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Artur Vaz says PJ complied with two court decisions that claim hemp flowers are not narcotic



director of the National Unit for Combating Drug Trafficking of the Judiciary Police. Photo: DR | TVI Player

The director of the Judiciary Police (PJ) National Unit to Combat Drug Trafficking, Artur Vaz, told Cannareporter that it was the Central Criminal Investigation Court that ordered the return of 40kg of hemp flowers Patrick Martins, for having considered that they “are not narcotic”.

Last week, Cannareporter questioned the Judiciary Police (PJ) about the unprecedented return of 40kg of hemp flowers, which had been seized from Patrick martins em July 2020. The return was confirmed by Artur Vaz, Director of the PJ's Unit to Combat Drug Trafficking (UNCTE), who explained that both the legal proceedings and this return are part of the normal functioning of the Portuguese law mechanism.

“Objects, plants and substances were returned, which were seized and which, according to the results of the court decision, cannot be considered as narcotics. And we naturally comply with what was determined by the court”, said Artur Vaz, from PJ, in statements to Cannareporter.

Asked whether this return would be unprecedented in our country, the UNCTE director said he did not know how to respond, having only confirmed that the return took place “in compliance with two court decisions”.

Time to return the 40kg of hemp to PJ's facilities. Images: Humberto Nogueira

According to Artur Vaz, “the police and the police authorities carry out the seizure whenever they understand that the conditions are met” to do so. “Seizures, according to our law, always require validation by the competent judicial authority, normally the Public Ministry. Then the cases are followed up, they go to court, they are evaluated by the magistrates and when the magistrates understand that, under those circumstances, in fact, it must be returned, the police complies with the order of the magistrates, as it could not be otherwise” .



Scientific Police Laboratory confirms results

In the specific case of Patrick Martins, who was represented in court by the lawyer João Nabais, the seized flowers were subject to evaluation by the PJ's Scientific Police Laboratory, an evaluation that was taken into account by the court. Artur Vaz confirmed the procedure. “Absolutely, exactly. As far as I know they have been analyzed and the result of that examination has been taken into account by the court, as is normal,” he said. “The forensic science laboratory always carries out an investigation to determine what substance it is and, whenever necessary, even determines the degree of purity of these substances”, he added.

However, hemp flowers degrade over time, so if care is not taken during the packaging process, they can deteriorate and lose their commercial value. Asked about the fact that more than two years had passed and, eventually, the flowers had been damaged, Artur Vaz assumed he was unaware of the “technical issues”, reiterating that the PJ’s role is only to “timely comply with the determination that came from the court” .

The 40kg of goods returned to Patrick Martins. Images: Humberto Nogueira

Also asked about the various cases of hemp seizures reported in the past by Cannareporter, namely of farmers who saw their hemp crops seized and destroyed, the UNCTE director stated that “only after we have an examination carried out by the Scientific Police Laboratory is that we know whether that substance, or preparation, or those plants, are, in fact, considered narcotic or not”. Artur Vaz also recalled that the PJ and all criminal police bodies have so-called “quick tests”. “The courts accept these tests, but these tests always lack validation and in all cases where a substance suspected of being a narcotic is seized, it is always the Scientific Police Laboratory that determines which substance it is”, he explained.

"Each case is different"

The director of UNCTE, who insisted that all criminal police bodies in Portugal are guided by the law, explained that situations that indicate the practice of crime are referred to these entities. “When you approach a plantation, which is natural, if that person actually has all the authorizations, there will be no question at the outset, I think. If the person has DGAV authorization for the plantation and meets all the requirements, naturally the person will have all the inherent documentation, right? And easily presents it”

On whether this specific case could set a precedent, Artur Vaz reiterated that “each case is different”, recalling that hemp for industrial purposes is regulated. “It's possible, like cannabis for medical purposes, it's a matter of the law that we have. Now, in the cases we have, I cannot be saying that it opens or that it stops opening, because each case is a case”. The UNCTE director concluded by saying that “I cannot be extrapolating. The framework is very clear and the authorities act within their responsibilities. When there is an apprehension, there is always a criminal case, directed by a public prosecutor, and usually analyzed in court. Therefore, it is the mechanism of our law at work.”


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