Medical cannabis has almost become a new norm in the United States. As of November 2020, 36 states, four out of five US territories and DC have legalized the use of medicinal cannabis, and while I can’t speak to the distribution method of every state, the standard across the US seems to be the cannabis dispensary. A business dedicated to the regulated sale of cannabis, either medicinal or recreational, isn’t that strange to us anymore. Now, imagine instead that in order to get your now legal medical cannabis, you go to your local pharmacy. I mean, you can get pretty much anything at an American CVS, but I have yet to hear of medical cannabis being one of the items on that two mile long receipt. As odd as that may seem to us, that’s how medical cannabis patients in Portugal will be buying their medicine – as soon as they’re able to.
Cannabis has been decriminalized in Portugal since 2001, but in June of 2018, Portugal legalized medical cannabis and the establishment of medical cannabis manufacturing and distribution regulations. Under the new law, doctors are now legally allowed to prescribe cannabis and cannabis based medicines, which would be distributed to patients at pharmacies.
It is 2021 now, so why are we talking about a medical cannabis law that Portugal passed in the middle of 2018? Well, because it has taken this long for things to really get rolling in Portugal. And a little bit because that’s where my mom lives and I have some of the inside scoop, if we’re being completely honest.
On June 15th, 2018 the Portuguese parliament approved the use of cannabis and cannabis based medicines, but had yet to finalize the legislation that would detail the regulations regarding manufacture and distribution. According to the then President of Infarmed, Portugal’s drug regulation agency, legislation would be finalized by the end of 2018. The goal, it seems, was to have the legislation in place to guarantee a consistent quality of cannabis and cannabis based medicines that will be available at Portuguese pharmacies, as opposed to the massive variety of options you might be able to find at an American dispensary.
Now in 2021, Portugal has given the first and only authorization to a Canadian based cannabis research and manufacturing company called Tilray, making them the only legal producer and distributor of medical cannabis that will be available in Portugal. They are also now the first company ever to have authorization from the Portuguese government to legally grow and distribute cannabis and cannabis products containing THC within the country.
This works out pretty well for Tilray because in September 2017 they announced their plan to build a $30 million dollar cannabis facility in Portugal. This GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certified facility initially was not authorized to distribute cannabis with Portugal, however they were allowed to export their products to the parts of the EU that had medical cannabis regulations in place at the time. However this February, Tilray became the first and only medical cannabis product that will be legally available in Portugal.
Aside from the obvious issue of an almost three year wait for medical cannabis to be available, Portugal’s medical legislations have adversely affected their hemp farmers as well as leaving out regulation for personal cultivation. Hemp products are now required to be regulated under the understandably much more strict regulations of Infarmed, the National Authority of Medicines and Health Products in Portugal, as well as their original regulator, the Food and Veterinary General Directorate (DGAV). They also seem to have left out regulations for Portuguese residents to grow their own medical cannabis for personal use.
In next month’s issue, I’ll be talking to my mom about how medical cannabis is being implemented now that Tilray has gotten the go ahead as well as some opinions and general feelings regarding the medical roll out there. We’ll get a little deeper into Tilray’s influence on the global cannabis market and their upcoming merger with another cannabis giant, Aphria. Corporations seem to be taking medical cannabis world wide in a big way, but is that best for the cannabis patient?
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Kelly Mahoney worked at a medical cannabis Co-op with her mother, Laura Mastropietro, dealing mainly with helping new patients acquire their medical cards and helping them find the best strains and methods. Diagnosed at a young age with spinal muscular atrophy, she was also a medical cannabis patient and still advocates for the incredible benefits, and downright fun, of cannabis. She now lives in a prohibition state as a cat mom and gamer wife.