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Portugal's regulatory advantage in the cannabis industry



Photo: Sensi Seeds

In the dynamic landscape of European cannabis cultivation, Portugal has emerged as an interim leader. Although it shares many natural advantages with other Southern European nations, Portugal's success offers valuable lessons to global jurisdictions on how to stay competitive in the crowded cannabis production space: streamlining bureaucracy, encouraging investment and embracing international trade.

A few years ago, the European medical cannabis market was taking its first steps. As demand in countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom was poised to increase, heated debates ensued over the best jurisdiction to position production assets to supply these expanding markets.

“Portugal has emerged as the European cannabis cultivation center par excellence. It is the second largest exporter in the world, behind only Canada.”

Among the candidate countries that received the most attention at the time were Greece, Malta, Denmark, Spain, North Macedonia, Cyprus or Portugal. Each of them has been touted as having unique advantages, making it preferable as an investment location.

Fast forward to 2024, Portugal has emerged as the quintessential European cannabis cultivation hub. No other European country is home to more licensed and commercially active cannabis operations, and it is currently the second largest exporter in the world, behind only Canada.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Iberian Peninsula is one of the most suitable areas for medicinal cannabis cultivation in the world, boasting a more than 4.000-year history of cannabis sativa cultivation and a distinct convergence of important factors:


• A Mediterranean climate like California
• EU market access and pharmaceutical standards
• The highest solar irradiation in Europe
• Decades of experience in commercial creation
• A remarkable concentration of agricultural talent

However, all these advantages are not exclusive to Portugal. Other Southern European countries could claim them, but the regulatory environment is what makes a crucial difference.

Portugal’s regulatory scenario
In a recent conversation with Rafael Rey, CEO of Agropharm Projects, a leading Spanish engineering company that has developed many facilities in Portugal, he emphasized Portugal's regulatory stability as a crucial factor in its success:

“Portugal’s regulatory environment, although strict, provides companies with stability and high legal standards, which are essential to attract long-term sustainable investments. State and municipal support during the licensing and project execution processes provides a safe environment for potential investors. If entrepreneurs comply with the regulations, they will effectively obtain the necessary licenses. On the other hand, the current situation in Spain is uncertain for entrepreneurs due to deadlines, delays and lack of clear answers. Portugal has demonstrated solid collaboration between producers, companies, associations, authorities and academia, positioning itself as one of the main players of the European market.”

The Portuguese regulatory advantage goes beyond licensing processes, encompassing international trade rules and close support from public institutions:

Infarmed’s facilities in Lisbon, Portugal

1. Infarmed, the regulatory authority, has established a high standard of efficiency in processing licensing applications and inspections compared to other regulators.

2. Flexibility in export requirements beyond local standards has facilitated market access, particularly to destinations outside the EU, such as Israel.

3. Support from local and national administration allowed the acceleration of projects and encouraged investments through subsidies and promotion of projects of national interest.

Unlocking the internal market: the key to sustaining Portugal’s competitive advantage
Despite its achievements, Portugal faces the constant challenge of further liberating its internal market. The simplification of national processes to facilitate the registration and prescription of derivative products is necessary to stimulate local demand, benefiting local patients who are now unable to benefit from the same high-quality products that Portugal exports to other countries.

Expanding access to cannabinoid medicines in Portugal would also promote the industry's innovation and international competitiveness by enabling a faster feedback cycle, allowing Portuguese producers to fully capitalize on their product development capabilities.

This is also a necessity to improve the resilience of a sector highly dependent on potentially volatile foreign markets, in times of increasing protectionism across the world.

Portugal's success story offers valuable insights for global jurisdictions. To thrive in the highly competitive cannabis production landscape, the recipe is clear: adopt a proactive approach to regulatory reform, prioritize reducing bureaucratic impediments, facilitate investment flows and commit to international trade.

Arnau Valdovinos: As founder and principal consultant at Cannamonitor, Arnau connects the dots of the global cannabis supply chain through an independent view of the international market. An advocate for evidence-based drug policy reform, Arnau has since 2018 provided intelligence and practical advice to medicinal, recreational and CBD companies across 5 continents and 19 countries.



[Disclaimer: Please note that this text was originally written in Portuguese and is translated into English and other languages ​​using an automatic translator. Some words may differ from the original and typos or errors may occur in other languages.]


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Arnau Valdovinos

As founder and principal consultant at Cannamonitor, Arnau connects the dots of the global cannabis supply chain through an independent view of the international market. An advocate for evidence-based drug policy reform, Arnau has since 2018 provided intelligence and practical advice to medicinal, recreational and CBD companies across 5 continents and 19 countries.

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