By Emily Ledger
This week, two of Portugal’s political parties presented proposals in parliament for cannabis legalisation in the country, 20 years after the decriminalisation of all drugs.
In 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all drugs. The groundbreaking policy was introduced in a bid to solve the rising addiction rate and drug-related deaths.
Both the Left Bloc and the Liberal Initiative political parties laid out proposals for the legalisation of recreational cannabis during a Parliamentary debate on Wednesday (9th June).
According to reports from Prohibition Partners, both of the proposed bills will be sent to the Health Committee where a period of 60 days will be allowed for public hearings and the presentation of amendments and negotiations.
However, this period means that the issue is unlikely to be debated by parliament or go to the final vote during the current Parliamentary session which ends in late July. The next session is due to begin on the 15th of September 2021.
What is included in the proposals?
Both of the proposed bills contain the same key suggestions for a legal cannabis sector in Portugal. They would both allow the cultivation, sale, possession, and use of adult-use recreational cannabis. They would also allow the home cultivation of a limited number of cannabis plants (five or six per household).
The bills also recommend that there should be a limit on the amount of cannabis that can be purchased at one time and restrictions on where cannabis products can be legally consumed – for example, use would be prohibited in workplaces, public transport, and places intended for children, etc.
There would also be Government-imposed limitations on the sale of products containing high levels or doses of THC as well as clear, health-focused labelling.
While both bills contain a lot of similarities, they differ significantly when it comes to how the proposed cannabis sector should be run.
The Left Bloc party suggests that the legal market including the cultivation, production, and supply – including the introduction of a cannabis user register – should be controlled by the state.
On the other hand, the Liberal Initiative suggests that the State should have little-to-no control over the sector, maintaining what it calls the “culture of freedom” associated with cannabis.
The Left Bloc party would also introduce a ban on synthetic cannabis products and processed products such as cannabinoid-infused drinks and edibles. The Liberal Initiative, however, proposes that these products should be allowed.
Cannabis Policy in Portugal
Both political parties that are putting forward proposals for cannabis legalisation have stated that current policy around cannabis in Portugal are not effective at protecting public health.
The Left Bloc’s Bill 859 states that: “the prohibitionist policy is not a solution, in fact, it is part of the problem and enhances its aggravation by protecting the clandestine nature of trafficking and jeopardising of public health. Legalisation and subsequent regulation will promote conscious, free and informed consumption.”
Similarly, the Liberal Initiative’s Bill 862 states that: “in Portugal, currently, cannabis is widely distributed and consumed, and it [possession and consumption] no longer has criminal consequences.
“However, the decriminalisation that took place in Portugal in 2001, considered exemplary in the world panorama, was not a liberalisation because cannabis continued to be clandestine, and continued to expose consumers to criminal underworlds and adulterated [unregulated] products.”