There are significant changes in the political discourse regarding the legalization of cannabis in Portugal. In the opening session of today's debate in the Assembly of the Republic (AR), promoted by Citizen Initiative for the Responsible Regulation of Cannabis for Adults, all participants agreed, in their speeches, that the regulation of adult use – and not prohibitionism – is the way forward, with an eye on the experiences of other countries.
After the Socialist Party (PS), which currently holds a majority in the Portuguese government, announced last week the creation of a new working group to discuss the legalization of the personal use of cannabis, the conference that is taking place today in the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic, dedicated to the theme “Exposure to Cannabis in Adolescence and Health”, appears to bring together consensus from various quarters and political parties to move forward with the regulation of personal use of cannabis.
With the scientific coordination of Professor Teresa Summavielle, the conference is promoted by GAT — Treatment Activists Group, and features several national and international experts on different panels throughout the day. (see full program below)
“Personally, I confess to being on the side of the most current international trends”
António Maló de Abreu, President of the Health Committee and deputy of the Social Democratic Party, who presided over the opening session, stated that this is “undoubtedly an important and topical topic, as cannabis is the most commonly consumed illicit drug in Europe, and even throughout the world, and many young people fall into the trap of their consumption”. Maló de Abreu also said that “everyone at this table was once young and we know that the issue of cannabis is complex and has divided society for a long time. Truly, what is only important here is knowing how to better protect them [adolescents] and mitigate exposure to this substance, which is known to be harmful to people's physical and mental health, particularly in the case of minors”. The President of the Health Commission continued saying that “personally, I confess to being on the side of the most current international trends, which does not invalidate the fact that there are legitimate doubts about whether the legalization of cannabis may not have the effect of increasing its consumption by minors. of age, even if this is obviously not desired by anyone”.
“This is a reflection that is happening in other parts of the world, because it is a global problem”
Carlos Alves, vice-president of Infarmed – National Authority for Medicines and Health Products, IP, justified Infarmed's involvement in this type of discussions, as it is the entity with the most knowledge in the area. He mentioned that this is a discussion that is taking place in other parts of the world and that Infarmed can bring other experiences, including from other countries, from other similar agencies with which it works in a network, at an international level.
Regarding the non-medical use of cannabis, Carlos Alves said that “obviously there will be other ways”, but “this is a reflection that is happening in other parts of the world, because it is a global problem”, and will, obviously, have to be “regulated ”.
The vice-president of Infarmed said that the national medicine authority will be “available to continue to make its contribution in these types of discussions, which are necessary”, whilst warning, however, that many countries will have other forms of approach, but cannabis has risks, particularly “in terms of psychological illnesses”, and it is necessary to address all aspects of the problem. “Of course, cannabis has risks, but we also know that this is something that exists with other substances, whether medicinal or non-medicinal, used in the context of abuse or in a regular situation,” he said.
“Of course there are economic interests, at a time when the economy needs a boost, and this is a value to consider”
João Goulão, from SICAD – Intervention Service in Addictive Behaviors and Dependences, has now shown himself to be more flexible in his approach to regulating the adult use of cannabis, while also naming other substances. Stating that it is necessary to minimize as much as possible the harmful effects that cannabis can cause, especially in adolescence, Goulão said that “the big question is how to do it”. Questioning whether or not it will be within the regulatory paradigm, Goulão opened “a parenthesis to consider having a broader view of the regulatory paradigm, particularly of other substances, taking into account other experiences from other countries around the world”. The president of SICAD said that “it is clear that this is a problem that concerns us”, adding that he awaits the publication of the decree that will create the new ICAD — Institute for Addictive Behaviors and Dependencies.
“It is clear from previous interventions that the central concern is around health issues. For SICAD, in particular, within the scope of the Ministry of Health, health values are the supreme values”. However, Goulão admitted: “of course there are economic interests, at a time when the economy needs a boost, and that is a value to consider, but I think that the reflection that will take place here today, and also at the level of the European Commission, is to share regulatory experiences. We learned from these experiences and focused on evaluation to move forward.”
Goulão highlighted that “there are a series of aspects that need to be taken care of”. However, he added that “I do not have any type of irreducible position on market regulation, but I would like this decision to be taken as much as possible informed by scientific evidence and this can be seen with ongoing experiments, but we cannot let to consider these experiences and the results they give”.
Moderating the interventions, Luís Mendão, director of GAT's Citizen Initiative, recalled the late president Jorge Sampaio and the letter for cannabis delivered to Parliament, where 3 magnificent rectors signed. “The Initiative defends regulation, but based on knowledge, health protection and mutual learning”, he highlighted.
“The steps taken towards prohibitionism are not good steps, regulation is better. I'm on that side”
Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues, Rector of ISCTE and former Minister of Education, stated, first of all, that what moves her is “a responsibility as a citizen and not as a rector”. Highlighting that at the Institute he directs, international courses are held every summer in partnership with the EMCDDA (European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction), to reflect together, above all, on the experience of Portuguese decriminalization, he stated that, for many years, the only strategy was prohibitionist. “The steps taken towards prohibitionism are not good steps, regulation is better. I’m on that side,” she stated. Rodrigues also highlighted that it is necessary to take into account reality and empirical facts: “as much as they are contradictory to what we idealize in life, we need to base ourselves on empirical facts and not on matters of opinion”.
Saying that important steps need to be taken, Maria de Lurdes Rodrigues also spoke about the issue of alcohol, for which there is almost a normalization: “the effects are quite negative on health, results and behaviors. This makes us wonder why we are so radical with some substances and not with others.”
The conference continues until 17 pm, with several panels that can be consulted in the program below and about which we will provide more information as soon as possible.AR-Programa-cannabis-GAT-cannareporter
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