Spain is an exciting cannabis hub. In Barcelona and other parts of the country, one can join members-only clubs to grow and smoke cannabis. The laws regarding such clubs are flexible, but we have to consider if such laws are aiding violent crimes.
The country has a permissive attitude towards marijuana. Personal marijuana use was decriminalized in the 1970s and Barcelona; you will find a statue of Christopher Columbus holding two cannabis plants. Columbus was a known hemp user who utilizes it in varying ways, and he is credited to be the one who smuggled it into Europe.
Therefore, it is safe to say that cannabis is a part of Spanish culture and history, and it is increasingly evident in Barcelona’s cannabis social clubs. These are non-profit clubs that allow their members to bask in the feel of growing and smoking cannabis in a legal space.
However, due to a lack of legislation with poor enforcement, the permissions granted by the clubs are vulnerable to abuse by criminal groups. This situation is a challenging one that threatens the safe use of cannabis, and one has to wonder, what can be done?
Cannabis social clubs in Spain
Cannabis social clubs in Spain, especially in Barcelona, were created because of the soft legislation in Spain instead of legislation or decriminalization obtained in other countries.
Ideally, a cannabis club in Spain is supposed to be a non-profit group of people who gather to pay upkeep fees, grow and smoke cannabis. The sale of cannabis in those clubs is illegal as membership fees are meant to cover the operational cost of the clubs.
There are many such clubs (up to hundreds of them), with some having the official tag and others still operating under the radar. The weed-grown by club members is supposed not to exceed 3 grams per person for personal use.
The increase in cannabis tourism in Spain
Since it is legal for club members to grow, distribute and smoke cannabis, one has to think, who is a member? The lack of legislation and guidance with membership clubs in Spain makes it vulnerable to people with wrong intentions for cannabis.
As an advantage, the clubs make it possible for people over 18 to get weed cleanly and legally and a friendly environment. One of the disadvantages is that it changes the culture of the clubs. The culture revolves around people enjoying cannabis legally to one with larger memberships who must ensure that their members consistently receive a cannabis supply.
Organized crime stepping into the mix
With larger memberships, the clubs have shown that they have the potential for profit, which is problematic because they are not supposed to make a profit. The growing club membership numbers mean it will be difficult for them to grow weeds for their members.
If they cannot provide good weed for their members, it will become necessary for them to source weed from larger farms, which is illegal. The larger farms operate to service cannabis clubs and coffee shops that criminals use.
The criminals use the shops as a front, but as time goes on, they become increasingly dangerous, aiming for one thing only: making a profit. Spain is also becoming one of the world’s largest cannabis exporters within Europe. If criminals take over through the clubs, it will cause some damages to the country’s cannabis reputation.
Laws set up for the personal consumption of cannabis are now being targeted by criminals to facilitate an international drug trade for profit-making purposes.
What can be done?
There are different ways through which the Spanish authorities can deal with this challenge, and these range from heightened to flexible legislation. Regardless of their choice of action, they must implement solutions seriously else the situation will deteriorate.
Legislation can also be broadened, and more relaxed such that cannabis should be allowed to grow for profit-making purposes. The argument for this solution is that when profit is legalized, the criminal element will diminish. But Spain is reluctant to take this step because, within Europe, no other country has legalized cannabis.
But the promotion of cannabis is illegal, which is why some experts are calling for partial legalization that focuses more on checking the clubs and their member’s use of cannabis. Since the problem is with clubs, all legislative efforts should be fixated on them.
New laws are needed for the police force to be effective in prosecuting offenders. Although commercial production of cannabis in Spain is still illegal, the police are still not equipped to rightly prosecute offenders.
The maximum sentence for someone who illegally grows marijuana is two years or less; if this punishment is increased, the police will have a stronger case against offenders. Another issue the police have is differentiating between legal and illegal grows which can be corrected with legislation that separates the criminal from legal growth criteria.
Some experts suggest that Spain needs stricter legislation that affects the way cannabis clubs should operate. Tightened legislation will determine which cannabis possession is illegal or legal and which clubs are allowed to grow up to 150kg of dried bud annually.
The legislation should also ensure clubs enforce a 15-day wait between the application and acceptance of membership. The 15-day period will enable the clubs to carry out due diligence on potential members.
Clubs should also register carriers that transport their cannabis from the farms to the club’s location. These legislative reforms will enable the clubs to stay within set boundaries that protect them from abuse.
On the surface, a relaxed disposition towards the consumption and growth of cannabis in Spain is fantastic. The law was set up to have the right to grow and smoke cannabis if they desire it: with the state taking a more liberal stance towards it.
But this vague legislation and its limited enforcement against crime had enabled the abuse of such liberties by organized crime gangs for profit sake instead of allowing people to enjoy cannabis.
Legitimate clubs are now raided by the police or getting into issues with gangs, and this has changed the atmosphere with cannabis in Spain. From being a chilled and relaxed country with cannabis to a tense one, which threatens the fate of liberal cannabis in Spain.
Policing tightened legislation and broader legislation protecting these clubs are some of the strategic methods that can be used to restore the fun cannabis situation that was once the pride of Spain.