This briefing is a preliminary sketch of the legal landscape for cannabis social clubs in Spain. Its author is presently conducting legal analysis and empirical research in Spain and her findings will be published in due course. The aim of this briefing is to provide an interim sketch of the relevant law for English speakers working in drug policy.
Cannabis clubs in Catalonia will face stricter regulations with the region's parliamentary health commission set to raise the minimum age for membership from 18 to 21 while prohibiting new clubs from opening near schools and nurseries. The new rules are the result of months of discussions between health officials, parliamentary groups and representatives of the clubs after 49 were closed down by police in August. The Catalonia Federation of Cannabis Associations had called for clearer regulations in order to help control bad practices.
Catalonia is drawing up rules to allow the use of marijuana for the treatment of patients suffering from conditions with symptoms such as pain and loss of appetite, the region's health minister Boi Ruiz has said. The move would open the way for the drug to be prescribed to cancer and AIDS patients, among others. The plan was partly designed to stop Barcelona's increasingly popular cannabis clubs from controlling the supply of medical marijuana, Ruiz said.
The heads of Fedcac, an umbrella group for Catalonia’s cannabis clubs, have been arrested on charges of money laundering. The vast amounts of money made by these allegedly non-profit associations – in the order of €5 million a month – had raised the suspicions of police. Catalonia has around 400 cannabis clubs with 165,000 members – half of them in Barcelona. “We are seeing a contradictory message whereby we are asked to cooperate on the issue of regulation, yet at the same time we are prevented from conducting our activities normally through periodic police raids,” said Fedcac in a release.
The number of cannabis clubs that have opened in Barcelona recently has some experts saying this city will soon challenge Amsterdam as the go-to destination for vacationers who want to get high in peace. In the last three years, new clubs have opened, particularly in tourist areas, in many cases circumventing the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. About 300 new cannabis clubs have opened in Barcelona and the surrounding Catalan region, a result, at least in part, of enterprising Spaniards looking for new ways to earn a living.
Barcelona has a new tourist attraction that some locals wish would disappear: a burgeoning number of "cannabis clubs," where people can legally buy and smoke pot. Although selling marijuana is against the law in Spain, some regions allow local residents to set up nonprofit clubs whose members grow and share it for personal use. As recently as 2011, only a few dozen such groups were in the Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona. But since then, the number has risen to about 400.
The Barcelona city council announced that no new cannabis clubs will be allowed to open in the city for one year in order to halt their proliferation and allow for tighter regulation of the 160 clubs that already exist.
Growing numbers of visitors are purchasing a few grams of marijuana while on holiday in Barcelona, a city that is already being described as the "Holland of the South." All one needs to do is become a member of a cannabis club, many of which advertise on the internet, and place an order by phone or online. But for the first time in the Catalan capital, a judge has ordered a club closure on the grounds that it was engaging in drug trafficking.
Legalisation of cannabis is making slow but unstoppable progress across much of the developed world, many experts believe, following the end of prohibition in two US states. In Amsterdam, long famous for its coffee shops, international experts gathering to discuss cannabis regulation said the international conventions, once so heavily policed by the US, would now be increasingly flouted. Already many countries, most notably the Netherlands and Spain, have bypassed the rules.
Cannabis is the world’s most widely used illicit drug. But for how much longer? In a short space of time we have moved from absolute global prohibition of the drug, with the emergence of legalised and regulated production and retail not in just one nation (Uruguay) but also, surprisingly, in two US states (Colorado and Washington). Do these and other new permissive models in Spain and Belgium, for example, point to a tipping point in the debate? Could cannabis step out of the shadows and join the ranks of alcohol and tobacco, the world’s most popular legal and regulated drugs?
Cannabis was condemned by the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs as a psychoactive drug with “particularly dangerous properties” and hardly any therapeutic value. Ever since, an increasing number of countries have shown discomfort with the treaty regime’s strictures through soft defections, stretching its legal flexibility to sometimes questionable limits.
In the past few weeks, the attention of the international drug policy community has been focused on the cannabis regulation bill in Uruguay. The great significance of this momentum for the drug policy reform has been supported by various civil society organisations and public opinion leaders from all around the world. This contrasts with the steps back undertaken in Spain, where a new bill – the paradoxically so-called citizen security law – was approved last 29th November by the Council of Ministers.
Beau Kilmer, Kristy Kruithof, Mafalda Pardal, Jonathan P. Caulkins, Jennifer Rubin
14 December 2013
This RAND report provides an overview of the changes to laws and policies pertaining to cannabis in different countries. Several jurisdictions have reduced the penalties for possessing cannabis for personal use (and in some places even for home cultivation), while some jurisdictions have taken more dramatic steps and changed their laws and practices with respect to producing and distributing cannabis.
This is a guide to regulating legal markets for the non-medical use of cannabis. It is for policy makers, drug policy reform advocates and affected communities all over the world, who are witnessing the question change from, 'Should we maintain cannabis prohibition?' to 'How will legal regulation work in practice?
Pannagh, one of the oldest cannabis social clubs in Spain, is being persecuted by the Spanish prosecutor. Two years after the precautionary closure of the association of cannabis consumers Pannagh, the anti-drug prosecutor has asked prison sentences totaling 22 years in prison and fines of nearly two and a half million euros for five members of the association.
Three United Nations Conventions provide the international legal framework on drug control, instructing countries to limit drug supply and use to medical and scientific purposes. Yet, debate continues on the decriminalisation, or even legalisation, of drugs, particularly cannabis. Models under development for the legal supply of cannabis are described in this analysis, as well as some of the questions they raise.
Part of the ‘Perspectives on drugs’ (PODs) series, launched alongside the annual European Drug Report, these designed-for-the-web interactive analyses aim to provide deeper insights into a selection of important issues.
Spanish law prohibits the possession of soft drugs like cannabis in public and its growth to be sold for profit is illegal. But the law does tolerate growing cannabis for personal use and its consumption in private. Dozens of private marijuana smoking clubs operate across Spain that take advantage of this legal loophole that serve cannabis users who do not want to get their drugs from the streets.