The regulation would draw "people off the street", avoiding their using "a substance in a hazardous, unhealthy place, in contact with dangerous people related to drug trafficking, where there is absolutely no control over the quality and toxicity of the product,” the association’s vice-president, Dinis Dias, told Lusa News Agency.

It would also constitute "a major step towards taking the business away from organised crime groups," said Dias, who was speaking to Lusa about two draft laws, from the Left Bloc (BE) and People-Animals-Nature (PAN), that are to be debated in parliament on Thursday.

So far, he said, the effect of the policy of prohibition has been to increase trafficking and consumption every year.

"In this sense, an anti-prohibitionist policy that focusses on regulation, information, consumer awareness [and] responsible consumption will always be more positive for society, even in terms of risk and social harm, than a policy of prohibition" that, he argued, has been shown to have failed across the board.

According to Dias, legalisation would be "a step towards public health, in the direction of sanitation" and an "added value for society, from the point of view of the consumer", the national health service and the prison system.

"We believe that Portugal can only gain by joining the countries that have taken the lead [on this issue] and which are civilised and advanced countries and examples of both economy and society in general," he argued.

On Friday, the head of the Order of Doctors told Lusa that the legalisation of cannabis for recreational use would "not be a good decision", but that he nevertheless intends for the organisation to issue an expert opinion on the subject.

The National Association of Pharmacies, contacted by Lusa, did not want to comment, while the Order of Pharmacists did not immediately respond.

Uruguay and Canada are the only countries that have legalised the production, distribution and use of cannabis for non-medical purposes. In the US several states have also done so.

Parliament approved the legalisation of cannabis for therapeutic purposes last June, but detailed regulations on the law's implementation were only published this Tuesday. The governing Socialist Party opposes legalisation for non-medical use, with the minister of health having argued that more time is needed to assess the impact of measures introduced in other countries.