The Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia has closed a loophole that virtually eliminates private cannabis social clubs and could eliminate cannabis consumption in Barcelona. The ruling essentially prohibits the sale, consumption, or promotion of cannabis.
In 2016, Barcelona City Council approved a regulation permitting private cannabis social clubs, known as “clubes cannábicos” or “asociaciones cannábicas,” to allow members to freely buy and smoke marijuana. The pioneering cannabis social club model helped brand Barcelona as one of Europe’s cannabis capitals.
At the start, the clubs were required to abide by strict guidelines –Spanish residents over 21 years old had to be introduced to the club by an existing member. The intention was to create a closed circuit of consumers with a private association to share marijuana from the same grower that was smoked on the premises. But these rules were never strictly enforced by the clubs or by the government.
Taking advantage of this lax enforcement, many clubs merely became points of sale to tourists requiring a membership fee that typically went towards the first purchase. According to The Guardian, many clubs went on “to become outlets for the massive quantities of cannabis grown in Catalonia, often under the control of eastern European and other mafias.”
Spanish pro-legalization spokespeople have voiced concern that this decision will encourage illicit markets and bring in organized crime groups which could create violence.
City and police authorities have admitted that the clubs are an effective way of reducing street dealing and that in principle they’re not opposed to the clubs.
“The reality is that under the concept of smokers’ clubs, all kinds of establishments have proliferated in the Catalan capital,” writes El Diario. “From some that have adhered to a ‘code of good practices to those that have opened to do big business selling marijuana.”
The city, which had tacitly supported the associations ‘quasi-legal’ status, will start inspecting the clubs — particularly “the ones with the most negative impact and which are geared towards tourists and massive sales.”
Club closures will also affect growers, producers of hemp, genetic experimentation, conservation banks, and promoters of CBD initiatives.