Portugal Medicinal Cannabis Industry Statistics and Regional Cultivation Conditions (Recreational vs Medicinal Use)
What is the current status of the Portugal medical cannabis industry? And when it comes to selecting the best places in the world to grow medicinal cannabis, where does Portugal fit in? This blog covers recent developments in medicinal cannabis legalisation and cultivation trends in Portugal. We cover implications for the global medicinal cannabis market, Portugal statistics, and the region’s suitability for the cultivation of cannabis for domestic use and Europe exportation. Reading time: 2.5 minutes.
Legalisation of Cannabis in Portugal
As more countries legalise cannabis cultivation and use for medicinal purposes, finding the best places in the world to grow medicinal cannabis is the question on everyone’s mind. With new options available, how do you choose the best site location for your medicinal cannabis production?
From new entrepreneurs, to well established cannabis cultivation organisations, eyes are now turning towards the emerging medicinal cannabis industry in Portugal.
A major producer of medicinal cannabis for the European market, Tilray, already has a large scale cultivation interest in Portugal (they’ve already invested $22 million in their facility, with 5.9 acres of cannabis crops in Cantanherde).
Earlier this year, in January 2019, a Canadian and Israeli owned company (Sababa Portugal) announced plans to invest millions into cultivating cannabis crops in the region known as Campo Maior (in the southern Alentejo region of Portugal), starting off with an initial 40 hectres.
FlowR and Holigen are also involved in the cannabis industry in Portugal. Holigen is cultivating a 72-hectare site in the Alentejo region aiming to produce 500,000 kilograms of medicinal cannabis per year (and likely more).
More about the Alentejo region is listed further below. But first, let’s talk about the cannabis market in Portugal, as a whole.
Following is an overview of Portugal’s suitability for cannabis cultivation and global market changes.
- Large-scale medicinal cannabis cultivation has been occurring in Portugal for some years, however, until last year, domestic use and possession IN PORTUGAL was prohibited by law
- In July 2018, local populations were also granted the right to access cannabis via a medical prescription, when other treatment approaches have failed
Is cannabis legal for recreational use in Portugal? The answer is NO.
- Portugal’s stance on illicit drug cultivation and possession for recreational purposes — including cannabis — has been decriminalisation (fewer repercussions for possessing small amounts of cannabis for personal use)
- This is in contrast to another burgeoning cannabis region in Thailand, where punishments for drugs are severe, even though cannabis cultivation was recently legalised in Thailand.
Laws for cannabis cultivation and possession in Portugal have changed only in that pharmaceutical cannabis is now legalised for Portugal residents (as of Juyl 2018). Recreational cannabis cultivation, possession and use remains illegal and punishable according to Portugal laws.
When recreational use is legalised, some markets suffer from a production glut but the quality is often extreme variable — often very poor. Governments often don’t want to risk being seen as producing subpar cannabis products or creating a price glut as has happened a bit in the States.
Plus, the demand for medicinal quality exports that meet GMP (EU GMP, PIC/S and so forth) is already huge and expected to grow larger, especially in the European market.
Two recent legislation change proposals, which sought to legalise ‘home grown’ marijuana possession for recreational or medicinal use in Portugal, have failed. For the time being, domestic use is only available through a Pharmacy with a medical prescription, and only when other treatments were failed.
Are there favourable conditions for growing cannabis in Portugal?
- Yes, the weather in certain regions of Portugal are often ideal for growing cannabis (similar to California weather)
- Cannabis cultivation experts give it high marks in relation to cultivation site selection criteria
- Several well-funded cannabis companies have already started medical marijuana cultivation businesses in Portugal, as mentioned above, and EU GMP products are expected to be shipping in a matter of months if not weeks.
Portugal may become one of the world’s best regions for growing medicinal cannabis according to medicinal cannabis consultants, master growers and other industry experts.
How do people legally obtain cannabis in Portugal?
The National Authority of Medicines and Health Products in Portugal (Infarmed) is responsible for regulating most aspects of medical marijuana market. Infarmed oversees licences, medicinal product safety and pharmaceutical process monitoring, and other aspects of pharmaceutical production and public safety. Infarmed has somewhat similar roles to Australia’s TGA or the FDA in the USA.
Gaining access to Cannabis | Medicinal purposes
- Legal possession and use of cannabis is for medicinal purposes only and patients must have a prescription to access cannabis
- Medicinal Cannabis in Portugal is only available through Pharmacies
- Cultivation is only legal for cultivators who hold a licence from the Government
- Patients cannot cultivate their own cannabis plants
As in other regions where medicinal cannabis use has been legalised, prescriptions for medicinal cannabis in Portugal are not recommended as first-line treatment options.
Instead, cannabis prescriptions are indicated only when other treatment approaches have been inadequate for relieving symptoms. As research into the effectiveness of cannabis for certain symptoms is bolstered by larger studies and more robust, high-quality evidence, we expect that this could change in Portugal and around the world. Many clinical studies are in progress. But high-quality efficacy and safety data are not yet available, and dosing guidelines remains less clear.
How many people use cannabis in Portugal?
- Reports suggest that up to 500,000 locals regularly use cannabis in Portugal
- Most of this cannabis use is likely recreational and/or not legally cultivated or purchased
Medicinal Cannabis in Portugal | Regional Considerations
Growing and Exporting Cannabis
All medical marijuana products cultivated, extracted or produced in Portugal will require a license from the Government agency, Infarmed.
Role of Infarmed | Portugal’s pharmaceutical regulatory agency
The role of Infarmed is said to involve quality, efficacy and safety testing, much like Australia’s TGA responsibilities. Roles of Infarmed likely include a range of GMP regulatory functions, e.g., safety and quality regulations; production licence authorisations and reviews, audit and laboratory assessments, surveillance and control of medical research, pharmaceutical production, medication distribution, pharmaceutical marketing and use of medicinal products (human use and health products). Source: https://www.healtheuropa.eu/medical-cannabis-in-portugal/90986/
About the Alentejo Region (Portugal)
Where is the Alentejo Region?
- There are several regional divisions in Portugal
- Alentejo is in NUT II (NUT2)
- Towards the north, the Alentejo region borders the River Tagus (the river’s left bank); and towards the south, the Alentejo region borders the Algarve region
What are the growing conditions for cannabis in Portugal (Alentejo region in the south)?
- Warm days and cool nights
- Plenty of sunlight
- Typically good agricultural soil conditions
- Alentejo, in particular, has a high thermal amplitude (5°C to 33°C)
Distances & Geography | How far is the Alentejo Region from Porto?
- The distance between Porto and the Alentejo Region is 350 km
What are some bigger cities in the Alentejo region?
- Castelo de Vide
- Évora, Elvas
- Portalegre (Upper Alentejo)
- Serpa (Lower Alentejo)
- Sines (Coastal Alentejo)
- Rio Maior (Lezíria do Tejo)
What is the population of the Alentejo region in Portugal (Demographics)
- The Alentejo region is scarcely populated; it is the least populated region of Portugal.
- It represents just over 7% of the total population of Portugal, although it covers over 1/3 of Portugal’s national territory
- The population is estimated as being just under 800,000 people
- Alentejo’s population demographics include a larger number of ageing populations than other regions in Portugal, with over 22% of the region’s residents 65 years in age (or above)
- The population of Alentejo was recorded as being in decline, with a relatively equal distribution of genders
- The cannabis industry may eventually change the demographics of the region in terms of attracting younger workers, bringing more income into the region, and/or providing more jobs for people of all ages
How will the cannabis cultivation industry impact Portugal, including the Alentejo region?
- By creating jobs (many, many jobs) in the cannabis industry — some say 50,000 new jobs might be created in the Alentejo region alone (to a population of about 800,000 — that’s a very significant number)
- Attracting further tourism (and in the Alentejo region, vineyards and beautiful scenes are a tourist attraction)
How did the Alentejo region get its name?
- The province of Alentejo took its name from the Portuguese term além Tejo (“Beyond the River/Tagus”).
- Originally created in 1832, it was divided into two provinces in 1933: the Alto Alentejo Province and the Baixo Alentejo Province.
What other countries offer ideal locations for cultivating medicinal cannabis?
What other regions and countries are considered some of the world’s best places to grow medicinal cannabis?
Wondering where you should look to begin your cultivation, CBD extraction and pharmaceutical cannabis production and exportation businesses?
Contact PharmOut’s expert cannabis consultants, offering worldwide assistance in all facets of cannabis cultivation, GMP processing, cleanroom and facility designs, validation engineering, employee training and extraction engineering.
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More news about changes in the global cannabis industry can be found at the following links:
References and Further reading
Original article published on July 4, 2019. Last updated: July 5, 2019.