While the United States is in the middle of a marijuana legalization debate, Portugal is in the middle of a legalization debate of its own. In April, the country’s lower house approved a measure that would allow the sale of marijuana to adults. The measure, which passed in the Portuguese Parliament, is expected to pass the country’s upper house in August.

The Portuguese Parliament is considering a bill to legalize and regulate the sale and use of marijuana in the country, with the goal of boosting its economy and creating a new source of revenue with minimal health and social consequences. The bill is expected to be voted on in November, with full legalization taking place after that. Here in the US, the movement is not so far behind. Nevada, Alaska, and Oregon have all recently voted to legalize recreational marijuana, and a similar bill is making its way through the California legislature. It will be interesting to see how all of this affects the debate.

The Portuguese Green Party’s legalization proposal recently passed the lower house of parliament with an overwhelming majority and now faces a vote in the upper house. If the proposal passes in the upper house, it will be sent to the Portuguese president, who may choose to veto the proposal. If the president does not veto the proposal, the bill will be sent to the Parliament of the European Union for approval and implementation.

The timing of comprehensive adult-use cannabis legislation being considered on the west coast of Europe is reigniting reform discussions in other parts of the region – and standards almost everywhere, including Portugal.

Much will be written about this period in general, and about the cannabis reform in Europe in particular, with the knowledge of today. The pandemic, along with other long-standing issues such as the recognition of the medicinal properties of cannabis, has brought the whole discussion of the normalization of cannabis to the forefront of political debate across national borders throughout the region.

Besides the decline of the leisure markets in Luxembourg and Switzerland and the reorganisation of the Dutch market, the ongoing negotiations in Portugal this summer are the main reason. The country that for decades has had the most liberal attitude on the continent towards all drugs finally decides to regulate and normalize its recreational cannabis industry.

The decision-making process alone, regardless of the fate of the bill (although many expect it to become law), will have a fundamental impact on the whole standardisation debate, both in Portugal and abroad.

Why is Portugal different from Luxembourg and Switzerland?

There are several reasons why this event is in fact the most influential debate on leisure reform in Europe to date, regardless of how the Dutch end up hosting it.

Here’s why.

First: The markets in Luxembourg and Switzerland are (relatively) small. The former country only has a population of just over 600,000, so it’s unlikely there will be a rush to cannabis cultivation anytime soon, which will make a big difference. In Switzerland, where discussions are underway to curb recreational products made from plants grown domestically, the move is likely to boost the domestic cultivation market, which has so far grown around cannabis.

However, Switzerland is not part of the European Union (EU) and furthermore, everything produced here is much more expensive than what is grown in warmer and much cheaper labour markets.

Add to this the burgeoning cannabis trade that has already established itself here – mainly to supply the German medical market – and the impact suddenly becomes very significant. The companies began growing in the summer of 2017, when Tilray decided to forgo the complicated application process in Germany and move to a warmer climate.

Since then, the culture has persisted in Portugal, while it stagnated in Germany and faltered in countries like Spain and Greece. Portugal has even become a destination country for many members of the German market looking for high quality medicinal cannabis. With the emergence of a recreational market, this production will increase significantly, although not exclusively for export or medicinal purposes.

Indeed, more than any other country on the continent, Portugal is preparing to become the next Netherlands, if not beyond its borders.


Next year, when the Portuguese legislation comes into force, there will be four leisure markets in Europe at different stages of maturity. This will certainly lead to discussions elsewhere – in Germany, but also in countries even more affected by the pandemic and dependent on tourism. Tax revenue from cannabis tourism, along with economic development in the form of high-tech cultivation and extraction, if not production, will prove to be a siren song that few can resist.

Nonetheless, the likely turnaround in Portugal will not only affect the actual culture, but also have a major impact on the conversation going on in Europe since Tilray announced the opening of its multi-million dollar campus. That is, industry-wide standards in a clearly mixed production market.

GACP certification, organic certification and GMP certification are all covered

One of the biggest problems with legalization is what certification and processing rules to impose on a market that is not only about to explode, but will also be exported, especially to Germany, if the Dutch and Canadians can’t produce enough.

Indeed, many companies in Portugal have started to convert their cultivation and extraction facilities to the GACP (or agricultural, rather than GMP or pharmaceutical) production chain. This may sound theoretical, but the problem starts to arise as soon as companies consider selling products across EU borders (and certainly in Germany). This applies not only to products grown in Portugal but also to products imported from abroad and transported to a third country.

Moreover, the much larger production market that already exists here will inevitably begin to consider how cannabis should be regulated beyond the GACP standard. It should be noted that Portugal is probably the first place where large-scale certification of organic products can be started, starting with the relevant regulatory issues related to extracts.

But regardless, much remains true. Portugal’s federal transition to recreational smoking will continue to drive the legalization and normalization of cannabis throughout the EU, Europe and beyond.

Sign up for our newsletter Receive notifications of the latest cannabis news, exclusive brand offers, event updates and more!Over the past year, Portugal has been making a concerted effort to reach the goal of becoming the first country in the world to legalize the adult use of cannabis. In an attempt to jumpstart the conversation, the country’s National Cannabis Council (CNC) hosted a series of symposiums across the country in the fall of 2016. The goal of these gatherings was to make the legalization of marijuana for both adult and recreational use a high priority issue among the country’s political and economic elites.. Read more about is portugal in spain and let us know what you think.

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