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Portugal has exported almost 26 tons of cannabis since 2019

Updated: Mar 21

Excerpt from an article written by TPN/Lusa and published in The Portugal News on February 1st, 2024.

Close to 26 tons of cannabis cultivated and produced in Portugal have been exported since 2019, the year in which the use of this plant for medicinal purposes was legalised, an increase of more than 1,200%, data from Infarmed reveal.

In 2022 alone, the last year with complete data, 9.2 tons were exported, an increase of 1,207% compared to the 709 kilos exported in 2019, after the law came into force on February 1 of that year.

In the first six months of 2023, 5.4 tons were exported, representing 58.6% of the total exported in the entire year 2022.

In the first half of the year, the main destinations that Portugal exported cannabis to were Germany, Poland, Australia, Spain and Malta, says the National Authority for Medicines and Health Products (Infarmed) in a report made to the Lusa agency regarding the five years since the law was passed.

Currently, there are 21 companies in Portugal with licenses to grow cannabis for medicinal purposes, 13 for manufacturing, 27 with licenses for import and export and 15 for marketing.

Infarmed said that it is evaluating three requests for authorisation to place three substances and 12 preparations based on the cannabis plant on the market.

Since the marketing of the first, and so far only, cannabis-based preparation in Portugal was approved in 2021, 1,913 packages of the product have been sold, which consists of dried flowers of the 'Cannabis sativa' plant, containing 18% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and less than 1% cannabidiol (CBD).

In Portugal, the medicines Sativex are also authorised and sold, for the treatment of adult patients with moderate to severe spasticity due to multiple sclerosis, and Epidiolex, for severe epilepsy in children.

Data from the Center for Health Studies and Evaluation (CEFAR) of the National Pharmacy Association, reported to the Lusa agency, indicates that, in total, 3,321 packages of the two medicines have already been sold.

Taking into account the law's five years, the president of the board of the Portuguese Cannabis Observatory (OPC), Carla Dias, stated that “something has changed, but it is far from being enough for patients”.

“In 2021 we had the first preparation based on the medicinal cannabis plant from one of the licensed companies, which is great, but it is a solution that is not viable for all patients because it is a preparation or a substance that is a flower, only it has THC, and the route of administration for patients who could use it is not the most viable”, he argued.

Carla Dias added that the OPC has been “in permanent contact” with Infarmed to try to understand why there are no more preparations or substances from companies that are becoming licensed and that there are now more than 20 in Portugal.

The observatory was able to understand that “there are some who are not at all interested in Portuguese patients”, exporting everything they produce from cultivation.

“There are, however, some companies that are concerned about our patients and are submitting dossiers to Infarmed”, which requires certain criteria that provide quality and safety to the patient, said Carla Dias.

The use of these products depends on medical evaluation and can only be dispensed at a pharmacy with a prescription.

Indications for the use of these products include chronic pain associated with oncological diseases, epilepsy and treatment of severe convulsive disorders in childhood, multiple sclerosis, nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, appetite stimulation in palliative care for patients undergoing oncological treatment or with AIDS.

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