In comments to Lusa News Agency, the company said it chose Portugal because of the good weather for growing the plants. The country was also chosen because of its access to the common market and highly qualified biotechnology workers, Tilray said.
The fields, manufacturing units and laboratories in Cantanhede near Coimbra, will employ 100 people and the company expects to produce 60 tons a year by the end of 2018.
Medicinal cannabis and the derivatives produced in Portugal will be for the European market, particularly Germany, where the use of cannabis for therapeutic ends was legalised this year.
The medicinal use of cannabis is prohibited in Portugal, Lusa states, although some parties have said they want to legalise it for therapeutic and recreational purposes.
According to reports at the start of September, Portugal’s Doctors’ Association is currently studying the benefits of prescribing cannabis for therapeutic purposes, and its National Medicines Policies Committee will issue its views on the matter before the end of this year.
Speaking to newspaper i, Miguel Guimarães, Head of the Doctors’ Association, explained that the aim is “to analyse all evidence of clinical benefits and side effects, to understand under what circumstances the use could be positive.”
At stake is the prescription of marijuana to be smoked or ingested by patients, since no further legislative measures are necessary for cannabinoid medicines: once the medicines are authorised by [Portugal’s medicines watchdog] Infarmed, they can be prescribed by physicians for clinical use.
Prescription for marijuana for therapeutic purposes is now legal in 29 US states.
Since March, doctors in Germany have been authorised to prescribe cannabis in situations of chronic pain or during cancer treatment with chemotherapy, which up until now required special authorisation.
A consequence has been the scarcity of marijuana in pharmacies, since the country depends on imports.
The World Health Organisation recognises the therapeutic effects of cannabinoids in relieving nausea, particularly in advanced cancer, but believes that more studies are needed to understand how such drugs work, to seek better treatments.
Cannabis is the most widely-used drug in the European Union, with 23.5 million users in 2015.
It is estimated that 1 percent of European adults are daily consumers.
By 2015, 76,000 people began treatment due to problems with cannabis, an increase of almost 80 percent in a decade. In Portugal, the latest survey of the general population, conducted in 2012, indicated a 2.3 percent utilisation rate among the population, confirming that in Portugal, cannabis is also the most-consumed drug.
Meanwhile, the Left Bloc is also gunning to legalise the production, distribution and sale of cannabis for therapeutic and recreational purposes, and wants to use its new majority in parliament to achieve this.
To this end, the party, headed by Catarina Martins, was due to submit two bill proposals before summer, to broaden the decriminalisation of possession and consumption, which took place in 2001.
The PS socialist party has no official public stance on the matter, while the PCP Communists have said they are only open to discussing the matter for medicinal purposes.
Left Bloc MP, Moisés Ferreira, in comments to newspaper Público, said part of recent research “demonstrates the benefits of using cannabis in a number of diseases”, such as multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and eating disorders.
He explained that there is one cannabinoid-based drug authorised by Infarmed to be used in Portugal [Savitex], but it doesn’t exist on the market “not because it’s illegal but because doctors don’t prescribe it.”
As well as wanting cannabis-based drugs in pharmacies, the Left Bloc also wants patients who are prescribed cannabinoides to be able to purchase cannabis plants and grow them domestically.