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  • Martha Secue shows marijuana plants growing outside her house in the mountains of Toribio, Cauca, Colombia, February 9, 2016.

    Martha Secue shows marijuana plants growing outside her house in the mountains of Toribio, Cauca, Colombia, February 9, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

The steps toward launching a legal marijuana industry in the South American country are expected to help generate rural employment.

Members of Colombia’s FARC guerilla group, set to reintegrate into society once a peace deal is finalized, could find jobs in legal marijuana production under a new government plan to boost the rural economy by tapping into the medicinal cannabis market, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

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As the country makes history by being on the brink of a final peace agreement to end more than five decades of internal armed conflict, Colombia is also taking its first steps toward diving into the medicinal marijuana industry after recently legalizing the drug for medical purposes.

The Ministry of Health granted the first license to produce and export medicinal marijuana products on Monday to the Colombian subsidiary of the Toronto-based company PharmaCielo Ltd., the local newspaper El Colombiano reported.

Cannabis and its oil and extract derivative products can be used to treat chronic pain and illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and HIV/AIDS, as well as lessen the adverse effects of chemotherapy.

PharmaCielo President and CEO Federico Cock-Correa said in a statement Tuesday that the move means Colombia could “play a significant role in this developing international industry.”

Meanwhile, Health Minister Alejandro Gaviria said “Colombia could be the winner of this emerging global market,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Experts suggest Colombia is well positioned to flourish in the production of medicinal marijuana given its ideal microclimates, complete with fertile soil, and experience in the export flower business.

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The step also marks a move away from the decades-old war on drugs pushed by the United States in the region, particularly Colombia, which has long traded spots back and forth with Peru for the rank of number one cocaine producer in the world.

Colombia’s government strategist on post-conflict zones, Eduardo Diaz, told the Wall Street Journal that legal marijuana production could be a logical option for former FARC rebels once they demobilize and look to find jobs as part of their reintegration.

Colombia and the FARC signed a historic bilateral ceasefire agreement last week, checking off one of the key sticking points in the nearly four year-long peace process and bringing the two sides of the conflict a step closer to ending the war that has claimed over 200,000 lives.

A final peace deal is expected by July 20, after which demobilizing rebels will have a set period of time to hand over their weapons to a United Nations mission monitoring the end of the conflict.

WATCH: Colombia Legalizes Medicinal Marijuana

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