Latin American countries are turning to Europe for lessons on fighting drugs after souring on the prohibition-style approach of the violent and costly U.S.-led war on drugs. Until recently, most Latin American countries had zero-tolerance rules on drugs inspired by the United States. But now countries from Brazil to Guatemala are exploring relaxing penalties for personal use of narcotics, following examples such as Spain and Portugal that have channeled resources to prevention rather than clogging jails.
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.
France offers the most recent sign of changing attitudes. While consumption and production of pot for personal use are not criminal offenses in France, growing and selling for other than personal use is illegal. So 150 to 200 “clubs” of growers operating quietly, and their umbrella association called Cannabis Social Clubs, have decided to come out of the dark to lobby openly for legalization.
Some 20 years ago, a Spanish official in favor of lifting the ban on drugs such as marijuana mentioned at a UN meeting that there "might be a more humane option" in the fight against trafficking. She was immediately taken aside by a senior diplomat, who told her in no uncertain terms: "Don't say things like that round here, not even in the washroom." Today, the same official says that internal documents are now circulating within the UN that openly admit to the failure of prohibition.
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.
No fewer than six randomised controlled trials – in Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Canada, and England – concluded that heroin assisted treatment is more effective than conventional treatments in a subgroup of heroin users.
Spain will not put forward any objection to the Bolivian proposal to remove the obligation to abolish coca chewing from the 1961 UN Single Convention on drugs. Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez said that “Spain has from the very beginning shown its understanding for Bolivia's position” and has “demonstrated this in various fora at European and international level.” Other European countries, such as France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and Denmark, are considering submitting formal objections. Because Spain will not object and several other EU countries tend more to the Spanish position, a common European Union position will not be possible. Read the press release of Bolivian embassy in Madrid.
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 Spanish village of Rasquera has adopted in a referendum a plan to rent out a field for growing cannabis in an urgent bid to create jobs and raise money to pay off its debts. Rasquera's village council on February 29 approved the plan to rent seven hectares (17 acres) of public land to an association that promotes the legal recreational or therapeutic use of cannabis by its 5,000 members in a 4-3 vote.
The Basque Parliament will approve a law bill in the first few months of 2012 on drug addiction, which will regulate "the growing, sale and consumption of cannabis". For the new ruling, for which "technical and legal studies have been undertaken", the regional government wants to "open a debate" with associations in favour of consumption and to "shape their rights".
A small town in northeastern Spain, believes it has found a novel way to pay of its debt: cultivating cannabis. Tucked in the hills of one of Spain's most picturesque regions, the Catalonian village of Rasquera has agreed to rent out land to grow marijuana, an enterprise the local authorities say will allow them to pay off their 1.3 million euro debt in two years. The mayor of Rasquera, with 900 inhabitants, said the project will not only benefit locals, but also eliminate organised crime and the tax evasion associated with the cannabis industry thanks to government supervision.
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.
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.
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.
A tiny Spanish village has voted to lease land for growing marijuana as a source of desperately needed revenue — a unique but legally questionable way of battling an economic crisis highlighted by staggering unemployment and a looming recession. A government official with the National Drug Plan said such planting would in fact be against the law and that prosecutors would intervene as soon as the first pot seed was sown.