CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS
Speech at the Cannabis Tipo Forte Hemp Fair in Bologna, Italy, 1-3 June 2007
Just like when people can go to a bar when they want to consume alcohol, there should be a place where you can obtain cannabis. There should be a system for production of cannabis and distribution to consumers that is causing less inconveniences, difficulties and costs. There should be a place where cannabis can be enjoyed in a responsible way. There should be (more) Cannabis Social Clubs.
Cannabis Social Clubs are associations of citizens who want to organise the cultivation of a limited amount of cannabis to satisfy their personal needs in a transparent way that is controllable by authorities. They establish the amount that is necessary for their personal consumption in agreement with legal standards that are valid in their country, and organise a closed circuit of consumption, distribution and consumption without any commercial activities having to take place.
Cannabis Social Clubs can be fully controllable by authorities. The authorities should have the possibility to monitor health, sanitarian and safety conditions of a Cannabis Social Club during the entire process from cultivation to consumption.
Cannabis Social Clubs can use the legal margins that national governments have within international agreements to organise the circuit for personal consumption as they consider most convenient. These are the margins that the Netherlands have always used to justify the existence of coffeeshops. The same margins include a solution for the current dilemma, in which cannabis consumption is allowed, but the production or distribution are not.
All depending on the legislation and political practice in the countries, Cannabis Social Clubs can be established in various forms. They can generate offical jobs and purchases of considerable amounts of goods and services that can be taxed. Today, Cannabis Social Clubs are operating in Spain and Belgium, while in Switzerland medical cannabis clubs are operating as well as in the US and Canada, although here, the ways of working are less transparent. In other countries, initiatives are being taken to work out a similar model.
In a Cannabis Social Club, cultivation will take place according to the most recent standards of biological agriculture. Alteration of the final product with other substances to increase its weight (a typical practice of criminal organisations involved in the illegal cultivation) would never occur, as the project would be supervised by an association of consumers.
Cultivation would also take place in accordance with security rules. Particularly in countries where people cultivate indoor, this would reduce unsafe behaviours related to cannabis plantation such as the theft of electricity
Distribution could take place in areas where the association can put in place an effective policy of prevention and treatment of problematic use of cannabis. Membership of the associations would in principle be only accessible to adults. In the Cannabis Social Club, information about less health-unfriendly methods of cannabis consumption can be promoted, while social activities can be organised to strengthen the social network around the consumer. This network is a crucial factor in preventing problems.
This system is also a way to reduce the availability of cannabis to minors. The members of the association should be persons of at least 18 years old (after a period of time, this age could go down to 16, possibly with limited rights for young people).
It is obvious that once this form of regulation of the cannabis market has been accepted, a rational debate will start about the applications of industrial hemp, it will be more easy to obtain licences, carry out research etc.
We are tens of millions of cannabis consumers in the EU. If only a small part of them organises associations that start to take this kind of initiatives, the political impact will be immense. Therefore ENCOD calls upon all cannabis consumers around Europe to start up a Cannabis Social Club in their area.
The Cannabis Social Clubs are the first concrete outcome of the Freedom to Farm Campaign, which we started in 2005 and which is meant to be our proposal to the next World Summit on Drug Policy, that will take place in Vienna in 2008. On this summit, the governments of the world will have to explain why their global strategy to eradicate cannabis, coca and opium from the surface of the earth is failing and based on the wrong assumptions.
Every group should of course establish its own rules and ways of working. They need to be in agreement with local conditions and laws. However we think that some general rules can be respected when putting up a local CSC:
1. Communicate –in advance if possible- with your local authorities and media on your action. Let them know that you have no commercial intentions, in what stage your project is, that you only have adult members,… And make clear you want to give them the opportunity to control the health, hygienic and safety conditions during the entire process from cultivation to consumption.
2. Prepare your action well, establish your association in an official way with statutes that are recognised by the authorities (the local administration of associations). In this way it will be difficult for any judge to dissolve the association, as you have the Constitutional right to associate. Show these statutes to a local lawyer who is specialised in the issue and who can advise you about the way the statutes have to be written. If you want we can provide you with model statutes of Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain or Belgium.
3. In the statutes of the club, it is good to mention that your purposes are more than only cultivation. That you are particularly aiming at increasing knowledge about avoiding harmful methods of producing and consuming cannabis. Make sure that what is produced in the club is meant only for consumption by members of this club. Commercial activities can be kept in mind for later stages, but it is a priority to show that personal and responsible use is possible.
4. Make sure you do not hinder others with your action. In principle, nobody should experience inconveniences from (the use or cultivation of) cannabis. So take care not to provoke others so they can’t say that you are only into promoting consumption.
5. The psychoactive elements in cannabis cause a change in the way you perceive reality. CSC’s should also be perceived by non-consumers, by people who are not familiar with the effects of cannabis, as a realistic proposal. Therefore it is good to share your plans, before you present them in the media, with non-consumers who are sympathetic to the proposal, so they can help you to elaborate the definitive version. Everyone, users or not, should be able to support a realistic proposal for the distribution of cannabis to adult consumers.
In Spain a Basque CSC named ‘Pannagh’ was invaded by the police during the harvest in October 2005. Six months later, the Provincial Court of Vizcaya filed the case, as it acknowledged that the legally constituted association had nothing to do with a criminal organisation dedicated to drug trade, the collective plantation was meant for their own personal consumption. In April 2007, Pannagh has even obtained the return of the confiscated cannabis.
In Belgium another CSC-variant, Draw up your Plant, was founded last year. Despite their efforts to openly and honestly communicate about their intents, the local authorities busted the plantation in December 2006. In April 2007 the judge acknowledged the legally constituted association, but she did refer to the law which still prohibits cannabis. The sentences were only symbolical: fines of 15 euro for each member, and even conditional for those without a criminal record.
Keep an eye on our plans to promote the idea of organising the self-cultivation to registered users, a citizen proposal to obtain a minimum of peace in the war on drugs, in the next months and years. On the ENCOD General Assembly that will take place on 22 to 24 June, and where you are all welcome, this and other activities will be prepared and organised.
Best wishes to all of you, thank you
ENCOD – Joep Oomen and Bas Tielens