvarez, Khiron vice-president of regulatory affairs, called the licensing landmark “a game-changer”.

The firm is based in Canada and listed on the TSXV, but the bulk of its operations take place in Colombia. It is bidding to become the dominant cannabis company in Latin America, a market of more than 620 million people.

Earlier this year, Khiron tied up a $13.7 million deal to purchase Uruguayan cannabis producer Cannapur. Its board of directors includes former president of Mexico Vicente Fox and he could prove to be a valuable ambassador in the region.

In Q1 2020 it will begin exporting its CBD skincare portfolio from Colombia to the UK, with Spain, Germany, and the broader European market its next targets. It also bought Italian hemp producer Canapalife earlier this year.

Last week it secured a deal to become the Latin American provider for Twenty21, a clinical trial backed by the Royal College of Psychiatrists that will see up to 20,000 British patients given medical cannabis over the next two years.