Cannabis social clubs in Spain

A normalizing alternative underway
Martín Barriuso Alonso
Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr. 9
January 2011

dlr9Cannabis social clubs (CSC) are noncommercial organisations of users who get together to cultivate and distribute enough cannabis to meet their personal needs without having to turn to the black market. They are based on the fact that the consumption of illegal drugs has never been considered a crime under Spanish legislation. Taking advantage of this grey area, private clubs that produce cannabis for non-profit distribution solely to a closed group of adult members have existed for years.

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Since their appearance in 2002, CSCs have enabled several thousand people to stop financing the black market and to know the quality and origin of what they are consuming, whilst creating jobs and tax revenue. All of this has happened without having to withdraw from existing UN drug treaties.

This article outlines the nature and functioning of these clubs. It also proposes a better route for legalisation of drugs: rejecting the creation of an open trade system, similar to that of alcohol or tobacco and opting instead for a consumer-focused, non-profit model that avoids many of the risks inherent in a market dominated by the pursuit of economic profit.

Conclusions & Recommendations

  • The appearance of cannabis social clubs (CSC) in Spain in 2002 has enabled thousands of people to legally grow their own marijuana supply for personal consumption and ensure that it is good quality.
  • Clubs began to appear throughout the country, due to a grey area in Spanish legislation, and through a legal registry system for groups of users those who collectively cultivate marijuana.
  • The CSC boom occurred after various Supreme Court decisions that stated that cultivation for personal use is not a crime as it is not destined for trafficking.
  • It is time for the debate on drug policies to move on from a simplified discussion of legalisation or prohibition and instead considers alternative ways to deal with drugs.

More information

Cannabis social club activists in Spain liberated, by Tom Blickman, TNI weblog, November 18, 2011

Legal cannabis in Basque Country? Confusion about the regulation of cannabis social clubs, by Tom Blickman, TNI weblog, December 16, 2011

Cannabis reaches parliament: The debate on regulating Cannabis Social Clubs in the Basque country, by Martín Barriuso Alonso, TNI weblog, June 26, 2012

Between collective organisation and commercialisation: The Cannabis Social Clubs at the cross-roads, by Martín Barriuso Alonso, TNI weblog, August 9, 2012