At the conference “Exposure to cannabis in adolescence”, deputies made known their positions on the regulation of cannabis at the event taking place today in the António de Almeida Santos Auditorium, at the Assembly of the Republic. With the exception of Chega, which spoke out absolutely against the regulation, all parties showed some openness to the issue, some with more caution than others.
Today, at the Conference “Exposure to Cannabis in Adolescence and Health”, taking place in the Almeida Santos Auditorium, in the Assembly of the Republic, several deputies with parliamentary seats met for a debate on the topic of recreational cannabis. The “courageous” debate, moderated by lawyer João Taborda da Gama, featured several interventions by deputies, in a session with a “regimental” model, with 8 minutes for each deputy to take a position on the topic that, according to the moderator, “most it terrifies everyone, which is the whole point of the problem of cannabis exposure to young people.”
What is certain is that cannabis regulation is evolving within the political dimension, with fewer and fewer parties openly defending prohibition, basing the changes on issues of individual freedom and public health. Regulation is thus increasingly seen as a possible option, however there is still no model that pleases everyone, and if there are deputies with a more progressive position who urge urgent change, others defend a more conservative view regarding regulation, defending approaches to treatment and a greater number of studies on the topic. Various parties were represented in the debate, namely by deputies Miguel Costa Matos representing the Socialist Party, Miguel Almeida for the Social Democratic Party, Pedro dos Santos Frazão for the Chega Party, João Cotrim de Figueiredo for the Liberal Initiative, João Dias for the Portuguese Communist Party, Moisés Ferreira for the Left Bloc and Isabel Mendes Lopes for the Free Party.
Miguel Costa Matos, Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party
Miguel Costa Matos, deputy for the Parliamentary Group of the Socialist Party, was the first to use the floor to express that he did not want the debate around regulation to be a matter of political contention – stating that it is a debate already implemented by some parties and society. The deputy explained that it is important to define the legalization models to be adopted in our country, which is why “the PS presented the new proposal for discussion in the Health Committee”.
According to the deputy, there are still many relative issues that must be defined in the model to be adopted, and it is necessary to maintain control and not give the idea that cannabis consumption is not harmful, giving the example of edible products in the United States of America. Miguel Costa Matos added that Portugal does not appear to have a culture that points to social clubs (compared to the models of Spain and Germany) ensuring that Portugal has a profile more focused on a commercial model rather than a community one.
The socialist deputy ended his intervention by highlighting the importance of defining ways to limit trade and ensuring that those who sell can promote more sustainable consumption practices, and states that the Socialist Party wants to have an initiative to discuss how to legalize cannabis in our country and this is when the party wants to do it.
Guilherme Almeida, Parliamentary Group of the Social Democratic Party
Representing the PSD Parliamentary Group, the largest opposition party in the Assembly of the Republic, deputy Guilherme Almeida stated that Portugal once again has serious cases of substance use, where the big question is whether or not it is less harmful to legalize the consumption of cannabis, identifying problems with cannabis regulation, such as increased consumption among young people, the impact of higher THC content and the effects of consumption on young people and their development. The social democratic deputy also recalled that the lack of investment that has been made in terms of treatment has caused delays for users who need support.
Guilherme Almeida also stated that for the PSD it is essential to differentiate between medicinal and recreational use. In his intervention he defended the need for effective public policies focused on education and prevention, with public policies based on prevention, in order to guarantee the information and protection of young people. He also recalled that it is a topic that is not consensual within the party, and that like the Socialist Party, the JSD is more progressive with more than 60% of young social democrats defending legalization, also mentioning the approval of the proposal to legalize cannabis at its congress, which essentially aims to reduce supply and consumption, combat trafficking more effectively, as well as improve the prevention and treatment of addictions.
Pedro dos Santos Frazão, Parliamentary Group of the Chega Party
Representing the Chega Parliamentary Group, Pedro dos Santos Frazão made explicit the rejection of cannabis regulation by Chega, which is absolutely against legalization.
To this end, the deputy quoted Nelson Carvalho, director of services at the Operational Unit for Addictive Behaviors and Dependencies in Madeira: “I am totally against the legalization of cannabis. In fact, it makes me a little confused because we are going through a highly restrictive tobacco policy and we are going through a highly liberalized cannabis policy. This is worrying.” The deputy also defended that legalization represents a public health problem, ending with the quote from the Madeiran psychologist that “legalization is a political issue and not a health issue”. The deputy also focused on the opinion coordinating the former National Mental Health Plan, which, according to the deputy, “did not believe that the legalization of recreational cannabis would bring benefits in the fight against drug addiction”.
Finally Pedro Santos Frazão expressed that this issue is not a scientific problem, arguing that several scientists who came to the Assembly of the Republic are against the legalization of cannabis, and accuses the socialist party of approving “that is its desire for laws against what say the experts.” Representing the CHEGA Party, he spoke completely against it, arguing that it is the only party that takes this position and argues that “we have the street with us, we know that we have our families with us”, arguing that “a joint is the beginning of a life in drug addiction.”
João Cotrim de Figueiredo, Parliamentary Group of the Liberal Initiative Party
On the part of the Liberal Initiative Parliamentary Group, for its leader João Cotrim de Figueiredo “there is no doubt”. He states that the party has always defended the legalization of cannabis, and that “it is a matter of principle”, arguing that there are several ways of implementing this regulation (with more or less impact on health) and that this would be an exercise of individual freedom.
The liberal deputy added that the regulation of cannabis is also a measure that he defends for practical, technical and pragmatic reasons: “the last 125 years of prohibitionism have failed. And they failed dismally.” João Cotrim de Figueiredo stated that there is still no evidence of a reduction in consumption due to prohibitionism, nor evidence of consumption problems arising from this same prohibitionism, demonstrating that in the opposite, there is evidence of an increase in trafficking networks that harm the health of society due to prohibitionism.
For the representative of the Liberal Initiative Parliamentary Group, the issue is not discussing whether we regulate or not, but rather discussing “how to regulate”. For the liberal, the solution would stop at regulating, leaving a lot of freedom of distribution and the market. The deputy explains that many realities show that the tighter the regulation, the more difficult it is to control the illicit market, showing himself available to enter into the discussion on cannabis regulation to approve a considered, sensible and essential regulation.
João Dias, Parliamentary Group of the Portuguese Communist Party
On the part of the Portuguese Communist Party, deputy João Dias expressed that the PCP has some reservations regarding the legalization and liberalization of cannabis, and the party has some openness regarding legalization, but based strictly on scientific knowledge. The deputy recalled several of the party's actions in the changes to the drug law, but stated that the party has doubts regarding the need to seek the best path, defending due consideration.
João Dias stated that everyone is directing the discussion towards the issue of public health, but highlighted that “there is a lot of talk about how but not when”, arguing that it is necessary to carry out studies that demonstrate the reality of the country. The deputy justified that we must look at the reports from the Addictive Behavior and Addiction Intervention Service (SICAD) in order to understand the right timing to move forward, at a time when the country is going through a complex situation in terms of addictions.
Thus, the PCP representative stated that the party's decisions, more than political ones, will be based on scientific evidence, justified by the complex problem and the need for a decision that is based on empirical facts and not on opinions, something feared by the party.
Moisés Ferreira, Parliamentary Group of the Left Bloc Party
Representing the Left Bloc Parliamentary Group, Moisés Ferreira highlighted the need for clarity in the debate: “Should we legalize? Yes when? For yesterday". Moisés Ferreira responds that regulation is necessary for reasons of public health, risk reduction, combating trafficking and financing this type of trafficking, for reasons of individual freedom and civil rights.”
For Moisés Ferreira, these are all unequivocal answers, mainly due to the fact that there has never been so much drug consumption, ironizing that it was not legalization that put more drugs into circulation. The deputy argued that “prohibitionism has completely failed, it has continued to speak for several years”, and leaves the question open: “are we going to continue to insist on a failed model (…), or are we finally going to try something different?”
There are those who continue to insist on a confusion – certainly deliberate – that is between liberalization and legalization. They are not the same thing. Liberalization is what exists so far. If the State refuses to regulate and say which substances may be available, then this space will be explored by others. Moisés Ferreira argues that at this moment it is drug traffickers who are regulating a liberated state, and that is why we are witnessing the emergence of neo-cannabinoids, substances that replicate cannabinoids.
For the representative of the BE Parliamentary Group, there are two ways: “either we accept reality as it is – which is not good – or we assume regulation”.
Isabel Mendes Lopes, Free Party Parliamentary Group
On the part of the Livre Parliamentary Group, deputy Isabel Mendes Lopes stated that Livre defends the legalization of cannabis, to control the fact that prohibition does not eradicate this phenomenon. For the deputy, legalization is essential, considering that this must happen “as soon as possible”, and for Isabel Mendes Lopes it is essential.
To this end, the deputy argued that regulation must be based on scientific experience, and the data is available, and it is essential to look at the entire circle: From production, to sale and market control. Additionally, Isabel Mendes Lopes defended the need to invest in literacy and education, understand the how, and above all the why of consumption, and how this impacts the general living conditions of teenagers.
Finally, Livre considered that the existence of a working group is a good initiative and should be something that the party will give priority to during this legislative session.
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