Colorado is to the United States as Catalonia is to Spain. The autonomous region in Spain has collected enough signatures to regulate a legal cannabis market.
A fully-regulated cannabis industry will be overseen by the Catalonia Parliament. Unlike other nations in Europe that still rely on a black market for growing cannabis, Catalonia will have a comprehensive program that will oversee the industry in a “seed to sale” fashion.
“We did not want to do something halfway,” said Alba Vergés, Chairwomen of the Health Commission in the Catalonia Parliament. “What we could not do was regulate the dispensation and let the marijuana through the back door.” Members of Parliament spent months consulting with health experts, members of law enforcement, legal experts and researched successful legalization outcomes in other parts of the world. By all accounts, it was a thoughtful, thorough and inclusive process between the public and the Catalonian government. It is still possible that the federal government will dispute the decision of Catalonia Parliament.
In Spain, cannabis consumption exists in a legal grey area. The industry is structured through cannabis clubs, which require paid membership. The terms of the membership require that an applicant wait 15 days before receiving any cannabis, which is meant to discourage cannabis tourists like those popular in Amsterdam.
Under the new regulations, the amount of cannabis each club can grow and sell will be limited. Transportation will be closely monitored by government officials and each stage of the process will be recorded. Agricultural specialists will also examine the amount of plant material grown with the amount a club consumes to make sure all cannabis bought and sold is accounted for. These rules are significant, since previous legislation did not specify between what was considered a personal amount of cannabis and what amount showed an intent to distribute. It was that very lack of specificity that has allowed cannabis clubs in the region to operate without consequence.
The amount of cannabis a member can purchase is up to 60 grams per month. Adults 18-21 are only able to purchase 20 grams. Cannabis is still not allowed to be consumed in public, and cannabis edibles are prohibited completely.
Owners of cannabis clubs are encouraged by the new legislation, which maintains the current club structure.
“The only thing we ask for is legal security,” said one club owner.
“We have been working with one foot in the law for many years and another one out.”
Catalonia unique relationship with Spain means that they share a constitution, but Catalonia is recognized as its own “nationality” by Spain. Members of Catalonia’s Parliament realize that their new cannabis laws conflict with that of Spain’s, but are insisting that it is within their power to make this decision.
Cannabis legalization in Europe has been progressing slowly, but attitudes are shifting worldwide. While Catalonia may be taking steps to limit cannabis tourism that has been popular in Barcelona and Amsterdam, the benefits of legalization are being examined more objectively thanks to normalization. “The law we will approve is very advanced and gives a very clear message. It’s time for a paradigm shift when it comes to legislating drugs,” said Vergés.
This post was originally published on July 4, 2017, it was updated on October 5, 2017.