Dried marijuana flowers are stored at the plantation of the Sibaratas Med Can association in Mogan on the southwest coast of the island of Gran Canaria. Spanish law prohibits the possession of soft drugs like cannabis in public and its growth to be sold for profit is illegal. But the law does tolerate growing cannabis for personal use and its consumption in private. Dozens of private marijuana smoking clubs operate across Spain that take advantage of this legal loophole that serve cannabis users who do not want to get their drugs from the streets. (Desiree Martin/AFP/Getty Images)
Spain is now competing with the famous coffee shops of Amsterdam. Having discovered a loophole in the law, hundreds of ”associations” and thousands of home growers are believed to now be located in Catalonia, and the Basque region is not lingering far behind. Although local police have raided some clubs, hampering cultivation and detaining the owners, federations of cannabis clubs are pushing for the implementation of new drug policies in favor of recreational use for adults.
But are these clubs really a continuation of drug trafficking, as local police perceive them, or an equivalent to coffee shops? What is this new model of association?
Also known as cannabis social clubs, they are non-commercial organizations that allow cannabis users to cultivate their own cannabis. In other words, the users pass the full responsibility of cultivation to the hands of an expert in return for a membership or consultation fee. What sets them apart from coffee shops in Amsterdam is that the associations are run solely on a membership system, and do not ”sell” marijuana. People are not traditional customers, but rather members, and their selection is not arbitrary. Age and health are two main criteria. If one has a member friend, it is more likely that they will be a member too.
Cannabis users seem to be happy with this practice. Without feeling the need to turn to the black market, they regularly receive a good quality product.
‘’The weed you buy from the street is like a gamble. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it comes with a lot of soil. You take pot luck’’ said Marina, a cannabis user at Kush Association, Barcelona.
Concerns over safety also weakened the black market while moving the users towards the club environment.
‘’It is risky and weird with the drug dealer in the middle of the street. But here I can cultivate my own weed with experts. It feels much safer’’ Marina added.
On the other hand, Spanish authorities see the association as a dirty business, another way to traffic drugs, a view obviously not shared by members.
‘‘In the Basque region, we have gastronomic clubs; it is like a pub but collective and cheap. You take your beer, cook and sing with others. No one disturbs you. Now we created associations but for smoking together. It is unusual for us. We are an organized society. Collective work is part of our tradition,” noted Martin Barriuso, the president of the Federation of Cannabis Clubs (FAC).
Let me know what you think: Would you like to be a member of an association? Or would you rather just buy your herb the old-fashioned way?