Portugal has one of the most liberal drug policies in the world when it comes to personal possession; however, those caught with large quantities of drugs are subject to arrest and prison sentences with the intent to sell.
Cannabis, including hashish, has been decriminalized for personal possession in Portugal for nearly two decades, but when Portugal’s Public Security Police (PSP) found two suspects carrying some 1,200 dosis of hashish and 275,000 euros in cash in a Braga cafe, the two culprits, aged 42 and 44, were taken into custody.
The two were indicted for committing narcotics trafficking offenses after a search warrant was issued at a cafe on Avenida General Norton de Matos in Braga.
Portugal’s Drug Laws
As of July, 2001, for anyone caught in possession of a modest quantity of drugs for personal use (established by law, this shall not exceed the quantity required for an average individual consumption during a period of 10 days), the police having no further suspicions or evidence that more serious offences are involved (sale, traffic), the drug will be seized and the case transmitted to a local Commission composed of a lawyer, a doctor and a social assistant.
Before July, 2001 drug use was considered a criminal offense punishable with imprisonment up to three months or a fine. If the quantity of illicit drugs found in possession exceeded three daily doses, the penalty could go up to one year or a fine. The law envisaged the suspension of the sentences for occasional users. Possession of drugs was also considered a criminal offence punishable according to the motivation behind the offence: whether the drug was for personal use, for retail, or for trafficking.
However, when it comes to drug trafficking, that is still illegal in Portugal.
Producing, offering, selling, preparing or cultivating illicit drugs are, among others, the classic offenses constituting drug trafficking.
The list of drugs under the law are as follows:
- List 1 is divided into opiates; coca derivatives; Cannabis and derivatives
- List 2 is divided into Hallucinogenic; Amphetamines and Barbiturates
- List 3 contains preparations with controlled substances
- List 4 tranquillisers and analgesics
- Lists 5 and 6 contain precursors
Portuguese law differentiates prosecution of drug traffic according to several criteria. The nature of the substance is one of the main criteria. Trafficking in substances included in the lists I to III attract a sentence of between four and 12 years of imprisonment, while substances in list IV (tranquilliser and analgesic) may be punished by between one and five years in prison.
Interestingly, the law makes special exceptions for hardcore drug addicts with leaner penalties. The state of addiction of the trafficker is taken into account by art. 26 of Decree Law 15/93. If the user sells drugs to finance his own consumption (‘addict-trafficker’), the penalty is reduced: Lists I, II, III up to three years (instead of 4-12) – list IV up to one year (instead of 1-5).
In the case of the two arrested in Braga for possession of 1,200 dosis of hashish and 275,000 euros in cash, the police have evidence and reason to believe that there was an intent to traffic.