FOLLOWING a ‘snap’ General Election which saw the Socialist Party win an overall majority it remains to be seen how Portugal ’s move towards adult-use cannabis legalisation will fare.
In June, last year, measures to introduce a regulated market were proposed by the Socialists’ then Coalition partners the Left Bloc, and the Liberal Initiative.
However, after the Left Bloc joined with a right-wing alliance to spike its budget proposals Prime Minister Antonio Costa called an Election.
Last Sunday, January 30, the Socialists secured 117 seats in the 230-seat parliament, and the progress of cannabis reform is now uncertain.
New Legislation Needed
Last June’s proposals were sent to the Health Committee for further discussions although there was no further progress and, with that Government now dissolved, new legislation will have to be forthcoming.
Laura Ramos, Editor-in-Chief at Portuguese cannabis publication Cannareporter, has been closely monitoring its legalisation progress.
She told BusinessCann: “Hopefully, legalisation will go forward this year, but with the recent changes on hemp – making it more difficult for farmers – and this government gaining power with the elections I really don’t know what will happen.
“Some members of the Socialist Party are more liberal, others more conservative, so it’s still too early to call.
“The possibility of legalization may also pass through the PSD – Social Democratic Party, the second largest party with parliamentary seats. In 2018, PSD deputy Ricardo Baptista Leite, who is also a doctor, presented an internal proposal to the party to legalize the adult use of cannabis to be sold in pharmacies. It is not known, however, whether the PSD will move forward with this proposal in this legislature.
“With a Socialist majority small parties like the Left Block, the Liberal Initiative or PAN (People-Animals-Nature) will lose some of their influence, but I’m hoping they will soon present proposals for legalisation and they will pass.
“In any case, if there is a proposal to legalize from any another party, it will most likely pass, as several PSD deputies will also be in favor, making it clear, however, that self-cultivation is a divisive issue, which maybe the majority do not want to accept.”
In 2019, when earlier measures to liberalise the county’s cannabis laws were introduced by the Left Bloc and PAN, the Socialist Party was split on the issue. It opposed the proposals, although 25 Socialist MPs voted for it.
In 2001, Portugal decriminalised the personal possession of all drugs and adopted a harm reduction approach.
Possessing drugs for personal use is instead treated as an administrative offence, meaning it is no longer punishable by imprisonment and does not result in a criminal record.
‘Can’t Find a Way Forward’
In the UK, Labour Party MP Jeff Smith has spoken candidly on his recent attempt to unblock the UK”s medical cannabis prescribing system.
Mr Smith’s Medical Cannabis Access Bill was heard in the House of Commons in December last year, as reported by BusinessCann at the time
Speaking to the Express Mr Smith said: “The Bill was ‘talked out’. We got five hours of time and they just got people to talk it out until the end of the five hours and, unfortunately, although it goes back onto the agenda for future days, it won’t get taken. It won’t be discussed until April.”
Mr Smith, the MP for Wythenshawe, Manchester, went on to say that he believes the Government wants to find a way forward but is hamstrung by the medical profession.
He said: “When I spoke to ministers on this, they want more people to be able to access it, but they can’t find a way forward that they can agree with the medical establishment.”
He says the issue is with two organisations, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and British Paediatric Neurology Association, who are yet to embrace the benefits of medicinal cannabis.
In the Channel Islands, UK Crown Dependency Jersey is considering introducing a ‘Cancard’ to help medicinal cannabis users prove their legitimacy if stopped by the police.
In November 2018 The States Assembly voted to allow GPs to prescribe medicinal cannabis and its cultivation was approved one year later.
Since then, however, Police and Customs officers have sometimes struggled to distinguish between bona fide users who have a prescription and those who have not.
An ‘advisory council’ of senior officers, led by Chief Probation Officer Mike Cutland, is now trying to fill the legal void, and following the UK by introducing a ‘Cancard’ form of identification.
Guernsey Issues Another Cannabis Licence
Meanwhile, fellow Channel Island Guernsey has issued its first licence in relation to CBD production.
The Bailiwick of Guernsey Cannabis Agency awarded the licence to Celebrated, a company that makes a range of products using cannabis extracts, including oils and chocolate.
The CBD licence allows Celebrated to continue its existing business but having been validated through the new system.
Israeli cannabis company Canonic has shipped a first batch of cannabis varieties to Portugal, following receiving approval to export from the Israeli Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture.
As part of its preparations for the planned 2023 commercial launch in Europe, Canonic expects to enter commercial agreements with local growers and manufactures and will work to obtain required regulatory approvals, it says in a press release.
Portugal is Europe’s leading medical cannabis cultivator with Tilray investing over €20 in its Cantanhede EU Campus in 2017. The country has the most internationally-recognised cultivation facilities and licences of any EU sovereign state.