By Luke Sumpter

The Portuguese government has given the green light for the county’s first and only cannabis-based medicine. The National Authority for Medicines and Health Products approved the product for a range of health conditions where conventional treatments have failed to alleviate symptoms.

Rita Barata, director of Tilray Portugal, told The Portugal News[1], “This is the first and only cannabis-based preparation or substance for medicinal purposes allowed in our country and we are planning in the near future to make other products accessible to patients in Portugal”.

Tilray, a global leader in cannabis research and cultivation, currently distributes its products in 15 other nations. Following approval from the Portuguese government, the company plans to make more cannabis-based medicines available in the country.

Medicinal Cannabis in Portugal: A New Market Leader?

This milestone hopefully marks the beginning of a new market in Portugal, one where many other companies can get involved and distribute what they have to offer. As the cannabis industry continues to boom in the United States, large corporations and small-scale craft companies are moving to create new and unique products for recreational and medicinal users.

Many of these businesses are moving away from the “one molecule, one receptor” paradigm, and are instead focusing on the many cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids in the cannabis plant—chemicals that synergise to create a so-called "entourage effect".

Many other European nations have blossoming CBD markets, making the cannabinoid readily accessible to medical users. Some countries, including the UK and Ireland, prescribe Sativex to certain patients, a blend that contains equal levels of THC and CBD.

Medicinal Cannabis in Portugal: A New Market Leader?

However, the cannabis-based medicines in Portugal are centreed around THC preparations. This makes the move unique and progressive. Although THC underpins the psychoactive effects of cannabis, it has a useful application for an array of health conditions.

Adding to this, the production of cannabis-based medicines will also take place within Portugal’s borders. This lays the foundation for a model that other countries will hopefully adopt. For example, even obtaining a licence to produce CBD products in Spain remains almost impossible.

Cultures have used cannabis pharmacologically for thousands of years[2], and modern research[3] backs up the application of the plant in this context. Portugal has taken the first initial steps toward embracing medical cannabis, and hopefully will continue further down this path.

Is Weed Legal in Portugal? — Building on Past Progress

The approval of the first cannabis-based medicine builds on the foundation of Portugal’s already relaxed drug laws—a model supported by drug policy activists across the world[4]. Cannabis remains illegal in the country, but decriminalisation means citizens aren’t prosecuted for possession of the herb and other drugs for personal use.

This stance places Portugal among other lenient countries in Europe, including Spain and the Netherlands, and light years ahead of nations such as Germany and the United Kingdom, where penalties are common. This relaxed stance stems from 2001, when Portugal decriminalised drug use. Since then, problematic drug use, jail sentences, and overdose deaths on dangerous drugs have all plummeted[5].

The approval of the first cannabis-based medicine also marks the manifestation of a 2018 bill, a piece of legislation that approved the use[6] of cannabis in Portugal for medicinal purposes, and opened up the domestic market.

What Does This Mean for Cannabis Cultivation?

Unfortunately for the green-thumbed citizens of Portugal, growing cannabis at home remains exempt from cannabis decriminalisation laws. Groups tried to push for legal home cultivation for medicinal use in 2018, but their efforts fell flat.

This is particularly disappointing considering the country's ideal climate and long growing season. For now, cultivators will have to wait to practise their hobby without the added stress of prosecution. Many cultivators and cannabis activists are also nervous about cannabis-based medicine turning into a monopoly and ruling out home growing altogether—they have a point.

External Resources:
  1. First cannabis-based substance for medicinal purposes approved - The Portugal News
  2. Medicinal Cannabis: History, Pharmacology, And Implications for the Acute Care Setting
  3. Cannabinoids As Therapeutic Agents - Google Books
  4. Congress Needs to Decriminalize All Drugs – drcarlhart
  5. Drug Decriminalization in Portugal
  6. Portugal passes medical cannabis law, opens domestic market
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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