News, Politics

Portuguese Hemp Farmers Face Raids Due to Legal Confusion

October 19, 2020 12:12 pm ET
Portuguese Hemp Farmers Face Raids Due to Legal Confusion

One of the complications of the rapidly changing cannabis laws around the world is that it can be difficult to keep up with exactly what the specific regulations are where you live. Many people who want to cooperate with the law have been tripped up by not knowing exactly what is and what isn’t permitted. Several places have done their best to make accommodations for those who are making their best effort to comply. Many airports have set up amnesty drop boxes, for example, allowing those who might have brought cannabis onto the premises without realizing to get rid of their supply without consequence. But because the laws are changing so quickly in so many places, law enforcement is often just as hard-pressed as everyday citizens to keep up with the changing needs of the law. And mistakes are being made due to oversight. Recent revisions to cannabis laws in Portugal have left farmers struggling to catch up. And meanwhile, modifications to the way policing is carried out in light of the new laws have made the farmers more vulnerable than ever to raids and penalties, even when they are doing their best to understand and follow regulations.

Cannabis is Decriminalized in Portugal

Portugal is well known for its unique approach to the War on Drugs. In 2001, the country famously decriminalized all illegal drugs. At the time, this was seen as a radical step, but time has shown the efficacy of Portugal’s method. Currently, Portugal has one of the lowest drug-induced mortality rates in Europe—only four deaths per million in 2017, compared to a continental average of 22 deaths per million.

But Portugal’s approach is often misunderstood because some people are still unclear about exactly what decriminalization means. And that’s fair because decriminalization is a fairly loose concept. While some mistake decriminalization for full legalization, in fact, it only refers to the way the law treats those found to be in possession of illegal substances. In Portugal, and in other places where cannabis has been decriminalized, the possession of small, personal amounts of cannabis will no longer be prosecuted. Those caught with small amounts of the substance will not be charged with a crime.

Of course, what’s considered a “small amount” may vary from place to place. And that’s only one detail making Portugal’s cannabis laws complicated for its people to follow.

Because Laws Keep Changing, Hemp Farmers Keep Getting Raided

The cultivation of cannabis is legal in Portugal, provided that the proper paperwork is filed with and approved by the government. In order to ensure that cannabis cultivation is overseen properly, Portuguese law enforcement has limited the regulation of hemp growing to three specific police agencies under the assumption that this would enable clear communication about who is and who is not permitted to be cultivating cannabis. If only a small group of law enforcement officers are placed in charge of regulating this issue, it will be easier for them to keep track of who has filed their paperwork. But too many mistakes are being made. Just this past September, a legal grower had 300 outdoor plants confiscated. Though he had made every effort to comply with the laws, he was still raided and suffered significant material and financial losses.

Better publicity and clarity around the laws surrounding cannabis is always a good thing. People should not be left in doubt as to whether their actions are in compliance with the law. And as long as cannabis laws are in flux, it’s always a good idea to show clemency to those making an effort to do the right thing.

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