Portugal: Mothers for Cannabis Movement convenes March for April 2 in Lisbon
“A plant of everyone, for everyone!” is the motto that the Mothers for Cannabis Movement will take to the streets of Lisbon next Sunday, April 2nd, in a March that will claim access to cannabis and hemp in Portugal. The gathering takes place at 15:20 pm in Largo Camões and will head for the Assembly of the Republic at 16:20 pm, and hopes to bring together hundreds of people from all over the country.
Speaking to Cannareporter, Paula Mota, jurist and president of Associação Mães pela Canábis, who has a 14-year-old daughter with Dravet Syndrome, a form of Refractory Epilepsy, explained that “in Portugal, many patients, including children, already successfully use oils derived from hemp and cannabis flowers, rich in cannabidiol (CBD), tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and many other cannabinoids, to help in the treatment of pathologies such as epilepsy, autism, multiple sclerosis or cancer, among many others”.
However, and despite the fact that medicinal use in Portugal has already been regulated since 2018, cannabis derivatives in pharmacies are practically non-existent, limited to Sativex, a variety of flowers with 18% THC and Epidyolex – the latter only through of SEA (Special Use Authorization) and only for rare diseases. But none of these options work for Paula Mota's daughter, who is outraged by the government's inertia in finding solutions for families in this situation. “Although Portugal is one of the largest cannabis producers in the world, only three cannabis derivatives are available in the Portuguese market. Furthermore, most physicians are still not prescribing, because the Endocannabinoid System is not included in the curricula of Medical Schools. It is urgent to move forward with the education of health professionals and society in general, breaking down stigmas and prejudices”, she warns.
Paula Mota also draws attention to the hemp sector, which is experiencing uncertain times. “We need less prohibition and more clarity in the laws, facilitating access to those who can benefit from the use of cannabis and reducing bureaucracy in the cultivation of hemp, respecting what several European courts have already reiterated, that the free circulation of the entire hemp plant, including its flowers cannot be prohibited in the Member States of the European Union”, he stresses. And she continues, saying that “it cannot be said that the production of hemp flowers is illegal in Portugal, when a Portuguese court has already forced the Judiciary Police to return hemp flowers to a trader, as it is not a narcotic”.
Self-cultivation for personal consumption will also be on the agenda in the demands of the March for Cannabis. “This is the only form of access for many patients and users, who do not have the economic power to bear the high costs of cannabis, and access to the plant must be guaranteed as a human right”, he says.
Paula Mota says that “for a sensible and inclusive regulation of cannabis, which respects all people and equity, it is essential to listen and meet the needs of patients, respecting fundamental rights and freedoms, and also guaranteeing their access to health, enshrined in the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic”.
In addition, the president of the Movement says that it is necessary and urgent to create an independent office just for matters related to cannabis and hemp. “The cannabis situation in Portugal is so confusing that many Members of Parliament and State officials, no matter how well they have, do not even know what they are talking about. There needs to be an organization specializing in cannabis and hemp, with representation from all associations and sectors that are transversal to the use of the plant, as there is a lot of misinformation and that does not help ”, she laments.
The Mothers for Cannabis Movement calls on all families, patients, caregivers, hemp farmers and traders and all cannabis users to gather in Lisbon and march together to show the government and the country that access to this plant is a right of all.
The March for Cannabis Manifesto includes 10 essential demands:
1. Compliance with the Right to Health by the Portuguese State, facilitating the training of health professionals, provided for in Law 33/2018, including the introduction of Medicinal Cannabis and the Endocannabinoid System in the curricula of Medical Faculties, in order to ensure knowledge of advances science and safe access to cannabis therapies for all;
2. Increase the availability of cannabis medicines, substances and preparations in pharmacies, forcing companies producing cannabis in Portuguese territory to obligatorily apply for ACM's (Marketing Authorization) for their cannabis derivatives, so that they do not dedicate themselves to export only;
3. Extend the list of therapeutic indications provided by Infarmed, reviewing the existing scientific literature, and consider cannabis as a possible first-line treatment or complementary to conventional treatments, including for those under 1 years of age, who are currently excluded from possible treatments with THC. Science has systematically proven the high safety profile of cannabinoids, with few adverse effects and without causing physical dependence, especially when compared to opioids or benzodiazepines; several studies have already shown, in fact, that CBD can not only help treat addictions to other substances (such as medication, alcohol or tobacco) but also treat psychoses, contrary to what has been propagated by those who have not yet studied the subject;
4. Urgently recognize the right to personal and associative cultivation of cannabis as the only form of access for many patients residing in Portugal, as has already happened with several patient associations in other countries;
5. Respect the right to freedom of choice and autonomy over one's own body, authorizing personal cultivation for consumption by adults in their right mind, as they cannot remain at the mercy of drug trafficking networks or unregulated parallel markets, where there are much more dangerous, manipulated substances (such as synthetic cannabinoids) or “uninformed consumption”. Citizens cannot continue to allow the authorities to persecute and interfere with their private life or be the target of ridicule or false morals. We all know that alcohol and tobacco kill, cannabis does not!
6. Invest in risk prevention and harm reduction programs that bring more and better information about cannabis to Portuguese society, especially young people;
7. Encourage the local economy and sustainability by promoting the cultivation of hemp and the use of all parts of the plant, not just the fiber and seeds, and spreading its importance in the sustainability of the country and the planet;
8. Urgently review the Ordinance that prevents small farmers from investing in industrial hemp, as it is discriminatory and discourages agriculture and the local economy. This does not happen with other species, such as corn, olive oil or sunflowers.
9. Regulate in a clear, inclusive and independent way all potential businesses in the field, namely the trade in hemp and its derivatives, which is currently in a gray area of the law, where it is not prohibited (since there are dozens of stores open to the public by across the country), but it is also not properly regulated, often leading to undue inspections and seizures, which culminated in the court forcing the Judiciary Police to return hemp flowers to a trader.
10. Finally, and due to the specificity of the issue, create an independent office for matters related to cannabis and hemp, with representation from all associations, stakeholders and cross-sectors related to the use of the plant.
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