• Population: 10.3 million
• Number of Cannabis Users: 0.2 million
• Ruling Government Party: Socialist Party
• Party Stance on Cannabis: discussing personal cultivation and legalisation
Landscape and policy
Despite Portugal decriminalising cannabis back in 2001, very little progress has been made in regard to regulation since then. While other countries throughout Europe appear to be making progress towards medical cannabis reform, the ‘illegal yet tolerated’ stance remains as Portugal’s position on the matter.
This stance has allowed for a black market to hold a monopoly over the distribution of cannabis throughout the country, with this unregulated market being estimated to be worth around €106m per year.
Although Portugal’s Doctor’s Association only called for the legalisation of cannabis-based medicinal products in January 2018, parliament also began looking at a draft bill that sought to allow patients to grow cannabis at home on this same day. This contrast in the kind of cannabis legislature being put forward and debated in the country within the same time period gives us an impression of the unusual mix of attitudes the country exhibits overall when it comes to cannabis and its use.
The use of cannabis therapeutically was approved by Portugal’s parliament in June 2018, with all political parties, excluding the Popular party, voting in favour of the change.
So, is recreational use legal?
Despite the fact that Portugal decriminalised the possession and consumption of all illegal drugs for personal use back in 2001, the cultivation and sale of cannabis technically remains illegal. Indeed, regardless of its trailblazing drug reform laws, Portugal nonetheless finds itself amongst a very small number of European countries that have made cannabis seeds and equipment for the purposes of personal cultivation illegal also.
In January 2018, a bill was presented to the Portuguese parliament from the parties Bloco de Esquerda and PAN that advocated for the legalisation of medical cannabis under prescription. Due to a lack of cohesive support across parties, this bill, which suggested that citizens should be given permission to cultivate cannabis as long as the THC content of such cannabis was low, was postponed.
In June of the same year, the bill was passed, meaning that the prescription of medical cannabis was officially allowed in the country. Upon hearing from industry experts, pharmaceutical institutions, civil society and doctors however, the section of the bill allowing personal cultivation of cannabis was removed. Overall then, cannabis in the country is legal if prescribed by a doctor but personal cultivation remains illegal.
Hemp derivatives and CBD are both legal in the country, as is the cannabis-based product Sativex.
The cultivation of medical cannabis seems set to grow in Portugal, a country whose climate (not unlike that of California) and tariff-free entry to the rest of the European Union market has attracted the interest of many prominent cannabis companies like Tilray and Sababa Portugal. Indeed, the former company has invested €20 million in a facility near Cantanhede, with CEO Brendan Kennedy citing the country’s climate, young workforce and large agricultural sector as a major draw. He stated: “Some of our competitors are located in Denmark and northern Germany, where there isn’t that much sun – so we think we can produce a more environmentally-friendly product here”.
It will be interesting to see in the next few years whether Portugal’s stance on personal cultivation changes amid growing tolerance for medical cannabis consumption and increased interest in the cultivation of medical cannabis in the country by leading cannabis companies.
Further investigation and research into medicinal cannabis and alternative medical options is thoroughly encouraged by The Academy, particularly through the use of our own online courses, evidence base and whitepapers.
The rest of our resources are available on our website. We urge anyone considering use of medical cannabis products to consult with a trained medical professional prior to beginning use.