Agência para o Investimento e Comércio Externo de Portugal


As Portugal becomes Europe’s medical cannabis powerhouse, EXMceuticals is looking to further ingrain itself into this market

For centuries, Portugal looked westward, watching the sails of explorers’ ships like Vasco Da Gama as they set out to discover what the world had to offer in Africa, the Americas and the Indies along with the treasures they held. Now, the country is turning its gaze eastward to the rest of Europe and the promise of new riches and wealth. But this modern generation of adventurers isn’t looking to return with cargoes of gold or spices. Instead they’re hoping to export something else.

Portugal’s health sector is an engine of the country’s economy. According to Portugal’s government page, “Investment in R&D increased around 128 per cent during the last 10 years and the number of scientific publications by Portuguese researchers has kept up with this trend with an increase of 123 per cent in the same period.”

Moreover, “Portugal hosts a vibrant and innovative R&D ecosystem, supported by several institutions scientific and technologic-oriented, present throughout the whole chain of value of the health and medicines sector, including the clinical trials.”

Despite this, the country faces the challenges of coping with an aging population in the age of COVID-19. But it also has opportunities to take a leading role in responding to the pandemic by developing biotechnologies that identify pathogens and increase diagnostic capacity.


That’s why the country has an investment in life sciences and productive capacity in a sector that has seen its pharmaceutical industry’s exports grow by 200 per cent in the last 10 years. The country is also open to alternative treatments and therapies, including cannabis-based products. When it comes to the health and wellness space, Portugal is now the gateway to the EU.


EXMceuticals on the ground in Portugal

EXMceuticals Inc. is poised to sail through that golden gateway. EXM is a bioscience company and emerging player in the hemp and cannabis wellness sector. The company’s goal is to become one of the world’s suppliers of the highest-grade medical cannabis ingredients.


The company already has a substantial footprint in Portugal, with an existing licensed cannabis R&D facility and pilot refinery in Lisbon coupled with an industrial-scale, commercial, GMP-pharmaceutical-grade extraction and refining facility in development nearby.


EXM obtained authorization for cannabis research and development from INFARMED, the Portuguese National Authority of Medicines and Health Products, in Nov. 2019.


“We hope to be making our first commercial deliveries by late Q3 of next year.”


Portugal poised to become a cannabis powerhouse

That positions EXM as the partner of choice for any extraction, refining and purification needs for the local and international market wanting to enter the EU-GMP medical market.


“The beauty of Portugal is there’s going to be a lot of domestic cultivation there and we can use it as a base to export to the rest of Europe, like Germany and the rest of the world relying on such high standard. Europe offers a fantastic opportunity,” notes Summers.


How big of an opportunity? Recently valued at roughly EUR€240 million (USD$260 million), Europe is set to become the world’s largest legal cannabis market in the next five years.


In the last 12 months alone, the European cannabis industry has grown more than in the last six years. Moreover, six countries have announced new legislation and over EUR€500 million have been invested in European cannabis businesses.


EXM wins grant for COVID-19 research

Another factor in EXM’s favour is the European Union and Portugal’s financial support for cannabis-based medical research. A consortium led by the company recently received a landmark EUR€320,000 COVID-19 research grant from the European Regional Development Fund and the Portuguese Government; EXM is working with the University of Coimbra to develop disinfectants to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.


Summers says one possible application is to use the terpenes found in cannabis to create filters for reusable masks.

“Rather than these disposable masks which are clogging up sewers and producing a horrible waste problem, you could have a renewable mask which has a filter in it which not only smells nice because it’s got terpenes in it, but also is retardant to the virus,” he notes.


“If you want to get rid of it, you just put a new filter in the mask. It will also be designed to be much less harmful to your skin in terms of other disinfectants.”


EXM Membership in APIFARMA a major milestone

EXM celebrated another major milestone in late September when the company was accepted for membership in the Portuguese Association of the Pharmaceutical Industry (APIFARMA). The association helps to nurture innovation, promote resilient regulatory systems, maintain high standards of quality, uphold ethical practices and advocate sustainable health policies to meet patient and health system needs.


“It’s a milestone that will help us with state support and with people viewing us as a biosciences company, not a cultivation business. You can’t be a cannabis grower and be a member of APIFARMA and we’re obviously thrilled to become a member,” Summers explains.


Founded in 1975, APIFARMA represents more than 120 companies operating in Portugal and defends and promotes the interests of its members, covering all areas of activity from R&D to production.


EXM imports pure cannabinoids into Portugal for the first time

Another major step forward for the company came in September when it imported a material quantity of various cannabinoid distillates into Portugal from North America with the help of Farmceutica, a major supplier.


These amounts will grow as more commercial quantities are required. EXM also reached an agreement with Econnabis SAS to supply EXM’s proposed Portugal refinery with up to 200 kg of GMP-compliant THC distillate. Econnabis SAS is an operating subsidiary of Plena Global Holdings Inc., a large-scale producer and supplier of medical-grade cannabis ingredients. Various other supply arrangements have also been signed under MOU’s.


EXM has the license, facilities and team to succeed

The foundation of EXM’s footprint is the authorization for cannabis research and development obtained from INFARMED in Nov. 2019. Currently unique in Portugal, this crucial scientific license allowed EXMceuticals to take a leap forward in its European operations by being able to import, research and refine cannabinoids and cannabis-based ingredients inside the European Union for R&D purposes.


The company’s R&D laboratory is developing cannabis-based formulations for products and operating as a pilot-scale refinery for the transformation of cannabis-based ingredients. The lab is fully equipped and staffed by experienced scientists like microbiologists, biochemists and geneticists.


EXM poised to enter large, underserved European cannabis market

With the groundwork largely laid, EXM is now poised to enter a large, underserved cannabis market. A recent study forecast the European cannabis market to reach USD$36,997.1 million by 2027, up from USD$3,498.1 million in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 29.6 per cent from 2020 to 2027. That growth is being attributed to the upgrading of regulations for medical cannabis and the growth of the cannabis industry.


Meanwhile, EXM continues to consolidate its position in Portugal, which decriminalized the possession and consumption of all drugs in 2001 and cannabis was decriminalized for personal use in 2001. But it’s only since 2018 that medical use was legalized. That gave EXM its opportunity — one it seized.