ON 12 JANUARY 2006 MEMBER OF EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT GIUSTO CATANIA ASKED A QUESTION TO THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION CONCERNING THE CASE OF THE SPANISH ORGANISATION PANNAGH, ON CULTIVATION OF CANNABIS FOR NON-COMMERCIAL PURPOSES
Here is the question followed by the reply of EU Commissioner Franco Frattini
WRITTEN QUESTION by Giusto Catania (GUE/NGL) to the European Commission (12 January 2006)
Four members of the Association Pannagh, among them its chairman, Martìn Barriuso, have been detained on 4 October 2005, in Iureta (Spain) accused of growing cannabis for commercial purposes.
The association takes part in the Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC) in Spain, chaired by Martin Barriuso. The Association Pannagh is a legal entity, established in 2003, with the goal of practicing research into the cannabis plant and its derivatives for medical, scientific and cultural purposes. Among others, Pannagh is a member of the Basque Council on Drug Dependence, that depends on the Ministry of Social Affairs of the Basque Country Regional Government.
Among the activities of the association, the cultivation of cannabis plays a functional role in the achievement of its goals and is meant for the sole use of its members, without any commercial ambition. Precisely the autonomous character of the production surges of the wish not to make use of the black market and nurture the illicit drug trade.
It is important to remind that according to the Spanish law, the cultivation of cannabis is permitted. The police action against Pannagh, a symbolic case of a legal framework that is ambiguous and therefore can be interpreted in arbitrary ways, shows the threats that organisations that operate in this sector in Spain are exposed to.
QUESTIONS TO EUROPEAN COMMISSION
1. Taking into account the fact that the arrest of the Pannagh members is sanctioning the very goals of the association, does the Commission agree that this is a violation of article 11 of the Convention on Human Rights (the freedom of association)?
2. Taking into account the fact that one of the priorities of the European Union is to promote scientific research, does the Commission agree that this police action represents a severe threat to the principle of freedom of investigation, such as established in article 13 of the Charter on Fundamental Rights of the EU?
3. Furthermore, in view of the the fact that the ownership of the cultivation is collective, shared among the members of the association and used for their personal consumption, does the Commission agree that this situation represents a violation of the principle expressed in article 2, paragraph 2 of the Legal Framework Decisión of 2004/757, established on 25/10/2004 (exceptions with regards to personal consumption and sanctions concerning illicit drug trade)?
Answer given by Mr Frattini on behalf of the Commission
The cultivation, production and trafficking of narcotic drugs, including cannabis, are mainly controlled by national legislation in Member States. Concerning drugs trafficking, the Member States have to comply with the Council Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA of 25 October 2004 laying down minimum provisions on the constituent elements of criminal acts and penalties in the field of illicit drug trafficking. Article two of the Framework Decision states that Member States shall ensure that cultivation of the cannabis plant, when committed without right, is punishable. Article 2.2 excludes from the scope of the Council Framework Decision the cultivation of cannabis for personal consumption, as defined by national law.
National legislation also has to comply with the international Drug Conventions, which all Member States have signed and ratified and which limit the production of cannabis for scientific and medical purposes. The Conventions do not include definitions of what constitutes scientific purpose but leave the intrepretation for the signatories. International Drug Conventions allow the signatories some room for manoeuvre in national legislation on the criminalisation of the use and possession for personal use of drugs and these are not considered criminal offences in all Member States. The compliance of the national legislation with the international conventions is overseen by the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
The Commission is not aware of all the details of the case referred to in this written question and can only reply on a more general level.
Any decision to arrest a person for growing marijuana for profit has to be based on national legislation, which again has to comply with the existing EU legislation and international law. Implementation of the national legislation falls under the competence of Member States. In general, if there are doubts about incorrect application of EU or international law, the most efficient and fastest way to ensure the compliance is to bring the case to the relevant national court of law.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, with reference to the European Convention of Human Rights, guarantees the freedom to belong to any association legal in the Member States and no person can be charged on the sole reason for belonging to such an association. Freedom of research, guaranteed by the Charter of Fundamental Rights, is subject to ethical, scientific and legal criteria applicable to all research fields. Prior authorisation is needed for any scientific research including activities otherwise deemed illegal by the national or international law, e.g. cultivation of cannabis.