Understand how drug policies in Spain have evolved over the years and how the famous Cannabis Association Clubs work over there.
For years, Spain, more specifically Barcelona, has been one of the centers of cannabis culture in the world. Much of this is due to the cannabis use associations installed there. Because of the strength of the fight for rights, including cannabis rights, since 2002, Barcelona has hosted the largest cannabis fair in the world, Spannabis. In addition to this event, the largest in Europe involving the theme, hundreds of clubs for associative use fully function throughout the country.
However, although it is the cradle of this type of space, Spain still does not have solid legislation regarding cannabis consumption and production. The country has a somewhat nebulous history when it comes to this topic: although there are cannabis clubs and associations where consumption is allowed, in 2017, 8 out of 10 drug law violations were associated with cannabis. It seems contradictory, doesn’t it?
But how can the prohibitions in relation to cannabis and the existence of numerous clubs and Spannabis coexist? We will tell a little bit of this story here and bring you the positive and negative points of this type of culture.
What are cannabis clubs?
The history of the clubs began, in an “unofficial” way, with Ley Corcuera, from 1992. What the legislation intended to do was to restrict the use of drugs, but its gaps (better known as gray areas of the legislation) ended up allowing consumption in private places and cultivation in non-profit associations. From then on, closed clubs for members began to emerge, offering a safer environment for those people to consume cannabis (a good Harm Reduction strategy, isn’t it?)
Organization members can consume marijuana for therapeutic or recreational purposes, on a shared basis, paying a monthly fee. To be legally constituted, it must be registered in the regional register of associations. Each province establishes basic rules to be followed, such as a minimum distance from schools or adequate exits for smoke, sound insulation and schedules. It is estimated that there are about 700 clubs throughout Spain.
But not everything is just flowers in this situation: in Barcelona, the proliferation of this type of club was such that the City Hall decided to interfere and regulate the situation. As a result, about 80% of associations may be forced to close their doors. Some of the biggest legal problems arising from cannabis in the country arise from this “confusion”: in some police operations, investigators have acted against associations that they believe are not in compliance with codes of practice.
Other problems caused
In addition to affecting the functioning of clubs, the lack of clear legislation also interferes with the quality of what is consumed. There is no legal control over cannabis – so the user is at the mercy of the club’s honesty. After all, we know that, although cannabis has many lovers and real connoisseurs, some still enter the business with the ambition of “easy money”, disregarding the quality of the plant, hashish and concentrates.
Manuel Guzmán, professor of biochemistry at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid and one of the country’s leading cannabis experts, warned of these risks in an interview with El País. According to him, “when you consume, you need to know what you are taking, what variety, how much and be aware of where it came from and what side effects it can have. And all of this comes with strict regulations – with a standard product that is safe, controlled, well packaged and labeled, and of pharmaceutical quality ”.
He further points out: “cannabis use is the most frequently violated law in our country. The person who receives in the irregular market and does not know what he is consuming is taking a great risk. I mean patients – the 120,000 people in Spain with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cancer and chronic pain who self-medicate, not to mention the thousands who would like to do so. They need the best, but they are being denied, while prescriptions for opioids, which kill, are being distributed ”.
Another problem, in addition to the lack of quality control and storage of what is used, is that the cannabis found in some clubs comes from international trafficking. Much of the herb comes from Morocco and arrives in Spain illegally – that is, it goes through the countless dynamics of trafficking, putting people at risk so that the substances reach the hands of end users.
Associations generate a false sense of legalization and security. But the reality is quite different: you can only use cannabis at home or at the club. If you are caught with the herb outside the home, you can carry fines that amount to more than a thousand euros (yes, and it happened to one of us in Barcelona).
As in Brazil, cannabis legalization in Spain is a sensitive issue – even with loopholes in the law. Even before the 2000s, criminals received a report on the legal feasibility of prescribing medical marijuana and on the possibility of opening private purchase and consumption sites. But open coffee shops, as there are in the Netherlands, were taxed as unfeasible in the country.
The big issue that encompasses cannabis regulation (not only in Spain, but worldwide) is the safety of the therapeutic or medicinal consumer. That is why it is increasingly important to open debates on this very important cause. After all, we know that the quality and origin of the herb are two extremely important points for the reduction of damages, and can compromise the health of those looking for a pure and natural remedy.