Marijuana in Spain

Marijuana in Spain – History

Since joining the European Union on the 1st of January 1986, Spain has become a living example of European integration. The ‘European spirit’ is somewhat second nature to Spaniards as the recognition of “difference” is largely part of the Spanish identity. This attitude must play a part in how Spanish drug laws have been developing. In general, Spaniards are very tolerant to the use of Cannabis as well as to the use of other drugs.
The heroin problems of the 80’s resulted in changing the public view of heroin addicts. Instead of dealing with heroin addicts as criminals, they are treated as patients in need of care and support. Nowadays, Spain is enjoying one of the most relaxed Cannabis laws in Europe and it ranks very well on the world stage.

Leading in Europe

As in many other European countries, Cannabis has been the most commonly used drug in Spain for some time. It was the Spanish that brought Cannabis to the new world in 1545. One of the distinctive characteristics of cannabis in Spain is its cannabis clubs or associations, of which Spain has more than 800. A Spain Supreme Court decision essentially legalized these associations, and they are now pretty much everywhere — particularly in Catalonia and in the Basque Country. The idea is that consumption within these associations is “responsible” because the association controls the consumption and the age of its members. Nearly all of these associations set a minimum age for their members, restrict on-site consumption amounts, and require all consumption occur on association’s property.

Marijuana in Social Clubs in Spain

These clubs got their start in Spain way back in 1993, when the pro-legalization group Asociación Ramón Santos de Estudios Sobre el Cannabis petitioned Barcelona’s drug prosecutor to confirm the legality of cannabis cultivation for consumption purposes by a collective of adults. Other groups soon emerged to challenge this ruling and in 1997, Kalmudia Association, in Bilbao, successfully completed a marijuana harvest without facing any legal obstacles. In 2000, after completing three harvests without incident, the clubs began looking for a legal framework for their activities. Spain’s first cannabis social club, the Club de Catadores de Cannabis de Barcelona, was founded in 2001. From 2001 to 2003, Spain’s Supreme Court issued a number of rulings establishing that possession of even large amounts of cannabis was not a criminal offense unless there was an intent to traffic or sell the cannabis for profit. These Supreme Court rulings ultimately paved the way for Spain’s cannabis clubs.

Marijuana in Spain – Legal status

While drug trafficking is considered a crime and is punished quite harshly, personal use is not viewed as critically. Spain’s prevention policy—the National Drug Strategy—is run by the Public Health Ministry, and its main focus are reducing demand, reducing supply, improving scientific research and educating the populace. However, it is worth noting that it is illegal to cultivate or traffic Cannabis for commercial use of any kind. It is against the law and can attract a prison sentence of several years. As of 2015, the best, safest, and legal way to obtain marijuana/cannabis in spain (Barcelona) is to become a registered member of a private “Cannabis Social Club”/”Social Cannabis Association”. Legally you have to be invited by another member who can be your ‘guarantor’; who can vouch that you truly wish to become a cannabis consumer. Membership of a private association is 20 euros a year, then you can get the legal amount of 80 grams of consumption per month, and you can access this deal any day. Each new member can add plants to the group’s plots. You also need to provide a valid photo ID (no copies) to prove you are a legal adult (18+). It does not matter how much older you are, a valid ID is mandatory to be admitted to an association. Guests or visitors are not allowed, so do not show up with an entourage.
Currently the government is trying to dissuade the practice of tourists becoming club members. However, you don’t need to be a Spanish citizen to join a cannabis club in Barcelona. It is legal for foreigners to join cannabis clubs because the government has not made any new laws regarding the sector.

Marijuana in Spain – Numbers

The latest survey about cannabis consumption was carried out in 2013 with a sample of 23 136 respondents. The survey found that cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance in Spain, with 30.4 % of the respondents reporting lifetime use, followed by cocaine at 10.3 %, ecstasy at 4.3 % and amphetamines at 3.8 %. Thus lifetime prevalence of cannabis use was 40.2 % among young adults (aged 15–34), which indicates a slight increase between 2011 and 2013 and might highlight that ‘experimentation’ with cannabis has become more ‘habitual’ among today’s younger generation. However, continuity of use is fairly low. Those aged 15–24 were the most frequent users of cannabis in the last month (14.7 % in 2011 and 2013).

Start-ups

A network of cannabis clubs has sprung up across Barcelona, Valencia and the Basque Country, providing a venue for marijuana in Spain smokers to gather together and smoke, without fear of arrest or confiscation. The clubs are allowed to grow and distribute marijuana in Spain among their members, who are, in turn, required to pay for the upkeep of the club and the cost of growing the cannabis. These new clubs owe their sudden emergence to a legal loophole, which allows marijuana in Spain to be grown privately for personal use, and the widespread tolerance of ’shared consumption.‘ As long as the clubs maintain a strict membership system, and restrict each member to a specific allocation, there is currently no law against this form of assembly.
According to some estimates, the number of clubs in Spain has jumped from 40 in 2010 to 700 today. Some clubs are nothing more than basements; others are palatial apartments with all the paraphernalia a smoker could wish for.