Freedom to Farm in the Cannabis Social Clubs. A Solution within UN International Conventions
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The majority of european countries have decriminalised the consumption and (in a very small range) the possesion of cannabis for personal use. The Netherlands have allowed dealing in small amounts for personal use for years. In Switzerland several cantons tolerated the cultivation and the commerce of hemp for legal purposes for long periods, without controlling the THC content These market regulations were eventuallly refused by parliament in June 2004. Since then controls have been very strict and quickly decimated the hemp scene which included farmers and hemp shops. Since then there are no official sources existing to provide oneself with cannabis. Every day millions of people must buy their cannabis from organisations that are more or less criminal. The social and economic consequences have been disasterous.
Decriminalisation of Self-production and Self-consumption
The only alternative is self-production, but very few countries allow the cultivation of plants. Self-production is punished in the majority of european legislations as a felony, but is often treated as a misdemeanour in reality. Due to the risk of criminal prosecution along with other practical obstacles, only 20 to 25 percent of the demand is covered this way. The international conventions do not require countries to prosecute self production and self consumption. Governments can introduce legalised self-production and consumption without having to fear international sanctions. But even if tolerated, the model of self-cultivation is not sufficent for the huge demand and doesn’t offer any guidelines for clean production, the protection of minors, black workers and the black market.
No Consensus for Production or Trade
The european parliaments and governments are still against the cultivation of cannabis for regulated trade. They believe that a commercial system is against the international conventions, that it supports exportation and drug tourism, that it would be available too easily and therefore lead towards more consumption especially among the youth. These fears are shared by many european politicians, who are willing to make efforts to bettter the situation, like the representatives who accepted the Catania report. The reform movement has to integrate these objections. A solution would be possible if self-production for adults as well as collective cultivation of minimal amounts for self- consumption were tolerated.
ENCOD Presents the Cannabis Social Club
ENCOD, a european network of more than 100 groups intervening in drug matters, is working on a model for the production and the distribution of cannabis for adults, without dealing, the Cannabis Social Club (CSC). CSCs are non profit associations who organize the professional, collective cultivation of very limited amounts of cannabis, just enough to cover the personal needs of their club members. Cultivation, transport, distribution and consumption would have to be submitted to security and quality checks, all this without publicity, shop signs or windows. The members finance this system by subcriptions according to their needs. There would not be any dealing possible. The members are not allowed to sell any cannabis and must make sure that it isn’t consumed by minors.
A Project by Europeans
There are active CSCs existing in Spain and Belgium today. The association Trekt Uw Plant (« Grow your plant ») which has been created by Cannabis consumers in Anvers is starting its first collective plantation. In agreement with the federal Belgian policy the planting of one female plant is tolerated, even if it is not strictly legal. By installing a collective plantation Trek uw Plant tries to solve the problem for many people who cannot plant themselves. This action also targets on an amelioration of the legal security for hemp cultivation, reduction of black market cannabis products, eleminating cannabis consumption by minors and on consumer health protection. Since the positive decision in April 2006 in Bilbao in favor of a similar initiative, the association Pannagh, several groups of hemp consumers have started their work under the supervision of the Spanish authorities. In the USA and Canada clubs exsist for medical users. These clubs, however, are functioning in a less transparent way than this model.
An Adaptable Model
Activities based on a similar model have been started in other countries. It all depends on legislation and political practice. CSCs can be formed in different ways. In countries or regions that are more progressive, private user circles could also offer a consumption space to their members. This in exchange for the seperation from the street drug market and a high level of prevention and help for users with problems. The system of a non profit association would guarantee that the owner or the employees do not push consumption. The limited quantities per person would help as well.
A Credible Alternative
There are many advantages for Cannabis Social Clubs. First, this model allows production for self-consumption and the distributioin without commerce or importation and exportation of cannabis. It is therefore not against the international conventions. This market will get more transparent with the possibility of self-coverage with Cannabis given to the adults. Better methods for public health and environment will be used for cannabis cultivation. The black market, with its problems which include the rise of THC content, stretching products, high prices, violence, selling to minors, the misery of open drug scenes will diminish. The authorities could establish a reasonable frame and control for CSCs during the entire process from cultivation to consumption. CSCs could create jobs and officially buy considerable amounts of goods and services which are taxed. This system could quickly bring an alternative for black market consumers.
In order to prove our determination let’s start pilot projects where ever possible: renewable energie, biological cultivation, reasonable selection of genetics, product information, realistic individual quantitities, monthly membership, discreet and safe cultivation and distribution. No advertisement, membership gained through recommandation only in order to limit the amount of members and to avoid disturbing elements All these are concrete bases to start this absolutely necessary action.
Here is an excerpt from a speech presented at the general Assembly of ENCOD in Anvers in 2006:
Finishing the Cannabis Black Market
The production and co-operative distribution of cannabis would directly provide lots of full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs. The wages and taxes from this market will generate billions of Euros in the official economy, constituting an undeniable economic growth factor. The young and the not so young users of cannabis would not have the impression of being patients under supervision or criminals any more. It is necessary to change the legal status of cannabis. How do we pass from a total prohibition to market regulation as well as protect health and public safety, while guaranteeing a really positive socio-economic impact?
Minimum Service: Decriminalisation
Without breaking it’s international treaties or upsetting the European balance on drugs, any country can decriminalise the private consumption of cannabis and tolerate the public possession of 10g (the private possession and the production of reasonable quantities for consumption, for example 500g of stock and culture of 5 plants per adult). As with tobacco, consumption in public places accessible to minors or without non-smoking spaces must be prohibited. It would also be necessary to tolerate the sale of seeds and cuttings to facilitate self-production and by that minimize the share of the black market, especially from imports. Cannabis and it’s derived products will also have to reinstate the legal table of drugs including a legal status for therapeutic cannabis.
The decriminalisation of consumption (including tolerating self-production) is only one measure of accompaniment for this social mass phenomenon. It places cannabis back in the private sphere, lowers the police and social pressure, especially on the youth; it supports a constructive dialogue about public health. It decreases, but does not wipe out the parallel economy, the money laundering, the control of production and distribution by gangs and criminal organizations. Indeed, the majority of the consumers do not have the possibility to cultivate their cannabis. Middle-class and rural youth would benefit from these measures. The young people of the suburbs would escape from the cannabis hunt, but they will always be tempted by cannabis dealing.
Which Legal Status for Cannabis?
This new model must carry the idea that the consumption of cannabis, even if it constitutes a relative danger to the user, must be tolerated as long, as it is concerns private sphere consumption and does not disturb law and order. This is why trades like tobacco shops, bars and even Swiss hemp stores or the Dutch coffee shops are too visible, too inciting. They support the critics with their arguments, like laxity; bad signals for the youth, free cannabis sale in supermarkets and other negative images associated to a too permissive status.
This general system should not be merged with the therapeutic distribution of cannabis. One cannot put millions of reasonable users into the medical system. This would be ridiculous. And anyway, pharmacists are not enthusiastic about the idea of dealing with this crowd on a daily basis and laboratories prefer to work with expensive, pseudo-synthetic patented versions instead of with plants. The majority of users would badly perceive the change from a criminal to a patient. The most reasonable solution concerning the tolerance of personal production would be cooperative farming. Associations with a non-lucrative goal could unite the users who cannot cultivate themselves and assure the production for them. This non-commercial system would create many jobs. It avoids the obstacle created by the International Conventions which prohibit trade, importation and exportation.
Associations will be able to farm directly for their members or buy from approved producers. The permission for producing hemp rich in THC will first be granted to strictly biological farms. A commission of scientists, representatives of the administration, producers and users will have to establish medical standards and manufacturing processes adapted to human consumption. In order not to be subjected under the conventions prohibiting international trade, each country would be in charge of producing its own material.
A controlling organization will carry out analyses and investigations, guaranteeing the integrity of the market this way. Police and the tax authorities will continue a repressive role on smuggling and non observance of the rules.
Consumers Social Clubs
These associations will be able to open consumers clubs in places that are not exposed to passersby and without external publicity. These places, reserved to their members, could be open from six to midnight on weekdays and until 2 on weekends and would be able to distribute the cannabis. Each member would receive a chip card with units corresponding to his cannabis credit with an annual or monthly maximum, according to the paid membership. This amount could be adapted according to the age of the member. In order to cut the advertising lure of consumption through imitation by young people, it is advisable to authorize membership inscription at 16 only. This is coherent compared to the bar and beer rules and also compared to the average age of the consumers. On the other hand, one could limit the quantity of available Cannabis to 30 grams per month until 18, 60 g until 21 years and 100 G beyond that age, this in order to limit excesses and the black market targeting children or narcotics tourists. Members will pay a one time contribution for drug prevention and for the social and health systems. These private users circles will also be able to offer to their members a free space for the consumption of cannabis, in exchange for a strict separation of the narcotics markets and consumption, for a policy of fight against street violence, for tracking problematic users and directing them towards structures of prevention and assistance. These Associations will have to respect a variety of conditions: the prohibition of the sale of alcohol and its consumption, the obligation to provide vaporizers and the participation in prevention campaigns against smoke and other medical topics, free consumption for abstemious drivers, the organisation of a system of space at the disposal of drivers and the prevention of violence. The authorities would be able to limit the number and the storage areas of clubs according to requirements of law and order.
This system would create on all the territory of Europe tens of thousands of not qualified employments in production, conditioning, security and distribution. Ethnic minorities do often know this market and its products better. Without criteria of discrimination, they would be excellent employees. Clubs could open in zones left without spaces for the social life by the hygienist policy, like in suburbs for instance. The benefits of such an associative system would be sufficient to feed a medical policy of education including objective prevention and the reduction of risks related to the use of all drugs. This system would include detection and socio-medical assistance for abusive users and their families. There would undoubtedly remain enough funds to finance local sociocultural animations.