Portugal is the final destination for various illicit substances that supply the home market. It is also a transit country for significant quantities of cannabis resin and cocaine from Morocco and Latin America destined for other European countries. This results from the country’s geographical position, but is also linked to the existence of special relations with some Latin American countries, such as Brazil, where a large amount of cocaine originates. The majority of illicit substances enter Portugal via sea routes, while land (from Spain) and air routes are used to a lesser extent. MDMA/ecstasy arrives predominantly from the Netherlands and is transported by air or overland in light vehicles. A new route for MDMA trafficking from the Netherlands to Brazil via Portugal has been reported in the recent years. Heroin seized in Portugal comes mainly from the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain.
Domestic cultivation of cannabis occurs, although in low volumes. In the period 2010-16, the police dismantled between 200 and 400 cannabis plantations annually, with the number of plants seized ranging from 4 517 to 8 462.
Most of the illicit substance seizures in Portugal, except for heroin, take place at retail level. In 2016, the highest number of seizures involved cannabis resin, followed by cocaine and heroin. The number of cocaine seizures showed a declining trend between 2010 and 2014, but this has stabilised in recent years. The number of heroin seizures observed over the period 2010-14 declined, but more recent data indicate a slight increase in the annual number of reported heroin seizures. MDMA continues to be seized in Portugal less frequently than other illicit substances; however, the number of seizures increased in recent years, as well as quantities seized.
Given the geographical location of Portugal and recent developments in the drug market, the main priorities of the Portuguese law enforcement bodies are linked to participation in the EU’s actions against international drug smuggling operations and enhancing responses to crimes committed using technologies.