Introduction: Recently, the world has seen examples of the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. Due to the diversity of experiences in progress, it is urgent to analyze the impacts of this legalization, from a public health perspective. Therefore, this article aims to review the accumulated knowledge in the states and countries where the use of cannabis is legal and to ponder over the relevance of starting a similar path towards legalization in Portugal, thus supporting political decisions to be properly informed and evidence-based.
Material and Methods: An extensive literature review was performed using databases and scientific journals, such as PubMed, as well as the search of institutional documentation, including the EMCDDA and SICAD.
Results: The gathered information provided insights and enabled assessment of (1) the acute and chronic effects of cannabis use on
health, (2) the Portuguese situation related to cannabis and (3) the processes and lessons learned after the legalization of cannabis in
other countries or states. Given the above, and according to the data presented, the authors argue for a safe and responsible strategy towards the legalization of cannabis use in Portugal. In accordance, a set of concrete proposals are presented.
Discussion: From a public health perspective, it is assumed that the interest of this proposal is to reduce the problematic use of cannabis, to effectively fight against illicit drug trafficking and drug-related crime, as well as health promotion and prevention of addictions and other adverse health impacts. This article reveals that the effects of legalization might, contrary to general beliefs, generate positive results with respect to these aims, given that there will be greater control on the market, price, quality, and information - to name a few - if implementation occurs with proper consideration and definition.
Conclusion: The debate on the responsible and safe legalization of cannabis use in Portugal should be open and promoted, based on a
public health perspective.
Keywords: Cannabis; Drug Approval; Drug and Narcotic Control; Government Regulation; Health Policy; Portugal
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