A Canadian company called PharmaCielo, with the government’s approval, is working to produce the drug legally in Colombia and is looking to hire.

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CORINTO, Colombia — For years, Blanca Riveros has had the same routine: After fixing breakfast and taking her son to school, she heads home to a large plastic trash bag filled with marijuana.

She trims the plants and gets them ready for Colombian drug traffickers. After school, her son helps cut more.

The business was long overseen by the country’s largest rebel group, which dominated this region, taxed its drugs and became internationally notorious for trafficking in billions of dollars in illicit substances. But when the government signed a peace deal with the fighters last year, the state swept in and reclaimed this remote mountain village, threatening to end the trade.

“How am I supposed to feed my family?” Riveros asked.

She now has an unlikely option: growing marijuana with the government’s blessing instead.

A Canadian company called PharmaCielo, with the government’s approval, is working to produce the drug legally in Colombia and is looking to hire.

It is an unorthodox experiment by Colombia, one that underscores the region’s changing attitudes toward drugs after decades of fighting them.

Colombia has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid to eradicate the drug trade. But in the coming weeks, the government says, it will begin processing licenses for a small number of companies, including PharmaCielo, under a 2015 law that allows the cultivation of medical marijuana.

In places like Mexico and Afghanistan, crop substitution schemes have typically involved coaxing farmers to switch from illicit crops to mainstream agriculture. Poppies are replaced with wheat; coca leaf with coffee.

Rarely has a country taken an illegal drug overseen by a criminal organization and tried to replace it with the same crop produced legally, sold by corporations.

“Here we have an entirely new opportunity,” said Alejandro Gaviria, Colombia’s health minister, whose agency is issuing the licenses.

Gaviria said that decades of efforts by Colombia to move drug cultivators to other crops had hit a wall: The peasants made less money, rural development moved backward, and some farmers simply returned to drug cultivation.

“It’s been a complete failure,” he said.

Now, Gaviria argued, legal drugs could become an important economic tool for postconflict Colombia.

More than 220,000 people were killed as the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or the FARC, waged 52 years of war against paramilitary groups and the government, displacing the state entirely in some places. In the final decades, guerrillas moved into narcotics, financing the conflict through taxes on marijuana and cocaine, government officials and experts say.

The logic now: What if those profits were put into the hands of the government and peasants instead?

There is also a third actor that will profit greatly from the newly legal business, Canada’s PharmaCielo. Others, including a Colombian company, are seeking licenses, but PharmaCielo is the most prominent in pursuing cultivation in areas once controlled by the rebels.

Formed in 2014 as the new law was taking shape, PharmaCielo is already testing strains of cannabis more potent than those the rebels ever controlled. Its directors include former executives of Philip Morris and Bayer. The company sees a future in which the legal drug industry is controlled by the same kind of multinational corporations that the Marxist-Leninist guerrilla movement aimed to drive from the country.

Here in Corinto, the company has already signed a deal with a workers’ cooperative to provide labor, with plans to eventually move in with their own greenhouses, plants and fertilizer.

“The peasants were forced to produce these plants,” says Federico Cock-Correa, who heads the Colombian subsidiary of PharmaCielo and promises to pay his growers far more than what they earned during the war.

The company’s Colombian headquarters are on rolling farmlands outside Medellín, an area best known for the kingpin who ruled them for decades, Pablo Escobar.

The prospect of moving to any other crop gives growers in this area chills. Who would buy tomatoes when there are plenty on the market already?

Elmer Orozco tried planting them about eight years ago and discovered that, unlike marijuana, which goes to international markets, the only market he had access to for his tomatoes was the one downtown. Buyers offered him about 13 cents per kilogram of his tomatoes.

Orozco went back to marijuana and its high prices.

“Other agriculture isn’t profitable here,” he said.

But Riveros, the mother who trims marijuana plants, says the profits of the illegal trade have fallen since the FARC stood down, by more than half. Experts say the peacetime market has been flooded with cannabis that can move out of rebel territory more easily now that the rebels do not control it.

Her hopes now rest with PharmaCielo.

“It would be a miracle for us,” she said.

But for now she still cuts cannabis for the mafia groups that come by Corinto.

She pulled out a half-filled sack and started trimming, using scissors with an index finger that had grown crooked after years of the same work. Her son, 8, sat next to her, watching Colombian show horses on YouTube, using a wireless router they had bought with the marijuana money.

At one point, prospective clients pulled up in a car to her small adobe home. Riveros pulled out a plastic bag with trimmed cannabis.

“It will be much more technical with the company,” she said, referring to PharmaCielo.