Portugal has finally approved its first medical cannabis product.
Even though the government legalised medical cannabis in 2018, the rigid authorisation process has prevented many producers from entering the market.
Tilray, a world-renown international company specialising in the production and distribution of medical cannabis products, became the first company to gain the Portuguese government's approval.
It is a significant milestone which will change the lives of many patients who struggle with finding reliable and safe cannabis-based medication.
Portugal legalised the medical use of cannabis in 2018.
However, medical cannabis products cannot just be manufactured and sold by anyone. Only companies that meet specific prerequisites and obtain the various necessary licences have the right to do so.
The process of getting such permissions is not easy. It took three years for the first company to obtain all the necessary approvals and start selling medical cannabis products in Portugal.
The place of sales is also highly regulated. For example, only previously inspected pharmacies are allowed to provide patients with cannabis products. Additionally, the pharmacies must verify the patient's identity before providing them with any prescribed cannabis medication.
According to current Portuguese laws, doctors can only prescribe cannabis to patients (dealing with a health problem) once all traditionally available treatment has been used and failed.
The recently approved medication can be used for the treatment of:
The first and only provider of medical cannabis products approved by the Portuguese government is Tilray.
Portugal is not the first country that the company will supply medical cannabis to. Tilray is known for being one of the world's leading players in medical cannabis research, production and distribution. They work with medication that contains various cannabis compounds, as well as isolated cannabinoids.
Portugal was the 16th country to open its doors to the company, which now operates on five continents, with Malta being one of the newest additions to its distribution points.
Portugal decriminalised the possession of cannabis (and other drugs) for personal use in 2001.
Instead of being arrested, people caught with small amounts of illegal drugs will face a warning or a small fine. They may also be forced to attend meetings designed to help them manage or overcome their addiction.
These meetings could be with doctors, social workers, or organisations that specialise in harm reduction and support people who use drugs.
The country's unique approach has led to a decrease in problematic drug use, deaths from overdose, drug-related crime and incarceration rates. However, the law has been stagnant since 2001. The proponents of cannabis legalisation, many of them taking seats in the parliament, have been pushing for further change in the law. Those in favour of legalisation wish for cannabis to be separated from other drugs and for cannabis medication to be widely available to anybody who might need it.