Ola Portugal: Canna-Geopolitics from a Prohibition Partners Perspective
36-year old Stephen Murphy is the founder of Prohibition Partners, which has become the global voice of authority in the business of cannabis. In this interview he tells CannaReporters Laura Ramos why Portugal is the next Big Thing in the global cannabis revolution.
Laura Ramos, CannaReporter
22 August 2022, 15:00:00
Interview with Prohibition Partners founder Steven Murphy by Laura Ramos of CannaReporter.
Read the full interview here
How do you see recreational legalization in the UK? Do you think it will happen soon?
Well, I think it will happen within three years.
Following Germany, following Portugal…
Do you think Portugal will be before the UK?
Yes, yes, I love the Portuguese model, I think Portugal sees a lot ahead. I think the UK will take 3 years, but when they need to throw a bone to the electorate… because it's kind of 50/50 in terms of pro and con, but that's going to change as it normalizes. I think there is still a big educational piece that is needed in terms of “what is cannabis”, because for the most part cannabis is still a street weed, which has high potency and causes psychosis or major harm. And that's the stigma we're trying to fight.
And when it's finally legalized, will it feel like its mission has been accomplished?
No, absolutely not….
So what will be left to do?
There are over 180 countries… we can't and won't stop there! We know how easy it is to revoke things, so yes, I think the mission is global access. Trying to reform drug policy, like, cannabis is the first drug, but reforming drug policy in high society will open access to drugs and open our minds.
How do you envision the perfect scenario in terms of substance regulation?
I think drugs need to be controlled… They are very powerful and need some level of regulation, or certainly consumer protection. As far as this goes, of course it will be an evolution of international drug policy, but I think we as a society need to allow greater access to a wider variety of drugs that are more controlled, where consumers are more educated. Children are going out and everyone is using drugs, experimenting, but nobody knows how much, nobody knows the volume, nobody knows the frequency, nobody knows the purity or the quality... and that is acceptance of consumption and mass consumption ( mass, mass consumption!) and absolute and complete denial about preparing for the experience. They don't have any preparation, you know? They're like, "Okay, I don't mind seeing him take it”… and I think that's the drug policy.
It's certainly like Portugal or Germany: they're going to change the domestic drug policy law, they're changing international law and European law, and that will have huge ramifications. Everyone says “Oh, the Portuguese model is progressive”, but it's not… it's been without direction for years and, in fact, it has done more damage. I don't think decriminalization is a good policy, I think it's a terrible policy. I think it's washing your hands without giving support, so the sooner Portugal legalizes cannabis and then takes care of the other drugs. that are decriminalized... the Portuguese model is progressive”, but it is not… it has been without direction for years and, in fact, has caused more damage. I don't think decriminalization is a good policy, I think it's a terrible policy. I think it's washing your hands without giving support, so the sooner Portugal legalizes cannabis and then takes care of the other drugs. that are decriminalized... the Portuguese model is progressive”, but it is not… it has been without direction for years and, in fact, has caused more damage.
It's funny that you say that, because in fact Portugal has decriminalized drugs and makes a big fuss about it, but at the same time, the police still invest six months in an investigation to arrest a person who has three plants at home.
But it's also like everyone says “Look at the Portuguese model, they're so progressive”, and you're like, “Well, no, they're not, you're the one who doesn't understand the model…” Because actually the progressive, as far as in which it is heading towards decriminalization, it is not addressing the issue in the long term. That's why I'm very excited about the new bill (legalization of personal use), which is business-friendly, they're learning from what happened in Canada, they're looking to support the domestic market. It's not perfect, but…
At least they removed the ban on cannabis-infused edibles and drinks this time…
Which is what they have to do! We have to give consumers what they want.
And you shouldn't say, "You can smoke, but you can't eat." Because it doesn't make sense…
It doesn't make any sense.
But anyway, this time at least they removed all those bans from the draft law. It's not perfect, but in these legalization projects you always try to ban many things…
They will be the first! Portugal will be the first.
Do you think Portugal will be the first country to legalize adult use?
Why do you say that?
They have a good quality team behind them and I believe they will achieve that. There is public support, there is private support and there is legislative support. I think Portugal will be the first. I've been saying this for a long time.
Do you know something I don't? (laughs) Because I feel that, in Portugal, people are afraid to talk about cannabis, it's like it's a taboo subject in Parliament…
This is cannabis tourism. This is not home cannabis for users in Portugal. Rooms in Portugal, which have been empty since the Covid pandemic, bring people back to the beaches, bring more people back to tourism in Portugal. It's an economic move that also has an initial benefit as it addresses the bridge to decriminalization.
So, if Portugal is going to be the first, when will that happen?
I thought it would be later this year...
Do you know I thought the same? Maybe by the end of this year… And the Bloco de Esquerda is already saying that it will schedule the debate on legalization for September, after the summer. The biggest controversy is perhaps the right to grow at home, because many do not agree. But in Parliament, parties of the right and parties of the left all agree to legalize it, but many do not want self-cultivation. I think it's a good first step, but how do you see the Portuguese market and what could happen in the coming years?
I think the access model will be very interesting. I don't know if they will allow it online, I think it will still be controlled by the dispensary. I also think there will be a lot of North American brands coming in and trying to establish their brand, which they now officially have in Europe, like cookies, etc. Licensing dispensaries is quite interesting and there will be demand around owning a dispensary. Then they will become an exceptionally valuable asset. There are already people placing bets with dispensaries, but I don't want to be too confident, I think it's probably still a little early to place a bet around "you're going to get this" or "your facility or location is going to be licensed"... that Portugal will have the influx of North American brands, because they will be one of the first in Europe, and North American brands are going to want to demonstrate that… because, you know, they can export a generic, they can export their IP, to a certain extent, not obviously the material, but they are going to have their brands in Portugal. I already know a number that is in Portugal waiting for that to happen. As an entry point, it's going to build relationships between the US… but what's also interesting is, if they start to allow international imports, that's something that hasn't been answered yet. Because, well, when you have 84 producers in GACP, what do you need to import for? You can certainly import finished products, you can import edibles, you can import drinks… but yes, there is enough cannabis being grown in Portugal. There is enough cannabis being grown in Portugal that it could supply all of Europe, let alone Portugal. Portugal already has excess production and excess capacity. Just go to a GMP cannabis warehouse in Portugal and see flowers stacked in boxes, stored and stacked. There is already excess supply in Portugal.
There is enough cannabis being grown in Portugal that it could supply all of Europe. There is already oversupply in Portugal.
And when is a Cannabis Europe in Portugal? Have you ever thought about it?
There is already a fantastic event in Portugal, I'm honest, maybe in collaboration, who knows? If it needs to be used as capital for change, then absolutely.
You know that when you do things in your own country, it is harder for them to be recognized. If someone comes from outside and does things, then you are really pushing things forward…
Maybe because I'm Irish, I end up doing things in the UK, it's different. In fact, we have a lot of Irish people in our company.
I would be very happy to see you do things in Portugal too, so you are very welcome at any time. And I also thank you for this interview.
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