The diploma, which “clarifies the sanctioning regime relating to the possession of drugs for consumption regardless of the quantity and establishes regular deadlines for updating regulatory standards”, was promulgated by the President of the Republic, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, on August 31, after the Constitutional Court validated the diploma, and published it in the Diário da República on September 8 and came into force on 1 October.
The new law updates the 1993 decree-law, which approves the legal regime applicable to the trafficking and consumption of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, to prevent situations of inequality between New Psychoactive Substances (NSP) and synthetic drugs and distinguish traffickers from consumers.
The diploma determines that, if the acquisition and possession of drugs exceeds "the quantity necessary for average individual consumption during a period of 10 days, it constitutes evidence that the purpose may not be consumption”, but rather trafficking, when previously the maximum limit was five days.
Even if the acquisition or possession of the substances exceeds a quantity greater than the consumption of 10 days, the court may decide that the drugs are "intended exclusively for personal consumption", in which case it may close the case, decide not to prosecute the accused or acquit them and refer them instead to a commission for the deterrence of drug addiction.
At the time of the discussion, the new law generated some controversy, including requests for “consideration” from the Minister of Internal Administration, José Luís Carneiro, and “a lot of caution” from the Minister of Health, Manuel Pizarro.
In the debate held at the beginning of July, PSD and PS justified the diplomas on the decriminalisation of synthetic drugs with the need to distinguish between dealers and consumers, to guard against situations of inequality between new psychoactive substances and classic drugs.
According to the “European Drug Report 2022: Trends and developments”, almost seven tonnes of synthetic drugs were seized in 2020, substances that are sold for their psychoactive properties, but are not controlled under international drug conventions.
“There is also concern about the growing crossover between the markets for illicit drugs and new psychoactive substances. (…) These developments mean that consumers may be exposed, without knowing it, to potent substances that can increase the risk of fatal or non-fatal overdose episodes”, warned the report.
The same report indicated that at the end of 2021, the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction was monitoring around 880 new psychoactive substances, of which 52 were reported for the first time in Europe in 2021.