ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
NR 58 DECEMBER 2009
CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS: THE SPANISH MODEL
In Spain, cannabis consumption is tolerated to some extent, but still there is work to do, as during the decades of prohibition, mass media have stigmatised this plant and its use.
The law foresees prison sentences for those who cultivate and possess with the purpose of trafficking. Besides, administrative sanctions (fines) are issued to those who possess and consume in public places. However, consumption and production for personal use is permitted. This legal ambiguity causes adverse effects, not only for those who grow for their personal use, whereas police interventions against small scale growers occur frequently, but also for society as a whole. There is an increase in cannabis related theft incidents, in which legal persecution does not occur as growers are afraid to alert the police, all of which favours and feeds the black market.
A few years ago the local government of Andalucía requested for legal advise to establish the criteria to follow in order to install places where cannbis could be obtained for medical or recreational purposes, within the current legal framework. The conclusion was that initiative could only be in accordance with our laws if these centres would be private, closed to the public and restricted to regular users of hashish or weed. Cannabis should be available in small quantities only and should be consumed while still in the premises.
After the publication of this report, the first collective plantations surged in Spain, carried out by a few associations that, with the experience that was gained over the past decade, have developed into the Cannabis Social Clubs (CSC). In these clubs, cannabis is being distributed to adults in non-profit private circles.
One of the indisputable benefits of the CSCs is risk and harm reduction in terms of consumption, since cannabis consumers have access to a clean and high quality product. It also helps with the legal aspect, because consumers have access to the product without having to resort to the black market and therewith avoiding problems with the police, etc.
CSCs also offer the usual services of an asociation, such as legal counselling and information about the substance, with the aim of promoting safe and responsible use. On the other hand, a consumer who is a CSC member also becomes an activist for drug policy reform through his/her affiliation to a collective political project and does not longer spend money to the black market in order to obtain the substance.
CSCs pretend to provide a way for users to have access to cannabis at a fair price so that it does not become a luxury good which is difficult to obtain. It also allows the CSC members to have access to a wide range of cannabis strains, so that they can pick the ones that produce the effect that they wish or need to have.
The current CSC model of the federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC) limits the daily access to members to 2 gr a day. Thus, the risk that cannabis reaches the hands of third persons who are not involved in the project is kept to a minimum. When a member is found to be passing on cannabis to others, this can lead to his expulsion. This limit is not applied to special cases of medicinal consumers, who require a higher dose. CSCs also help their members with information and advise concerning cannabis cultivation, encouraging members who find the limit too restrictive to grown their own.
Resumingly, CSCs are more than just places where people can go to get cannabis. They are a proposal from concerned citizens to society and its institutions, as with their support, this model could help to reduce the main problems associated with drugs: it would diminish the dimension of the black market, consumers would have access to a non-adulterated, quality product, the access of minors to the product would diminish, which would also reduce the probability of future abuse of the product, and it would become accessible to therapeutic consumers.
This model would not generate the problems associated with drug tourism, such as experienced by the coffeeshops in the Netherlands, and it does not go against any of the UN conventions on drugs which are signed by all EU countries.
These conventions prohibit cannabis production and distribution, but leave it up to national governments to create a legal margin for consumption. Cannabis Social Clubs can use this legal margin to organise the circuit for personal consumption as is considered most convenient in the particular country.
As part of this project, on the Spannabis hemp fair in Barcelona, FAC presented a CSC model guide to help people create and manage new clubs. In order to obtain the name Cannabis Social Club a protocol must be followed, which filters non serious proposals and helps determine if the collective is willing to participate in the political struggle for cannabis normalization. In order to define the CSC model, FAC organized the first gathering of Cannabis Social Clubs in Murguía on November 20, 21 and 22, in which new clubs that just started have been oriented on strategies with speeches, discussions and workshops.
We believe the cannabis movement has yet to take another step, and given the fact that we share our demands with the cannabis industry, we have started a campaign to draw the industry into our struggle. An announcement with FACs logo will be made in growshops that participate in this fight. This campaign was presented at the Expocannabis in Madrid.
Another of our short term goals is to organize the first gathering of the hemp sector in 2010. Here, representatives of the entire cannabis movement, being legal experts, activists, entrepreneurs, philosophers, media, etc., will meet and talk.
At this very moment, the Spanish anti-prohibitionist movement is taking important steps. Next spring we hope to celebrate, along with FAUDAS and ENLACE, the first Civil Society Forum. With these two federations, who have obtained admirable results so far, we will slowly develop a common vision and exchange experiences and information. We also consider of particular relevance our adhesion to ENCOD and our increasing participation in this platform.
Finally we wish to mention Gaspar Fraga González, who left us last october 17th and whom we will always remember with love. Gaspar was a great cannabis activist who contributed a lot to the social acceptance of the plant and paved the way for cannabis normalization.