It’s been a crazy few weeks for me as I recently got back from southern Europe – Portugal actually, where Ron and I are planning to move. With everything falling into place, it should be about July when we land in our new home country.
One of the first questions that comes up when I talk about this is: “Isn’t Portugal the country that’s legalized all drugs?” (wink, wink)
That sure sounds progressively leading-edge and nice, doesn’t it?
However, it’s far from actual fact.
The idea of having a drug buffet of plentiful offerings of anything and everything is a myth. Yes, more than 20 years ago Portugal decriminalized the use and possession of all drugs, moving the focus from criminal punishment to treatment.
For example, if you get caught with less than a 10-day supply of any drug — including canna and heroin, the offending party is typically sent to a local panel consisting of a doctor, lawyer, and social worker where they are given options to available treatment and medical services and maybe assigned community service. A panel member has been quoted as saying that 80-to-85 percent of the people who are referred to the panels are caught with hashish or canna (as opposed to heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine).
But the country has not changed the legal status of any drugs. They all remain illegal. That means that the manufacture, importation, and sale of drugs is still very illegal.
Even growing your own canna is still a criminal matter in Portugal – as is the possession of canna seeds. And drug dealers still go to prison. If caught trafficking canna, offenders can be given a 1 – 5 year prison sentence – which can be extended up to 4 – 12 years depending on the severity of the crime.
The only way you can gain access legally to canna in Portugal is if it’s prescribed by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacy. Doctors can write the patient a prescription for a specific type of canna product in a specific dosage. The kicker here is that doctors are reportedly only allowed to prescribe medical canna when other treatments are not effective.
So, in the case of canna, this puts law-abiding people in a terrible place if they want the plant medicine but don’t want to go through the gotta-see-a-doctor rigamarole and have no other legal way of acquiring it.
Having said that, in the comments section of many websites, it’s repeatedly noted that anyone who wants to access canna in Portugal can easily do so via the black market, with the offerings usually being canna or hashish.
Personally, since canna is a facet of my emotional release and trauma work, I’ve navigated many canna markets in the U.S. – from the truly buffet-like style in Colorado of both legalized Adult Use and Medical Use, to the inane “medical only” law in Florida that keeps you going back to your doctor to re-activate your medical card at $100 bucks a shot.
So it’s going to be an intriguing cultural experience to navigate Portugal’s Catch-22 law! I’ll keep you informed as to how it’s going. There’s a lot of discussion these days around the pressure being put on the country to legalize canna, and you can bet, as an expat, I’ll be taking with me my long history of canna activism.
Do you have thoughts on this subject? Email and let me know what’s coming up for you!
Resources accessed (in no particular order):
It’s time Portugal: Legalize it. Portugal News. 3.10.21. Accessed 4.8.22.
Portugal decriminalizes marijuana, drug possession.
NORML. 7.5.01. Accessed 4.8.22.
20 years of Portuguese drug policy – developments, challenges and the quest for human rights. 7.17.21. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, Policy. Accessed 4.8.22
Portugal’s radical drugs policy is working. Why hasn’t the world copied it? The Guardian 12.05.17. Accessed 4.8.22
Drug Decriminalization in Portugal: Setting the Record Straight.
Drug Policy Foundation. 5.13.21. Accessed 4.8.22
Mythbusters: Drugs are legal in Portugal.
Drug Foundation.org. 5.01.13. Accessed 4.8.22
Cannabis in Portugal — Laws, Use, and History. Sensiseeds.com. 9.26.21. Accessed 4.8.22