Bloco de Esquerda MP João Semedo explained the proposal and stated that BE supports the creation of cannabis social clubs in order to make the plant available to qualified adults. Another significant aspect of the bill, said the Bloquista (BE member), is its proposal to legalise the cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption.
João Semedo considers the new legislation a necessary step forward in Portugal’s drug policy, stating that the country’s current policy of decriminalisation is not sufficient to solve the problem of drug trafficking. Mr. Semedo said that the goal of BE is to adopt an approach that focuses on public health as well as protecting cannabis users by keeping them away from “bad distribution circuits [unregulated drug dealers]”.
Mr. Semedo added that “prohibition has failed and has fuelled illegal underground markets,” alluding to the failed policies which are still in place in most other countries.
If the bill is approved, members of cannabis social clubs – who must be over 18 and in full possession of their mental faculties – can buy “the necessary amount to supply an average consumer for 30 days” from their club.
Under the current system of decriminalisation, which Portugal adopted in 2001, adults are permitted to possess up to 2.5 grams of cannabis, which is considered a normal amount for daily consumption. This amount is also proposed by the BE as the standard by which the average 30 day supply would be calculated. Those who chose to grow their own cannabis would be limited to 10 plants per person.
No date has yet been set for presenting the BE’s proposal to parliament. John Semedo stated that the BE intends to use the intervening time to initiate a major public debate on the subject of cannabis legalisation, in order to assess and address any public concerns about the BE proposal.
Mr. Semedo also mentioned that this issue highlights weaknesses in the cohesion of other major Portuguese political parties such as the PSD, PS and CDS*. According to the Bloquista, some members of these parties share the views of the BE with regard to legalisation. However, Semedo, says the problem is “knowing if they will vote according to their conscience or according to what their parties dictate, [which] will only be determined after voting has taken place.”
* Major political parties in Portugal include: PSD – Social Democratic Party; PS – Socialist Party; CDS – Democratic and Social Centre – People’s Party)