History, Laws & Business Opportunities
for Cannabis in Portugal
Portugal’s relatively lenient policy on marijuana stems from the country’s effort to reform drug policy in the late 90s. And as demand increases across Europe, Portugal is quickly becoming a medical marijuana cultivation powerhouse.
Despite several efforts to legalize recreational cannabis, though, it still remains merely decriminalized. Here’s everything you need to know about the history and laws of cannabis in Portugal.
Questions on cannabis
The History of Cannabis in Portugal
For several decades prior to the 1990s, Portugal dealt with high rates of drug use and incarceration. Then, in 2001, officials made the bold decision to decriminalize the personal use of all drugs and focus on rehabilitation instead of punishment.
Now, an individual who is caught in possession of cannabis in Portugal is sent to a local Commission for Dissuasion of Drug Addiction, which consists of a legal expert and two medical professionals/psychologists. This commission reviews the case and decides if treatment is necessary to combat addiction.
Overall, opportunities for cannabis in Portugal are continuing to emerge, but it’s still a strictly controlled and heavily regulated market with a sole focus on medicinal marijuana.
Portugal was one of the first countries to decriminalize marijuana in 2001, and medical marijuana was legalized in 2018. However, buying and selling recreational marijuana remains illegal — trafficking cannabis in Portugal can result in a one- to five-year prison sentence.
When Portugal decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2001, it also considered decriminalizing the cultivation of marijuana for personal use but ultimately decided against it. Cultivating cannabis in Portugal, even if for personal use, remains illegal.
In 2018, two political parties, Bloco de Esquerda and PAN (People-Animals-Nature), introduced a bill in parliament that would legalize the use of medical marijuana without a prescription. Ultimately, a more conservative version of the bill passed, and doctor-prescribed medical marijuana was legalized.
Portugal has had a medical cannabis program in place since 2018, and its sunny, mild climate and comparatively inexpensive labor have made it ideal for cannabis production.
Portugal’s medical marijuana industry is regulated by a government agency called Infarmed, which evaluates, regulates, and supervises all aspects of the industry. Infarmed is also responsible for licensing any applications to cultivate, produce, or distribute medical cannabis in Portugal.
There’s a significant backlog of applicants at this time, making it more difficult to become a licensed producer in Portugal than in other countries.
Cultivation licenses are valid for one year and must be renewed annually. The licensing process requires applications to be submitted to Infarmed with requests for criminal background checks for any members of the ownership group.
Extraction licenses, on the other hand, require additional authorizations. Though the application process is similar to that of cultivation licenses, Infarmed limits licensure to avoid the production of excess materials that surpass the needs of the legal market.
Additional authorization is needed to sell wholesale medical cannabis and for importing and exporting cannabis. Furthermore, Infarmed and local law enforcement oversee the sale and transfer of cannabis products.
Companies from across Europe have already invested in Portugal’s cannabis industry. Tilray, a major marijuana corporation, invested 20 million euros (about $22 million) in a large cannabis cultivation facility in Portugal, which it expects will produce its first profitable yield in 2020.
This cannabis facility is expected to be one of the main supply sources of medical marijuana in Europe — especially in Germany, where demand is especially high. Other companies, notably the British GW Pharmaceuticals and a Canadian/Israeli company, called Sababa Portugal, have also invested millions of euros into developing marijuana cultivation facilities.
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Licenses in Portugal
If you are looking to attain a license for hemp or cannabis in Portugal, Higher Yields Cannabis Consulting can help. Our team of cannabis licensing consultants and technical writers has had great success helping newcomers and experienced operators attain licenses all over the world.
Portugal continues to follow the trends of many of its European neighbors who are venturing into the realm of cannabis legalization. Despite having legal medical cannabis for several years, adult-use cannabis in Portugal remains merely decriminalized.
However, members of Portugal’s leading political parties are now pushing the country towards adopting full cannabis legalization measures in 2023. Though a previous effort failed in 2021, there appears to be strong support within the Portuguese legislature and throughout Portuguese society for full legalization.
The Liberal Initiative party submitted a bill to the Portuguese parliament that would fully legalize adult-use cannabis. This bill will be debated in the full parliament potentially as early as June 2023 and a full vote on the measure will occur before the end of 2023. The proposed legislation would make it legal for anyone over the age of 18 years old to purchase adult-use cannabis, to possess up to 25 grams, and to cultivate their own cannabis at home for personal use.
By most estimations, this bill has a strong chance of passing and making it into law. However, like all of the other EU member states currently pushing cannabis legalization measures, Portugal will encounter strong resistance from the EU based on its clear laws outlawing cannabis for personal use. But with a leading share of EU member states open to the idea of legalizing adult-use cannabis, it’s reasonable to believe that Portugal may be able to overcome the EU prohibitions.
The Future of Cannabis in Portugal
With Portugal’s liberal attitude regarding marijuana and recent investment in marijuana production infrastructure, many have predicted that cannabis in Portugal may be fully legalized in the next several years.
In this fast-paced and quickly changing industry, using the services of a professional cannabis consulting firm can give you the competitive edge you need to get a foothold in this lucrative market.
The expert team at Higher Yields Consulting is prepared to help you with all aspects of your marijuana business endeavor, from compliance to branding and marketing. Contact us today to find out how we can help make your cannabusiness dreams a reality.
Last updated: June 2023