A Deeper Look At Cannabis Social Clubs
The laws surrounding cannabis are quickly evolving here in Europe. A great example is Spain, where the cannabis social club now reigns supreme. We take a look at how things are going for them.
Despite the global and European economic crisis, cannabis social clubs in Spain are flourishing. They are offering cannabis users a safe and community-friendly way to enjoy weed, and are showing the world that there are alternative models for cannabis use that don’t necessarily require full-blown legalisation. As the world watches on, we thought it a good idea to take a deeper look at exactly what is going on in Spain, and how it is changing public perception for the better.
WHAT ARE CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS?
Also simply know as cannabis clubs, these organisations are private entities that grow and supply cannabis to all of their members. The private growth and use of cannabis is somewhat tolerated in Spain, as long as there is no sale of the herb involved. These clubs operate by accepting private members who pay an upkeep cost towards the club. This entitles them to a say in what is grown, how it is grown, and a to receive a portion of the harvest bud. As they do not buy the cannabis from the club, and it is all done in private, it is generally considered ok. Clubs do not advertise for members, and are often completely transparent with their operation, being open and honest with authorities and communities. It is creating a culture of acceptance, as clubs demonstrate a safe and responsible model of a semi-regulated cannabis market.
THERE ARE NOW MORE CANNABIS CLUBS THAN EVER
The influential Spanish newspaper “El Pais” reported that Cannabis social clubs in Catalunya count 165.000 regular members, consuming around 6 million Euros of cannabis each month. Barcelona started in 2010 with 40 cannabis clubs, and today hosts over 200! Many foreigners now move to Spain to gain access - especially if they use it therapeutically - or to apply for a job in the cannabis industry. Today, over 700 Spanish Cannabis social clubs have members signed up from across the globe, all of whom have made the move to Spain to enjoy this progressive cannabis model. They come from a range of social and professional backgrounds, and are made up of all age ranges as well.
Public opinion in Spain has slowly grown to now support the Cannabis Social Club model, though the conservative political forces keep trying to hold the clubs back. Local governments play an important role in this country, and that’s the reason why Cannabis social clubs were allowed to start their experimentations in Barcelona, despite central government’s opposition to the model. The lack of a clear regulation caused a “grey area” where the burgeoning system was beginning to be abused by a few social clubs, forcing unclear policies to be addressed. These problems were manipulated by Barcelona’s former mayor, Xavier Trias, who was trying to shut some clubs down and impose very strict rules on Cannabis Clubs operations. The result? Well, he is not mayor anymore – you can take from that, and his popularity with the public, as you will.
TAKING A STEP FORWARD: CLUBS BANDING TOGETHER
Many cannabis clubs started to get together into associations in order to face political, social and healthcare concerns. It’s giving a further drive to cannabis normalization, with Catalunya’s cannabis social club associations FEDCAC and CatFAC developing an online platform to discuss and publish proposals, good practices or cultivation techniques. It gives clubs an air of legitimacy, and shows the authorities they are serious about being a responsible part of society.
It has not gone unnoticed. Ada Colau, Barcelona’s first female mayor, is now working together with the Public Health Agency of Barcelona and the social club associations to create the first ever draft regulations for cannabis social clubs. New rules include cultivation and transport limitations, membership requirements, distance from schools, maximum quantity per member, and growing registers. It may sound like a step away from the freedom of growing as you want, but by working out a compromise, it is possible to move forwards responsibly.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CANNABIS CLUBS AND COFFEE SHOPS
Cannabis social clubs can be selective about their members. They can differentiate one from the other by allowing certain kinds of users join – such as differentiating between medical and recreational users. Some of them are just a small room, while others a fancy loft; the feeling is like being in a friend’s house, instead of a pub. This is an important difference from the Dutch model, where coffee shops are open to the adult public with no restrictions, with many looking inviting like a bar.
The Spanish model allows for a more personalized ambiance and for a better quality of bud: the Dutch authorities repressed the passionate small-scale growers who used to source coffee shops, thus helping criminal organizations fill the demand with low-grade commercial cannabis. In Spain, the new regulations should avoid the side effects shown of this obsolete Dutch model, allowing small scale commercial grows to provide top quality organic cannabis for a limited entourage of responsible people.
Only a few cannabis social clubs are strictly focused on medicinal cannabis, providing their members with high CBD strains, edibles, and other formulations which maximize the therapeutic effect while avoiding the lung damage from smoke inhaling. Some clubs are starting to produce cannabis oil, cookies, body creams, infusions, resins, dry sift, and shatter.
WHAT ABOUT TOURISTS?
Becoming a cannabis social club member is not so easy for non-residents of Spain. If planning a trip there, it is advisable to contact some clubs in advance to understand their membership policy. Providing them with a valid address in town, which is not a hotel or bed and breakfast, can speed up the process. It’s also important to remind these are “social” clubs where sociable behaviour and culture sharing is promoted. This is a completely different approach from the “enter-buy-smoke-go” approach of Amsterdam’s coffee shops. Since cannabis social clubs are so differentiated, many people in Barcelona are members of more than one club just to meet different people and experiment new products.
The cannabis social club movement is growing fast. It puts Spain at the forefront of the movement to reform outdated and ill-informed cannabis policy. Let’s hope that things can continue to move forwards in such an open and responsible manner. In doing so, the stigma around cannabis is shattered, and the world gets to see this wonderful plant for what it really is.
Written by: Guest Writer
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