Portugal has recently risen to prominence in the international cannabis scene, marking its territory as a significant exporter. The country’s medical cannabis sector has seen a remarkable boom, a story told eloquently by the numbers. Reports from the National Health Service (SNS) and Jornal de Notícias highlight an impressive 63% uptick in cannabis exports from Portugal in the previous year, with exports approaching the ten-ton mark in 2022.
Germany, Poland, and Australia have emerged as the primary destinations for Portuguese cannabis exports, following Israel, which held the top spot in 2020. Notably, Spain, Portugal’s neighbor, imported nearly 2,900 tonnes of medicinal cannabis from the country in the previous year. In the first half of 2023 alone, Portugal has already exported more than five tons of cannabis, and it is on track to break its own export records by the end of the year. This remarkable growth in the cannabis industry has led to an influx of companies seeking authorization for the import-export of medicinal cannabis. In the first half of 2023, 124 such requests have been registered, reflecting the industry’s growing appeal.
Portugal’s progressive approach to drug legislation has played a pivotal role in fostering the growth of the cannabis industry. The Portuguese parliament approved amendments to Ordinance 94/96, commonly known as ‘the drugs law,’ which has expanded the scope of personal cannabis consumption. It is no longer considered evidence of drug trafficking if an individual possesses a quantity greater than what is typically allowed for personal consumption over ten days. This legislative change signifies a significant shift in drug policy, placing the burden of proof on authorities to establish intent for illicit distribution rather than personal consumption.
The new drugs law, initially proposed by Social Democratic Party MPs and later refined through joint debates with the Socialist Party, has modernized the regulatory framework governing drug consumption and possession. The legislation replaces the defunct Superior Council of Legal Medicine with the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences. This change is essential for implementing the diagnostic procedures and expert examinations required to assess drug addiction and determine maximum quantitative limits for individual average daily doses of various substances.
In the wake of these legislative changes, Portugal’s cannabis exports have reached unprecedented levels. In 2021, Portuguese cannabis exports surged by a remarkable 566% compared to the previous year. The 30 tons of dried cannabis flower exported marked a significant increase from the 4.5 tons in 2020. The value of cannabis exports is expected to surpass the previous year, with the first two months of 2023 already witnessing exports of 10 tons.
As of 2018, when medical cannabis was legalized in Portugal, the country has become a hub for cannabis cultivation, with 18 companies authorized to grow medical cannabis. These companies are gearing up to meet the growing demand for cannabis products, both domestically and internationally.
Portugal’s progressive legislation, combined with its expanding cannabis industry, places the country at the forefront of the global cannabis market. With no signs of slowing down, the future appears bright for Portugal as it continues to shape the cannabis world.