Medical Cannabis in Portuguese Pharmacies – This April


It is now two years after Portugal passed its medical marijuana bill, allowing access to cannabis medicines for those in need. And it looks like medical cannabis will finally be available in Portuguese pharmacies starting this April.

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Portugal and cannabis

One of the things Portugal is known for when it comes to drugs, is the decriminalization measure it took back in 2001. That year, the Portuguese government passed law 30/2000 which decriminalized (not legalized) use and possession of illegal drugs including cannabis. Several countries like Colombia and Costa Rica have similar policies. The idea of the bill was to limit drug problems among citizens.

The policy works by setting a specific number of grams that a person would approximately use within a 10-day period of time. If a person is caught with an illegal drug, with not more in quantity than the decriminalization amount for that drug, the person goes before a group called the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction panel, where they and their case are analyzed. The purpose of this step is to identify those who need treatment, though sanctions can be handed down at this time.

Decriminalization of use and possession do not decriminalize sale, cultivation, or trafficking, all of which remain illegal. Traffickers can face 1-12 years in prison depending on circumstances of the case. Cultivation was discussed for decriminalization in 2001, but taken off the table at the last minute. As such, personal cultivation is still illegal in Portugal today.

Portugal and medical cannabis

In June 2018, Portugal passed a law to legalize cannabis medicines, and set up a regulated medical cannabis industry. According to the bill, a doctor can prescribe these medications, but only if other conventional therapies haven’t worked, or caused adverse reactions. According to Maria do Céu Machado, the president of Infarmed – The National Authority for Medicines and Health Products, which oversees drug regulation in Portugal, “By the end of the year, we will have the necessary law in Portugal to regulate, from cultivation to dispensing, cannabis medicines.”

She went on to say that Infarmed is working to ensure the quality and effectiveness of all future products by creating legislation for regulation, and that finished products will be sold in pharmacies. The law also supports further scientific research into cannabis and its medicinal properties. At the time the law was passed, the framework for the legal medicinal field had not been released, however basic information about it was available.

The law states that cannabis medicines should be available to those who are not responding to standard treatment, or experiencing negative effects. It was cleared for use with chronic pain, particularly associated with cancer and nervous system disorders; spastic disorders like multiple sclerosis, and injuries to the spinal cord; nausea and vomiting associated with cancer therapies like radiotherapy and chemotherapy, AIDS therapies, and Hepatitis C treatments; and to stimulate appetites for those in palliative care for cancer and AIDS treatments.

And now…

Now, over two years after the initial passage of the law legalizing cannabis for medical use in Portugal, Portugal is actually getting to the business of selling this cannabis. Last month, Infarmed approved a market authorization which allows a licensed producer (Tilray), to sell medical cannabis products in Portugal. This is the first authorization for a cannabis-based substance to go into production, and accelerates a market that will put medical cannabis in Portuguese pharmacies.

The company that received this authorization is Tilray Portugal, the local arm of Tilray, a company that produces premium cannabis worldwide. Tilray Portugal’s general director Rita Barata had this to say about the new authorization: “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’s general manager in Europe, Sascha Mielcarek, made the statement that Infarmed’s authorization “confirms that Tilray’s medical cannabis products are up to the highest national and international standards.” Tilray is the only company to receive an authorization, making it the only company that can supply Portugal with legal medical cannabis at this time.

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Beth Edmonds