Portugal Approves Use of Cannabis-Based Medicines

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LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Portugal’s parliament voted overwhelmingly Friday to give final legislative approval for the use of cannabis-based medicines, which are already permitted in other European countries.

An initial parliamentary debate five months ago considered a provision allowing patients to grow and use marijuana, but that possibility was struck down when the bill passed through a committee stage and was not included in the final vote Friday.

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All parties voted in favor of the bill except for the center-right Popular Party, which abstained.

The bill now awaits the signature of President Marcelo Rebelo de Souza. With his OK, the law will come into force on July 1. Marijuana-based medicines will be available only with a doctor’s prescription and sold only in pharmacies, and all items will need to be licensed by Infarmed, a regulatory body that oversees medical and health products in the country.

Despite lagging behind other EU countries on medical marijuana, Portugal has a long relationship with cannabis. In 2001, the country decriminalized the use of all drugs in an effort to fight a heroin epidemic.

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Many have praised Portugal as an ideal place to grow cannabis, likening its climate to that of California. It’s currently home to a number of legal cannabis plantations growing products for export to other countries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.