By Michael Sassano, CEO of Somai Pharmaceuticals
Portugal has long been ahead of other European countries in its understanding and stance on drug reform, so it is no surprise the relatively small country is leading the way to recreational cannabis in the European market.
In 2001, Portugal decriminalized drug use and concentrated on treating people as patients, not criminals. In 2018, Portugal was one of the first EU countries to legalize medical cannabis and consequently created one of the best environments for cultivating and producing medicinal cannabis for the world. Likewise, now in 2021 Portugal is again leading the pack in the EU and working to craft a recreational cannabis market. The timing could not be more ideal for Portugal, producers and patients.
Portuguese politicians agree: It’s time for recreational passage
This is not the first time cannabis legalization has been proposed. In fact, it’s been discussed for approximately 20 years and even considered as a potential rule change as recently as 2013. Right now, local Portuguese media has reported that there seems to be strong movement within the various political parties of the Portuguese government toward nurturing a recreational market similar to Canada and the United States.
Regardless of party affiliation, similar pro-cannabis sentiments are generally expressed. Culturally, the Portuguese look favorably on herbal rather than pharmaceutical solutions presented by Big Pharma and are accordingly often on the cutting edge of many remedies that result from being open concerning such inspired research and development. Conversations are being conducted concerning ways to combat the cannabis grey market within a legal framework that also generates tax revenue and fosters employment growth. There is growing evidence that legal recreational cannabis countries are beginning to exhibit decreased use of alcohol, opioids, and other Big Pharma drugs, as reported by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Whatever drives each Portuguese politician, none can ignore the adroit timing of long-discussed recreational legalization: Given the economic devastation of COVID-19, nations across Europe are left in worse shape than during the Financial Crisis of 2008.
Portugal is a natural leader of the recreational cannabiz pack
Although the policies and regulations are in the works, the Portuguese are looking at the Canadian market as a guide towards rule-making, but some believe a framework like the individual states in the U.S. are more similar and beneficial to Portuguese legalization success.
Just as some U.S. states were able to establish themselves as market visionaries a decade ago, Portugal is likewise jumping ahead of many other European countries in the EU. Although it’s not the first country to embrace recreational cannabis in the EU, there is a drive to make the program excellent, as well as proven success at doing so via the lauded medical cannabis program, as reported by Reuters. Most likely — just like in each U.S. state market — all products will legally require being grown, produced, and distributed within the Portuguese borders. There will most likely be a dispensary-style distribution and possibly pharmacy distribution just like the process for over-the-counter prescriptions. It’s also worth noting that smaller, mature state markets like Colorado often have much less inflow of capital and lower populations than larger nascent markets like Canada, yet manage to create frameworks that beat out Canadian taxable revenue.
Portuguese producers need to be ready for recreational cannabis
The Portuguese cannabis community has a positive outlook on the future.
For years, most growers have been losing money due to a slow medical cannabis rollout in Europe. From indoor facilities like Holigen and mixed greenhouse/outdoor facilities like Clever Leaves, there is much to cheer for. With approximately 9 open grow facilities in Portugal, almost 100 grow license applications and only 6 extraction licenses and new extraction applications, this is an amazing time for money-raising.
The Great Canadian Cannabis Crash of 2019 is an event that warns against overbuilding and teaches caution concerning slower-than-expected EU development. Specialty manufacturers of products (like Somai Pharmaceuticals) are eager to show off knowledge of cannabis medicine and recreational products from hard-earned U.S. market expertise. Likewise, those Portuguese cannabis producers who are present at market onset gain a dual economic and strategic advantage over other European companies: They will be better acclimatized to an internal market and will accordingly be able to create management structures earlier than others.
If the passage of recreational cannabis does occur, expect significant development in Portugal as local producers and early movers will surely surge ahead of other EU producers as they gain experience and improve cash flow for expansion.
Make plans now: Recreational cannabis in Portugal
Keep your eye on the vote coming up. After a few decades of false starts, this time will surely be a winner for recreational access in Portugal, which may go on to serve as the model for other countries. One thing is certain: The economic and social benefits far outweigh the negative results of prohibition, which in the unique case of Portugal is changing the public relations for cannabis as a safe and healthy substance.
Cannabis is shown to have multiple healing attributes from pain relief, lowering stress, stated High Times and Unilad to helping Alzheimer’s, epilepsy, and other nervous disorders, stated MoGreenway Magazine and The National Institutes of Health. Cannabis is nonlethal with few side effects for adults, meaning legalization of medical and recreational cannabis in the EU is a matter of “when,” not “if.” Given the passage of recreational cannabis, Portugal will continue to prove they have what it takes to be the cannabis epicenter of Europe, a leader other countries will follow, and the home of the largest and most innovative producers in the EU.