Cannabis in Portugal – Laws, Use, and History

Portugal’s cannabis laws are regarded as among the most progressive in the world. In 2001, the government decriminalised personal cannabis use, focusing on treatment rather than punishment. As such, overall numbers of drug users in the country have gone down. However, it wasn’t until 2018 that medicinal cannabis was legalised.

Cannabis laws in Portugal

Can you possess and use cannabis in Portugal?

In 2001, Portugal’s government passed Law 30/2000. This decriminalised the consumption and possession of all drugs (and cannabis) for personal use. At the time, this was viewed as a trailblazing decision – making Portugal one of the first countries in the world to adopt such a stance.

The law was passed to attempt to tackle the country’s growing drug problem. According to a study carried out in 1997, people listed drugs-related issues as the number one social problem in Portugal. In 2009, this had dropped to 13th place on the list. 

Joao Goulao, Portugal’s national drugs coordinator, is largely credited with pushing the changes through.

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he compared the decision to not wearing seatbelts. “The government demands that you wear one for your safety,” he said, “but it’s not going to send you to prison for not complying. Instead, it will fine you or send you to traffic school.” 

He also acknowledged that “decriminalisation is not the solution for everything, but everything is much easier when thinking about addiction as a disease with the same dignity as other diseases.”

These days, if caught possessing or using a small quantity of drugs for personal use, the individual is evaluated by the local Commission for Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. This consists of three officials – one a legal expert, the other two either medical professionals, psychologists, social workers or sociologists. This is with the aim of reviewing whether treatment is required to combat addiction.

The law identifies a ‘small quantity for personal use’ as an amount not exceeding that required for individual consumption over a 10-day period.

Can you sell cannabis in Portugal?

Portugal’s leniency towards drugs use does not extend to its sale or supply. If caught trafficking cannabis, which is classed as a ‘list I substance’, offenders can be given a one to five-year prison sentence. This may be extended to four to 12 years, depending on the severity of the crime.

If the offender is found to be selling drugs to fund their own personal addiction, the sentence is usually reduced. This is also the case if the crime is regarded as a ‘traffic of minor importance’.

Can you grow cannabis in Portugal?

While debating the 2001 changes to drugs policies, the Portuguese government considered decriminalising cultivation of cannabis for personal use. Upon reflection, the government then decided to specifically exempt cannabis cultivation from the decriminalisation law.

In January 2018, two political parties (Bloco de Esquerada and PAN) presented a bill to parliament. This not only advocated the use of medicinal cannabis with a prescription; it also suggested legalising cannabis cultivation for medical purposes, providing that the THC content was minimal.

This aspect of the bill wasn’t passed, and to date, growing cannabis remains illegal. The sale of tools and equipment for growing it is also prohibited; though production and sale of industrial hemp products is legal with a licence.

Is CBD legal in Portugal?

CBD is legal for medicinal purposes. It can also be purchased and consumed without prescription, as long as the THC content (the substance responsible for the ‘high’) is below 0.2%.

Can cannabis seeds be sent to Portugal?

Given that Portuguese law is so lenient with regards to personal use of cannabis, its harsher stance on cannabis seeds is surprising. At present, the law states that it’s illegal to possess, purchase or sell cannabis seeds without an industrial licence.

Medicinal cannabis in Portugal

The use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was approved by Portugal’s government in June 2018. The bill stated that all medicines must be prescribed by a doctor, and only if all other conventional treatments fail to work. Medicinal cannabis can be prescribed to treat symptoms associated with chronic pain, cancer therapy and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

All drugs will require a licence from Infarmed, a government organisation. Infarmed is a division of the Portuguese Health Ministry, responsible for the regulation, control and evaluation of medicines and health products for the protection of public health. In 2017, it authorised the construction of a medicinal cannabis plantation in Portugal. The crops harvested from the plantation will contain high levels of THC and are planned for export.

The 2018 law also states that the government should support scientific research on cannabis and its potential for therapeutic benefit.

Industrial hemp in Portugal

Industrial hemp production is legal in Portugal, providing that the plants do not contain more than 0.2% THC. To grow hemp legally, companies must apply for a permit from Portugal’s Ministry of Agriculture. Production is heavily regulated, and farmers are subject to inspections throughout the year.

The Ministry of Interior estimates that 14.2 hectares of hemp was cultivated between 2015 and 2018. However, after the medicinal cannabis laws were announced in 2018, some hemp farmers expressed concern about the future. Potential conflicts between hemp (which is low in THC) and medical-grade cannabis (which is more potent) meant that, at the start of 2019, the government put hemp cultivation on hold.

Humberto Nogueira, a hemp advocate and consultant, told HempToday that the situation meant “farmers and investors can’t plan accurately for the 2019 season” and that farmers were forced to “watch their flowers rot in the field”. Further rumours of regulations being introduced to limit hemp use to fibre only are adding to concerns.

Portugal’s political parties and cannabis

Portugal’s parliament overwhelmingly voted to legalise cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2018 – which demonstrates the country’s political attitude to the drug. Only one abstained from voting – the CDS-PP; a centre-right party.

In recent parliamentary debates about legalising cannabis for recreational purposes, the Socialist Party (PS) stated that the move would be a ‘natural evolution’. MEP Jamila Madeira emphasised that it was important to adopt ‘precautions and precautionary principles’ and to ‘evaluate some of the critical points in the control of consumption.”

Good to know

If you are travelling to Portugal (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:

Cannabis history

Once a dominant world power, it’s unsurprising that Portugal came into contact with cannabis during their overseas operations in the past. The colonial Portuguese are likely to have encountered it in India, Mozambique and Angola – all countries that were under Portuguese control for many years.

It’s even believed that the Portuguese brought cannabis to Brazil in the 16th century – either themselves, or by the slaves they were transporting at the time. From this, it’s reasonable to conclude that Portuguese traders were bringing hashish and cannabis back to their homeland for several hundred years. 

Portugal also has an illustrious history of hemp cultivation. Its people have been using the plant to create ropes and sails for centuries, which may have contributed to their reputation as great seafarers.

Attitudes to cannabis

In the late 20th century, attitudes to any form of drug-taking (including cannabis consumption) were largely negative. This isn’t surprising, given the country’s problem with drug-abuse in the 1980s and 1990s.

Nowadays, the language used to refer to drug-users has altered significantly. Once called ‘drogados’ (junkies), now, those who choose to use substances like cannabis are simply referred to as ‘people who use drugs’.

How was Portugal’s drugs policy formed?

In 1998, the Commission for a National Drug Strategy (CNDS) produced a report, recommending a series of reforms for the country’s drug policy. In this report, they suggested focusing less on the criminalisation of drug users, and more on reducing harm and improving treatment.

The report highlighted the problems with imprisonment – especially in terms of increased pressure on the country’s economy. Also, rates of reoffending were high, making incarceration a less effective option than rehabilitation.

Unusually, the Council of Ministers approved almost all aspects of the report. The national drug strategy followed all its principles to the letter.

Is Portugal’s progressive policy working?

In the 1980s, Portugal was in a state of crisis, with one in 10 people using heroin alone. This was due to the country being mostly closed to the rest of the world until the 1970s – which meant it missed the experimentation and freedom of the 1960s. As such, when drugs started entering the country, Portugal’s people were unprepared.

Two decades later, the government took the bold decision to decriminalise personal drug use. This moved the focus from punishment to treatment. After this, numbers of drug users (and cannabis users) decreased.

While other factors inevitably need to be considered too, it seems fair to say that Portugal’s policy has been effective.

Portugal’s cannabis social clubs

Cannabis social clubs can be found in countries around the world, including Portugal. These clubs are run by members and cultivate cannabis for the use of their members only. Many of the members consume it for medicinal purposes.

Portugal’s social club activity is technically illegal, as the law doesn’t permit the cultivation of cannabis plants. However, some politicians have suggested making these clubs legal, based on the success of similar enterprises in Spain.

In 2013, the political party Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) submitted a proposal to parliament, suggesting that the social clubs should be allowed to cultivate cannabis. This proposal wasn’t accepted.

Will cannabis be legalised in the future?

Portugal’s drug laws already emphasise the country’s liberal stance on cannabis use. Personal use is decriminalised, and it’s possible that it may be legalised fully in the future. Medicinal cannabis has now been introduced, and although there’s only one product available on the market (Sativex) at present, this may change in the future.

This is particularly likely if Portugal capitalises on its domestic cannabis production. The climate, not unlike that of California, means that the plant can flourish there, and plantations may provide a solid boost to the country’s economy.

  • Disclaimer:
    While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

Comments

37 thoughts on “Cannabis in Portugal – Laws, Use, and History”

  1. Prohibition is indeed a worldwide failure …GO Portugal GO ! Show the example to Europe … An ordinary french guy

  2. Thanks for the nice article! i am a Dutch/American currently in Portugal looking for a place to settle… either here or in Spain… with all the different considerations, Portugal seems perfect… but any suggestions with the laws in Spain will be helpful!!

    Dank je wel!

  3. where abouts in algarve can i get it from, do.you know of any shops cause i fly there in 12 hours and it would be amazing if i could get it?!?

  4. Hi! You have a wrong photo for Casal Ventoso, it’s not there… That must be somewhere in Alentejo coast. Just saying. (I am from Lisbon)

    1. t his photo is from patio dom frederique, castelo sao jorge, lisbon. I live there 35 years ago, have a nice day everbody.

      1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

        Hi Rui,

        Thank you for your comment, I’ll contact Seshata and we will update the post. Have a good day too!

        With best wishes,

        Scarlet

  5. I’m traveling to Portugal and I take cannabis oil medicinally for health issues. I’m wondering what’s the best way to continue on my medication while traveling there and in Spain? Any advise is truly appreciated 🙂

  6. The same way we led the way in the ancient discoveries and ended up with a struggling economy we have led the way in decriminalization law and are now way behind countries that actually used the portuguese model as basis for their policies on legalization.
    Paula Teixeira da Cruz’s intervention was in fact a shame as it only achieved a bad point on drugs as it lacked any sort of basis and was a personal opinion. A member of a government cannot go to the radios give “opinions”. Right after that the prime minister stated that that was not part of any plans of the government and it killed what actually could be a good chance of the debate.
    One of the big problems in Portugal is the amount of conservative people that cannot listen to reason and healthy debate and no government is willing to sacrifice votes for something that all politicians know is the right way.
    Fact is when the decriminalization law was approved in 2001 the government made and approved the law with little or barelly any public debate and like most of the laws in Portugal, was already in place when people realised it.
    The government now in power are being very innovative and supportive of popuar politics. The Left Party, who probably had the strongest position on legalizing cannabis, is now part of the government. But I doubt is on their plans to do anything about it.
    On the other hand, the UK seems to be in the good path to legalization. If both they legalise the cannabis and (especially) if they continue in the UE, there is a good chance Portugal uses the example to follow the policies. Hope so!

  7. Infelizmente em Portugal a problemática acaba por estar transversal ao cooperativismo que combate o contrabando e trafico de drogas de consumo proibido.
    No nosso país produz-se muito bom vinho, e o vinho como sabemos, se bebido em excesso, produz um efeito nocivo à sociedade através dos seus muitos usuários.
    O proveito do combate ao cultivo e uso da cannabis enquanto Cultura é opressivo, repressivo , recessivo, etc.
    Sabemos que os nossos antepassados lidaram com a planta, Garcia De Orta conhecia as suas propriedades.
    Todo o proxenetismo inerente ao trafico e contrabando de drogas sintetizadas, vindas não sei de onde deverá ser combatido.

  8. Não tem como legalizar a cannabis em Portugal, os políticos são mais traficantes do que os próprios

  9. Decriminalization is a joke in portugal-Fact 1- you still get fine and or your gear pinched.Fact2-you still have to watch your back when having a toke or toot, and very few establishments have a liberal attitude toward those wanting to get wasted…So in short portugal being some kind of sunny amsterdam it is’nt,but if you like lots of sunshine, wine and hearty food then this is your place…….zoltan your friendly hellhound….luv ya!…p.s 20yrs in PT

  10. Nice article, but i think you got a wrong photo this photo is from patio dom frederique, cause i was been there 3 years ago.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Brenda,

      Thank you for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. A few people have pointed out that this photo is not correct, and I will be fixing this as soon as possible.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  11. Hi! Great Post, I love to read articles that are informative and actually have good content. Thank you for sharing your experiences and I look forward to reading more.

  12. Frances Bernard

    Cannabis enthusiasts are never going to be happy with laws even though personal use is legalized no matter how much people pleasing that still goes on in government -except those who enjoy preferential treatment and good incomes while using Cannabis.

  13. Márcio Sousa

    I’m always looking for great informative article and your article also very very good written and best for our understanding thanks for sharing with us.

  14. Hello there, thank you for your article. Very informative and i feel portugal has the right attitude to drug use treating it as a health issue rather than criminal issue. Can you tell me what the situation with regards growing hemp seed (not cannabis variety) here in Portugal? We’recommend interested in growing it as it’s good for the land and has many benefits physical too. Obrigada

  15. My friend in Portugal says this article is not true. They are very strict about drugs of any kind.

    1. Your friend is wrong and was probably tricked like me by the authorities since they often times say smoking marijuana sends u to jail which is not true according to the law, a lot of people just don’t know about the law ruled in 2001

  16. Where can I buy Sensi Seeds products in Portugal (oil, capsules)? You have indicated a place in the map but no address. Can you provide the address please?

    Thank you.

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Sandra,

      The map at the top of this article is really just to show where Portugal is, and its capital; it does not show the location of resellers. However, all of our products can be sent to Portugal, so you can simply order them from our website. Here is the link to CBD products. I hope you enjoy them 🙂

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

  17. Bueno puesss me gusta fumar mazo tu o sea wow soy el chungo del barro. KE TE RAJO I TE PETO TOLL ANO

  18. I am a Canadian and will be vacationing in Portugal in September 2018. I use medicinal CBD oil for chronic back pain. I have my doctors prescription labelled on my CBD oil bottle as well as a card that shows my perception. Can I bring this with me on my vacation.
    Thanks

    1. Scarlet Palmer - Sensi Seeds

      Hi Doug,

      I’m afraid we don’t have the legal expertise to answer that question, sorry! I advise you to get in touch with the Portuguese embassy where you live and see if they can give you an answer.

      With best wishes,

      Scarlet

    2. Hi, I’m portuguese, living in Switzerland, where CBD is legal.
      TBH, in Portugal even the authorities don’t know what CBD is. It’s new to them.
      And there’s a “hole” in the legislation, CBD is not permitted NOR forbiden, for recreational purposes.
      But ealier this week they approved the law to use medical cannabis. So no problem at all if you have the prescription.
      Enjoy your vacation!

    3. Susan Pannell

      Do I bring a subscription from Canada for CBD oil, or do I have to see a doctor when i get there to get a subscription.?
      Thanks from Canada

  19. What a law… They decriminalized the consumption and possession but we cant harvest a cannabis plant! Who profits with this? The black market!!!

  20. Hi, I live in Portugal now 6 years, Inframed, the state owned medical regulator of Portugal has granted a licence to Tilray of Canada to grow cannabis in a couple of factories and subsequently sell irradiated buds in pharmacies for profit. As a result of this ‘pharmaceutical grab’ of the cannabis plant here as in other places such as Nl. patients are not getting good quality organic and safe healthy meds. It is a money making cartel operation for the government, also at the same time as Tilray came along new fines of between 1500 and 45000 euros were introduced for medical growers without licence (cultivation) thereby blocking self grow/patients. Possesion and purchase of seeds is now illegal also, Portugal is only EU country doing this, and cultivation is met with criminal penalties, they dont want us cutting into their ‘nice arrangement’ with the posh factories that employ only 3 people. The Licensed grow ops of Tilray dont create jobs for the locals and do little for the poor community here that need work. If you are caught with any amount of cannabis it is always confiscated despite the alowances in law, and up to the officer to decide if you are a trafficker or not, depeding on what mood they are in, either way you will have to see a psychologist and have an evaluation, my close friend was busted with about 4g and got the whole 9 yards, short story is it is not liberal here in Portugal it is all a front to the outside world, Portugal is way behind with cannabis. Growers are very secretive, naturally but they are around and a dying race now, but since the Tilray licences and the new excessive fines the authorities are activily persuing grow ops because they know it fills the coffers, its a win win for the government that gets to clamp down and make a profit all round for the regeme. Soon as people wake up to what their Human Rights are and exercise them there will be no more stupid prohibition and recketeering of cannabis by governments, they are criminals just like they dealers they accuse they have a different job title and a fancy office in Lisbon.

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    Sensi Seeds

    The Sensi Seeds Editorial team has been built throughout our more than 30 years of existence. Our writers and editors include botanists, medical and legal experts as well as renown activists the world over including Lester Grinspoon, Micha Knodt, Robert Connell Clarke, Maurice Veldman, Sebastian Maríncolo, James Burton and Seshata.
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    Maurice Veldman

    Maurice Veldman is a member of the Dutch Association of Criminal Lawyers and one of the Netherlands’ most notable cannabis lawyers. With 25 years’ experience in the field, his knowledge of criminal and administrative law supports cannabis sellers and hemp producers by addressing the inequalities between the individual and the state.
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