With Dear Mama a little more settled in after her big move to Portugal, I decided to ask her a few questions about her decision to move and what kind of impact, if any, cannabis had on her decision.
How long have you been a cannabis consumer?
Well, to be totally honest I tried it once my senior year in high school at a football game, but I don’t think I got more than a little giggly. I started regularly partaking in herbal wellness with cannabis in my late teens, early twenties in college. I recall my first apartment and first bong fondly still. So around 35 years, give or take.
What kinds of cannabis products do you use regularly?
Haven’t met a cannabis product I didn’t like. My favorite will always be just regular old flower bud. I like all the rituals that go along with it and the taste. Living in Portugal I have no access so….
What benefits do you get from specific products (RSO, flower, edibles etc)?
I used RSO pretty regularly for pain control when I had access to it in Arizona. It kept me out of the emergency room many times. I already have everything in my body tested so I knew what the pain was, I just needed occasional pain control help. I have never responded well to any pain medications. They can make me all chatty, itchy, nauseous and then usually didn’t help with my pain. The worst side effect I ever had with RSO was a long, long nap. It always stopped the pain.
Edibles are great for portability. Traveling with them is convenient. Even if that travel is to a concert or a party to consume after arrival. I also ran a couple edible lines so I learned all kinds of ways to mask or enhance them, so of course I have a special place in my heart for edibles. I knocked out a lot of folks too. Silly people who ignored repeated warnings about appropriate dosage. I won’t use edibles from just anyone and I have to completely trust they understand strain and dosing of edibles.
Live resin vapes are something I wish I had here. Really, really miss those, and the apartment life we have now, the discreet vapes are highly desirable. Someone needs to come visit me. Bring presents.
Pain patches, bath soaks and those ancillary products are just wishes at this point.
When did you decide to move to Portugal?
I decided before my spouse and then I had to prove to him that it was a reasonable idea. So I’d say I decided it was a good plan in 2018. Him too, but months later. He told me I was crazy more than a few times. I patiently did more research, gathered facts and made budgets with real numbers and eventually he was convinced. If you need to get a job, it’s not a great place to move, but if you are retiring, they welcome you coming to spend your money here, and in exchange you have the 12th best healthcare in the world and get to live near the ocean in the third safest country.
Why did you decide to move to Portugal?
It was for a lot of reasons, but the main reason was the huge cost of retirement in the U.S.
We couldn’t see any way to ever not work. All I could think about was that my husband was about to turn 70, and he had no vision of anytime he would enjoy the fruits of his labor. I didn’t want the one time he got to stop working to happen because he got too ill to work. That was just a really sad thought to me.
I have a weird rare disorder that I feel better the more I rest. I could keep working if I kept treating the disorder, but I was getting better and the treatments were getting farther apart. It was this catch 22 where I had to have healthcare to keep working but work did not provide healthcare. I don’t need the same level of health care if I’m not working and can rest more. My last couple of years working, my healthcare costs were over half my pre tax income. That’s just insane. There had to be a better way, and I set out to find a way out.
One of my step kids had been talking about Portugal, and after searching all over the U.S. for escape plan options, I started looking there. The more I looked the more lightbulbs started going off and eventually I figured out we could actually afford to live there and they even wanted us to retire there. They had a few perks to entice retirees.
We are applying for residency and that status will afford us free (ish) healthcare and a quality of life we are looking for.
How long have you been living in Portugal and where did you decide to live?
We moved to Porto, Portugal in early November of 2019. Porto is a big city life, with the subway system, busses, trolleys and even river taxis. We find stuff to do all the time, like eating and making videos of cool sights. When we just wander around, we find beautiful buildings and old treasures. The food is amazing too.
I never thought I would be a good small town girl, and we tried that in Sedona for five years, but it wasn’t for me. Many parts of that small town vibe I enjoyed but hated having to drive four hours round trip to get to any city activities. Here we are minutes away from hundreds of places to eat and drink, and sights to see. When we get bored with that we plan to hop on trains and explore the rest of the country, then on to other parts of Europe.
We could live even cheaper farther inland, more country settings and smaller towns. We would have to have a car to do that and we decided that if we were doing this, we wanted the busy city life. Porto is very much like a really old San Francisco. The city is a thousand years old, with northern California weather – maybe a little warmer, and much cleaner. The Atlantic ocean is ten minutes away by Uber, longer by trolley but a lot more fun to go that way. It sits on the Douro River. Home of Port wine, which we have become quite fond of.
What are the cannabis laws where you live now?
Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, making the possession, acquisition or personal use no longer a punishable offense, but decriminalization does not mean legalization. They regulate how much a person can be in possession of at one time, which for cannabis is 25 grams or 5 grams of hashish.
If you’re caught in possession of, or using, at or below the maximum amount and the police don’t suspect you of trafficking, you’ll be turned over to the Commission for Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. The Commission is a team made up of a psychiatrist, a legal expert and a social worker whose job it is to evaluate you in regards to a treatment program that supports healthy recovery, but they can also deliver harsher disciplinary action as well. Medical cannabis became legal in January 2019.
Do you have regular access to cannabis?
Nope, nada, zip, zilch, nothing. I still have some high potency chocolate and am rationing that out till someone rescues me, or I get to Amsterdam. They have lots of grow shops here. I have been to two of them and they are TIGHT lipped about any groups, or even a hint that it’s available. I know the guy I was asking was sooo baked. Showing him grow pics in my phone didn’t sway him. Look dude, I know those are drying baskets, and that’s a cloning kit, cut a gal a break. I thought they sold seeds here but alas no. I know I have purchased them in Spain in the past so that may be a future plan for us. The Hubs is a great plant guy, and has grown beautiful flowers in the past, so for now it’s just wait and see. I’ve been offered street weed but there’s always cops everywhere and the guys are super shady. I’m playing it more safe than sorry for now. Somebody bring me vapes and 1100mg chocolates!! STAT! Don’t make me talk to “sunglass guy” who I hear is where to go. I also hear they package up broccoli to sell to tourists so I’m hoping I just find some nice, stoner twenty something person.
Having used cannabis for serious symptoms like pain and appetite management, how are you handling that now?
Just the chocolates that I still have. The food here is amazing but I eat so much better with about 20mgs floating around in me. It really makes a huge difference. I have not had any pain issues. Not sure if its resting or stress free lifestyle, but so far so good. I’m also still running on at least 20mgs daily so that could be it too.
When choosing where to move, how did cannabis regulations affect your choice?
I thought it would be easier to find here, and maybe I am not looking that hard. Saw some guys rolling up a joint on a street corner the other day and was so tempted to budge in. But they looked nervous enough so I didn’t (this time). I will probably be more outgoing/aggressive when I am out of chocolate. I think the good thing about cannabis is that it really isn’t addicting. I may eat and feel much better when I have it, but I am not incapacitated without. It’s not addicting in that way. It definitely enhances and I am still sure I’ll find it soon.
Was regular access a concern?
If my options were to move to Europe and retire or have access, no, not a huge struggle. I also know Spain is right next door and quite liberal with cannabis law, so once we get settled I think it’ll get easier. Hell, after 25 years of under the radar cannabis use, I don’t doubt my ability to obtain it eventually.
Also I think the lack of a “drug war” made me feel comfortable with Portugal being our destination. It’s not like they are out hunting down potheads. They say they passed a medical marijuana law but really it’s just selling CBD. If it’s anything more than that, I haven’t figured it out. I asked one of the grow guys, but he said it was just CBD. They have a huge grow in Portugal, I think for Canopy out of Canada, but that is all exported from what I hear. It is a perfect place to grow.
Have you been able to gauge ease of access to comparable products?
Nope, sadly. The world would implode probably if I got everything that I wanted. You and your sister would live here too if that were the case. The dispensaries would be here and we’d all be baking cookies and making tinctures. So, for now I have to be grateful to be living the dream, even if it means cannabis isn’t handy.
Are you curious about a difference in quality or flavor across the world?
I was lucky enough to attend the 20th annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam in 2007. High Times inducted Tommy Chong into the hall of fame that year, and Redman was the musical talent. We spent a week there and it was the first time I tried “hash”. (* I think you were watching the house flooding my kitchen that trip). The pot was AMAZING and I have always wanted to get back there so that’s a definite trip. Have some options in Spain so I am going to need to get there soon too. Yes I want to try it all! All!!