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Feature: Marijuana Legalization Legislation in the Works in Portugal

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #592)
Drug War Issues

Portugal has been the subject of a lot of attention lately over its decriminalization of drug possession. Although decriminalization has been in place for eight years now, it is only this year that it has caught the world's attention. The success of Portugal's approach was the subject of a piece by Salon writer Glenn Greenwald commissioned by the Cato Institute that was widely read and commented on earlier this year, and last week it earned kind words from a most unexpected place: the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which could find little to complain about for its 2009 World Drugs Report.

But Portugal isn't resting on its laurels, and at least one political party there is preparing to take the country's progressive approach to drug reform to the next level. The Leftist Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda) is preparing legislation that would legalize the possession, cultivation, and retail sales of small amounts of marijuana, as well as providing for regulated wholesale cultivation to supply the retail market.

The Bloc is also now actively encouraging the participation of ENCOD, the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, in developing new drug laws. The alliance comes too late to influence the marijuana bill, but will provide an entree for drug reformers in the process in future drug legislation, or even revising the current marijuana bill if it does not make in through parliament this year.

"The contacts between ENCOD and the Bloc were arranged by common activists and members," explained ENCOD steering committee member and Portuguese law student, journalist, and activist Jorge Roque.

Under the draft bill, a copy of which was made available to the Chronicle, marijuana consumers could purchase "the amount needed for the average individual for a 30-day period," as determined by the existing decriminalization law, or 15 grams of hashish and 75 grams (almost three ounces) of marijuana. The average daily dose is a half-gram of hash and 2.5 grams of pot. Individuals would be allowed to grow up to 10 plants, and could possess the 30-day amount as well as up to 10 plants.

The draft bill calls for licensed retail sales outlets authorized by municipal councils. Such retail establishments would not be allowed to sell alcohol or allow it to be consumed on the premises, would not be allowed within 500 meters of schools, and would not be allowed to have gambling machines. No one under 16 would be allowed to enter, nor would people adjudged to be mentally ill.

The draft bill prohibits advertising, but requires that packaging for marijuana products intended for retail sale clearly reveal the source, the amount, and a statement giving the World Health Organization's position on the effects and risks of consumption.

The bill also provides for the Portuguese National Institute of Pharmacy and Medicine to license the wholesale cultivation of marijuana to supply the retail trade. And it provides for an excise tax on cannabis sales to be determined during the budgetary process.

People who traffic in marijuana outside the parameters set down in the draft would face four to 12 years in prison for serious offenses, and up to four years for less serious offenses. Licensed retailers or wholesalers who breach the regulations could face imprisonment for up to three months or a fine of up to 30 days' minimum wage.

The bill's immediate prospects are uncertain. The Leftist Bloc is a small party, holding only eight seats in the 230-seat parliament. But the government is controlled by left-leaning parties, and the Bloc has a reputation as a "hip" party in the vanguard of political change in the country.

"Honestly, at first I thought this would never pass, but with time and after discussing this with the deputies, I am much more optimistic," said Roque. "Of course, the Left Bloc alone cannot get it passed, but as usual, they provoke the debate of ideas, and then, since they are seen as an intelligent and humane group, they can pick up support among other political parties."

While it is too late for ENCOD to influence this legislation, the group can still play a role in the debate, said ENCOD coordinator Joep Oomen. "ENCOD could contribute with information on the need to make consistent moves and no half-measures, as has been the case before with the decriminalization of possession. Portugal should learn from the experiences in the Netherlands. Here liberal cannabis policies that have proven successful during more than 30 years are now in danger of being abolished because of the pressure of Christian parties who continue blaming these policies for problems that in fact are caused by prohibition," he said.

Oomen was alluding to Holland's "backdoor problem," where the sale of marijuana is tolerated, but there is no provision for legally supplying Dutch cannabis cafes. That has led to the growth of organized crime participation in the pot business in Holland.

"It is quite simple," Oomen said. "When you allow people to use, you should allow them to possess, and if you allow them to possess, you should allow them to cultivate, produce, buy or sell. If you only go halfway, and refuse to regulate the first necessary element in the process (cultivation or production) you create more problems than solutions."

For Roque, Portugal's experience with decriminalization was critical in laying the groundwork for the legalization bill. "Decriminalization helped us lose the taboos and break the fear of being persecuted for drugs, and Portugal nowadays is much more ready to move forward," said Roque.

One big remaining taboo is the UN drug conventions, but neither Oomen nor Roque appeared to be very concerned about them. "Portugal does not need to openly challenge the UN conventions," said Oomen. "As long as the new bill is aiming at regulating cultivation of cannabis for personal use, it cannot be considered as a violation of international conventions, which leave it up to national authorities to deal with the status of drug use."

Roque was a bit more combative. "The international conventions and the Lisbon treaty don't provide solutions in these matters, and the UN conventions were ratified by the specific will of one country," said Roque. "When the UN conventions don't present any solutions that are good for the national interest, only a stupid country will follow them forever."

Now, Portugal can put the conventions and their interpretation to the test, if its parliament so chooses.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


You would think growing Marijuana was like growing nuclear missiles or something equally stupid. Marijuana is one of the safest substances known to man and there is absolutely no need to "tax and regulate" it. The MERP Model allows unlimited personal cultivation without ANY "taxes or regulation" but does not preclude commercial taxation or regulation. By drawing this "line in the sand" we can destroy the Cartels and provide cheap, if not free medicine.

While Portugal should be commended for it's efforts this "plan" is not much better than the policies in Amsterdam which continue to allow organized crime access to the markets. Only by providing unlimited personal cultivation will we throw off this albatross off of our shoulders.

It isn't just about smoking. Tinctures require 16 ounces of flowering tops to yield a mere ounce of medicine. Food from the hemp seed -- both flour and oil from the seed -- will require that the people be allowed to grow hundreds, if not thousands, of plants.

Unfortunately "Stop the Drug War," "Drug Policy Alliance," and "Marijuana Policy Project," are all promoting what I like to call the "Government Marijuana Dispensary" Model. This will not destroy the Cartels, nor will it afford cheap medicine.

MERP requires that Marijuana be struck from the Controlled Substances Act (1970) and an immediate withdrawal from all UN Drug Treaties. This is the only way we are going to dispatch the beast we've known as "Marijuana Prohibition." Under the "Government Marijuana Dispensary" Model (my term) the Government will essentially become your new drug dealer, selling you "weed" at street prices." It is just a vain attempt to tax what should never be taxed.

And while Portugal should be commended on its efforts their solution is not much better than the "Amsterdam" model. People are still going to go to jail if they are "perceived" to be growing too much. It will still give the government an excuse to break down your door and invade your private space.

The MERP Model could easily be implemented throughout the planet and that is exactly what needs to happen and needs to happen very soon.

I am recommending that all Marijuana Legalization groups, throughout the planet, endorse the my model: The Marijuana Legalization Policy Project (MERP) Model. I have provided texts to my series of videos on MERP which can be read in over 30 different languages. My name is Bruce Cain and I began the Global Movement to Re-Legalize Marijuana in 1990 with the "International Drug Policy Day" events. I will now be helping to better organize future Global Marijuana March events in order to establish Marijuana Legalization world wide. Please go to the following internet link and read my articles on MERP in your own language.

MERP Headquarters
The Marijuana Re-Legalization Policy Project (MRPP)= "MERP"

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 11:38am Permalink
Fireweed (not verified)

In reply to by Bruce Cain (not verified)

yes, that is exactly how marijuana is treated, as if it's some highly toxic nuclear radioactive waste that you can't even get near kids without shortening their life expectancy by 50 years.

Right now there is no place in the world where growing/selling/ providingusingenjoying/healing with marijuana is entirely legal. Amsterdam is the best we got.

Please continue the movement. It is my belief that we have a chance this year to make a huge difference in the U.S. as there has been a huge upturn in dialogue about the recreational as well as medicinal use of marijuana recently, and the momentum continues to grow. Soon it will be very hard for the government to pretend they don't hear us or take us seriously.

Sat, 07/04/2009 - 1:22pm Permalink
Malkavian (not verified)

In reply to by Bruce Cain (not verified)

The reason why MERP is better than the Dutch/Portuguese solution is that the former is a legalization solution while the latter are just decriminalization.

Portugal has taken an important step in the right direction, and the perhaps most important is that their experience can be used to soothe the usual fears among prohibitionists.

It's really amazing what those signatures on the UN Single Convention have done to us: stifled free inquiry and locked our politicians into sub-optimal solutions. Portugal didn't even look at legalization, they simply cut it out at the beginning because of those UN treaties.

Sat, 07/04/2009 - 3:30pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Bruce Cain (not verified)

This little party with no real power in Portugal will not get this legislation through, but it would be great if they could do it. The proposal allows for people to grow marijuana, to possess it. It allows for retail sales, but unlike the Netherlands it also for legal commercial production of marijuana. The Netherlands has such problems with organized crime because organized crime groups supply the coffeeshops since commercial production is still illegal.

What they are talking about doing is really not that much different than the way we control alcohol. People can produce some at home if they want, or they can buy it at the store. We have very little problem with black market sales of alcohol, and the Portugese would have very little problem with black market sales of marijuana if they pass these proposed laws.

The laws won't pass though. Only one very small political party supports this. They'll never get enough votes. Portugal is a small country and they'll worry too much about problems from the EU and US and so on if they pass these laws. It just won't happen any time in the near future.

Mon, 07/06/2009 - 2:21pm Permalink
HW (not verified)

"When the UN conventions don't present any solutions that are good for the national interest, only a stupid country will follow them forever."

This above statement cuts right to it. And the stupidest country -- by far -- is the United States of America. We hound and admonish countries that move away from US sanctioned drug policies. Yet the approach we demand others adopt has been an ongoing disaster 'right here at home' for 70+ years.

Go forward Portugal. Don't worry if the bully across the pond gets its panties in a twist. Just because the US chooses to remain stupid doesn't mean you have to.

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 11:46am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Uncle Scam & The Machiavellian Mommas. Rock Band OR 2 Party Politics?

I guess if you're willing to overlook the obvious fact that uncle scam has illegally prohibited marijuana for over 7 decades - and that technically marijuana is still legal if the 'rule of lawful laws' were applied to this political equation - then 'legalization' will be as political, misguided, and misleading as was marijuanas unlawful illegalization.

Unfortunately the political left and the political right always want something (your money, uncontested power & absolute control) for nothing (abolishing unlawful acts like the "control of some substances act') and sin taxes helps bridge the gap between the purveyors of gods on the right and the puveyors of governments on the left!

And nothing will change (the gay community recently found this out in california) unless the mindset of this christian nation changes or is outlived by more tolerant, less hateful, generations of americans that are more interested in americas founding principles then gaining the graces of an all seeing, all knowing deity!

Relegalization w/o conditions should be what we strive for - an unfettered plant - immune to the prevailing religious and political winds.

Think the drug alcohol has been fully decriminalized yet? Consider that as a 'Home Brewer', of fine belgian and recently hemp ale, I'm prohibitted to 5 gal. per month per. adult! Why? The purveyors of gods and governments don't want me cutting into their sin taxes!

Libertarian stuck in a left/right world...

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 2:55pm Permalink
HW (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

"... sin taxes helps bridge the gap between the purveyors of gods on the right and the purveyors of governments on the left!"

And this is the collusion between the right and the left. According to the right, If we drink or smoke we are sinning against some god and need to be punished in the form of taxation and control. According to the left, if we drink or smoke we are somehow sinning against ourselves and need to be punished in the from of taxation and control.

Paradoxically, both sides end up on the same side -- and we 'sinners' are screwed no matter what.

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 3:17pm Permalink
Anon (not verified)

Who ever legalizes first will be able to grab immediate market share. Prohibition of cannabis has done one thing for sure, it has made it harder to supply since there is no open market. There is huge demand just waiting to fill in a supply gap. And whoever goes first will insure future prosperity by establishing itself as a place of origin.

America wanted to be first in the space race. But it looks like Portugal might might beat her to it. People get all sick over drug tourism. But I tell you what Napa Valley is 'drug tourism.' There is huge money to be made in cannabis tourism that will look as civilized and cultured as the best wineries or breweries.

It is pure economic that cannabis will be legalized. It's just a matter of where. Right now California has a chance to get a head start. So does Nevada and RI. Colorado is looking good too. But if Europe goes first, the USA risks losing out on bragging rights and science. This can be worth billions beyond the sales.

Legalize cannabis outright and you immediately fill a huge supply gap. This is a golden opportunity waiting to happen.

Sat, 07/04/2009 - 2:13am Permalink
Fireweed (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified) to legalize regulate and tax cannabis for adult personal use. They have been reduced to writing IOU's instead of checks they are so broke, and there's no light at the end of the tunnel, unless they were to go ahead and make marijuana their saving industry.

The day Califiornia does that is the day I buy a plane ticket for vacation!

Sat, 07/04/2009 - 1:28pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified)

I agree, but sales & marketing must be done cautiously... otherwise we end up right back underground.

Remember, a big part of richard nixons renewed war on drugs in the 70's was the huge number of 'headshops' operating in and around residential 'neighborhoods' - and the growing sense that marijuana was virtually everywhere - just waiting to trip young children down the rabbit hole!

If marijuana is to be relegalized, as it should be, more responsibility and consideration will need to be displayed by the marijuana community with respect to the concerns of parents and their under age children.

"Saving the children" - for their impending slavery to this countries ponzie scheme - is something that can not be ignored without peril!

Libertarian stuck in a left/right world

Sat, 07/04/2009 - 2:04pm Permalink
Anon (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

"If marijuana is to be relegalized, as it should be, more responsibility and consideration will need to be displayed by the marijuana community with respect to the concerns of parents and their under age children."

This is exactly what the anti-marijuana or prohibitionists don't understand. The "Controlled" market of today with 'cops and robbers' is not controlled. Quite the contrary the drug market is out of control by putting the sole production in the hands of criminals.

A criminal drug dealer does not card his buyers like they do at a 7-11. Worst, some of these people even seek out to 'hook' kids on drugs. There is no control in the marijuana market place regarding purity, or THC content. Kids can think they are buying weed and get poisoned. These problems would rarely happen in a legal cannabis market with legitimate business that are not only customer serviced, but going out of their way to card individuals, and also provide a safer product that is not laced and has the THC content and product warning on the packaging. Duh...???

The drug war is not saving any children. And people blindly believe that making drugs illegal is going to help keep kids off of drugs. In fact I would say the drug war and lack of honest drug education and control, not to mention the SWAT enforcement, is killing children rather than saving them. Then you have to figure the social scars of carrying a record with bad credit scores, unemployment and no health care due to being convicted in a drug case.

If the government got smart on drugs and stopped lying and putting everything in one basket, we could have less children using drugs or even subjected to that behavior. Progress happens when you take away the market from the criminal and give it to the lawful, and regulated legitimate business concern.

Most of all, take something away from people and they want it more, especially in protest. When it's available to licensed citizens that pass an age restriction, it becomes boring. Of course strict laws against selling to minors would exist in a legal market. And we would get about the same impact to children as legal alcohol.

Mon, 07/06/2009 - 12:49am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified)

All true but... in todays 'all news all the time' faith based society, whether it's faith in a higher heavenly grace or in publicly elected officials, perception and repetition can be too powerful... and thus policy setting in a 'fix it yesterday at any cost society'.

Remember the prohibitionists and the huge anti-marijuana crowd that stands to lose billions won't go quietly into the night should mj be decriminalized. They'll simply form new grassroots organizations and demonize the plant as they always have... sensationalized stories of teenagers killed while 'high on hemp' will be so prevalent william randolf hearst might be reborn.

Groups like MADD will create or align with new groups like MASD [Mothers Against Stoned Drivers] and the pulp fiction will rain down upon us with a vengence... again!

Another reason I feel marijuana needs to be completely re-legalized w/o conditions. The fraudulent acts by congress should, in essence, make the 'control of some substances act' illegal and unenforceable! Only when the educated american fully understands their rights - then demands congress acts in a legal fashion at all times - can we be truely immune from the sin taxes mandated and imposed by others... with too much faith... and too few facts!

By placing too much faith in one thing - other things including the truth - are often grossly overshadowed and deliberately kept from the light of questioning. Marijuanas efficacy and it's illegal prohibition are 2 examples we're all familiar with and should continue to educate everyone about!

Libertarian stuck in a left/right world!

B.S. Before there to can be fundmental changes, or a repeal, of marijuana laws there needs to be a renewed effort towards educating citizens of their fundmental rights to 'Life, liberty, the pusuit of happiness, and legally acquired property'!

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 3:25pm Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

Thing is, this will create a black market in other drugs to feed the drug tourists who go to Portugal for more than just the weed, as well as a black market for exporting weed to other countries. They would at least not have a black market for internal weed sales, the way Holland does with their back door problem. Also, any of the black market crime that is produced will be about half of all the possible crime, because now Portugal and Holland will share the load half and half. However, not until more countries legalize will we see the real benefits of legalization in terms of crime reduction, because until then, we'll always have the problem of drug tourists who want more than just weed as well as exportation of weed to other countries.

If they go through with it, the Portuguese will see the results of this in a more mixed way than their practically perfect, -everything was good- decriminalization.

Sun, 07/05/2009 - 6:02pm Permalink
Anon (not verified)

In reply to by TrebleBass (not verified)

Why does there have to be a black market? If Portugal goes legal it will drown out the little guy. The market will be easy, cheap and of good quality and be made up up and coming major corporations.

I think Portugal should then make it legal to export cannabis to a friendly state or nation. How about US medical marijuana patients? Could not these people buy mail order? States like California that legalize it could be customers of Portugal, right? Portugal might look like civilized in a yet untapped legal marijuana market for the WORLD!

Imagine a country where it is legal to buy and sell cannabis that also allows you to leave with it. The burden of the legality of where you take it or send it goes on the end purchaser. Some progressive countries and states will allow Portugal import for sure.

Mon, 07/06/2009 - 1:31am Permalink
TrebleBass (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified)

It's an interesting idea, but i think there would still be a big incentive to supply the recreational market in other countries. I've heard about 70% of Holland's weed is grown for export.

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 12:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anon (not verified)

The legislators in california that are pushing for tax & regulate are already calling for a $50 per ounce sin tax. Imagine charging for 1 ounce what it would costs to grow an entire marijuana tree outdoors which might yield 1 - 2 pounds!

The private sector, whether legit or black, could still provide marijuana cheaper than the gov't can and thus their will always be a black market... and a gov't sanctioned $50 per ounce profit is still good money compared to a minimum wage job at jackmcdonalds!

Plus their will always be the young-adult crowd that rightfully, or not, want to act and be treated like adults and will - just do it - anyway!

Libertarian stuck in a left/right world.

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 1:23pm Permalink
Bongstar420 (not verified)

Try and sell tomatoes without meeting standard provisions of production and taxation. Why would anyone think that something can be bought and sold without taxation eventhough they are utilizing the commons. Pffftt. Give me a break.

I dont care what you sell, pay your dues or get put up!

Mon, 07/06/2009 - 9:43pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Bongstar420 (not verified)

Have you paid your dues? Currently $20,000 per home per year!

Q. "Why would anyone think that something can be bought and sold without taxation eventhough they are utilizing the commons."

A. Because that's how it was largely done before wars demanded taxation.

Granted this was the agrarian era of localized markets, like the farmers market where you can still get a delicious vine ripe tomato organically grown - as opposed to the globalized market where the tomato is picked 2 weeks premature and injected with god knows what to make it safe for common utilization... pleaz!

FYI: At current government spending rates every american homeowner owes $20,000 in annual taxes inorder to 'pay your dues'. Let's call it something patriotic like the 'Good American Tax' or G.A.T. for short. I GAT mine x 2+! Did U GAT Ur's?

Ever wonder why 'the home of the free' costs so much? It's called taxation.

Tue, 07/07/2009 - 7:05pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Frankly when a presidental canidate says thats the point when asked if inhaled, is the time when it should be legal. This double standard stuff for the have and have nots got has to go.

Fri, 10/02/2009 - 12:40am Permalink
Free dom (not verified)

This is all good stuff and I agree 100%. our government is the brittish empire and the people are now the settlers of the free world, last time that happened a war ensued. Our freedoms are dwindling at a most alarming rate. It just needs to stop. Big tobac and big alky are huge proponents of this BS. Fu gov, I grow my own Shiz. Come and find me. I live free and will always do so. The constitution is my law, not some idiot regime presidency. Sod off!!!!!!

Fri, 02/19/2010 - 6:50pm Permalink

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