Barcelona wants to set limits on the “proliferation” of cannabis clubs, places where members purchase and consume marijuana. Although there are no official figures, municipal authorities have counted around 200 such premises, most of which are located in the city center. Just two years ago, there were only 40 cannabis clubs in the entire Catalan region.
Now, officials plan to look a little deeper into these associations: first, to see whether they were legally set up; second, to check what their stated goals are. Preliminary investigations suggest that in most cases, the clubs claim to make a therapeutic use of the drug. If this is not the case, the city will temporarily seal them off.
This situation — which mirrors that of the US state of California, where the therapeutic use of marijuana is permitted — has derived into a long series of lawsuits due to the lack of comprehensive legislation on the recreational drug. In Catalonia, the chaos was underscored in early 2012 when it emerged that the town of Rasquera was planning to cede land to the Barcelona Cannabis Self-consumption Association so it could grow marijuana for its members. In return, the town council was hoping to receive 1.3 million euros over the course of two years. The ensuing uproar revealed how governments at all levels are making up the rules as they go along.
Felip Puig, who was the Catalan commissioner for home affairs at the time, said he needed to check back with the justice department and the public prosecutor to find out whether Rasquera authorities had acted lawfully or not. Ultimately, a court canceled the agreement between municipal officials and the association, although the mayor of Rasquera has appealed that decision.
The main obstacle in the way of the Barcelona government is that only judges may determine whether an association complies with its own statutes. Martí Cànoves, a criminal lawyer, says that clubs are happy with new rules and regulations, as long as their rights are respected.
By Jordi Mumbrú Escofet