Canada's Aurora Cannabis expands into Portugal

2 min

Montreal (AFP)

Aurora Cannabis, Canada's second-biggest cannabis producer, on Tuesday announced a deal to buy a majority stake in Portugal's Gaia Pharma in a move that expands its global presence to 24 countries.

Gaia was licensed by the Portuguese health ministry last week to produce medical cannabis and derivative products.

Aurora said construction of the first phase of a new Gaia cultivation facility capable of producing up to 2,000 kilograms of pot annually was expected to be completed in late 2020.

The company said Portugal represented an "attractive market" due to its relatively low labor costs and "producer-friendly regulatory framework," which as of January 15 allows distribution of medical marijuana to other EU nations where it is legal.

Lawmakers last June approved sweeping changes to how medical cannabis is regulated, spelling out how it can be produced, distributed and sold, opening the door to imports and exports.

"With the addition of this new project, we are now active in 24 countries, which we believe represents the largest global footprint of any cannabis company," Aurora CEO Terry Booth said in a statement.

Its Gaia takeover, he added, gives Aurora a beachhead on "the rapidly growing European market."

About two dozen countries have legalized medical marijuana use, including Canada since 2001, along with Denmark, Italy and Germany as well as 33 US states and the District of Columbia.

In October, Canada became the world's first major economy to legalize recreational cannabis use, following in the footsteps of Uruguay, which had done so five years prior.