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 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.
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.
The exponential proliferation of the number of associations, clubs and other groups that distribute cannabis among their members and create new spaces for socialising, has surprised even the most optimistic advocates of more reasonable drug policies. In a short time, and in spite of those in government, civil society has provided a response to a problem that realpolitik has been unable to tackle.
The last few years have witnessed a boom in new cannabis user associations in Spain. Although there are no reliable figures for them, most are known to have been created for the collective cultivation of marihuana crops, and are now several hundred-strong. They are mainly found in Catalonia, which is also home to the largest of them: some have existed for only a short time but already have several thousand members.
On 19 June, 2012, the Ganjazz Art Club in Donostia, one of the oldest Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain, received a visit that was unimaginable a few years earlier: a group of members of the autonomous regional Basque parliament on official business. Its goal was to find out how one of these cannabis users’ associations, that have proliferated over the past few years, operates.
Health officials of the Basque Country, an autonomous region of Spain, announced that they will introduce a bill to regulate the "cultivation, sale and consumption" of hashish and marijuana. The bill, which will be presented to the regional parliament next year, was put forward on December 12, 2011, by regional health officials during the presentation of the regional addictions plan. Several media outlets broke the news as an intent to legalise cannabis use, while in fact the proposed legislation only aims to regulate cannabis user associations that cultivate for personal use.
The General Assembly of Cannabis Users Association Pannagh denounces the disproportionate intervention of the Municipal Police of Bilbao against the association and demands the immediate withdrawal of the charges against the three members who were arrested last Monday, in recognition of the fact that they have not committed any crime, taking into account that Pannagh carries out its activities according to the jurisprudence regarding the ’shared consumption’ such as has been approved by the Provincial Tribunal of Bizkaia in its decision to withdraw the prosecution that was opened by the municipal police in 2005.
Martin Barriuso, the president of of Pannagh and the Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC) in Spain and two fellow activists from the Pannagh cannabis social club have been released. They had been erroneously arrested for drug trafficking in Bilbao on Monday, November 14. Cannabis social clubs are registered, non-profit associations that are formed by adult people who consume cannabis.
While public opinion seems to be shifting towards support for legalisation; there is surprisingly little discussion in the drugs counter-culture of what a socially just model of cannabis consumption might look like. Nick Buxton examines the experience of cannabis social clubs in Spain.
Cannabis social clubs (CSC) are noncommercial organisations of users who get together to cultivate and distribute enough cannabis to meet their personal needs without having to turn to the black market. They are based on the fact that the consumption of illegal drugs has never been considered a crime under Spanish legislation. Taking advantage of this grey area, private clubs that produce cannabis for non-profit distribution solely to a closed group of adult members have existed for years.
Les Clubs Sociaux du Cannabis (CSC) sont des associations d’usagers qui s’organisent pour s’auto-approvisionner sans avoir recours au marché noir. Profitant de une zone grise juridique, il existe depuis plusieurs années, des clubs privés qui produisent du cannabis pour le distribuer, sans but lucratif et en circuit fermé, à des consommateurs adultes.
A number of other countries have implemented changes in law that significantly reduce the extent of criminalization of marijuana use. Only in Australia and the Netherlands have there been any changes on the criminalization of the supply side and in neither of those countries is it legal to both produce and sell the drug. The relaxations so far, with the exception of the Netherlands, have not been very great i.e. have not much changed the legal risks faced by a user of marijuana. Thus it is perhaps not surprising that the changes in prevalence of use have not been substantial. This paper provides a brief review of the changes that have been tried outside the US. The emphasis is on the nature of the changes and how they have been implemented rather than on outcomes.