Cannabis social clubs in Barcelona: A model worth defending

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Cannabis social clubs in Barcelona: A model worth defending

25 January 2024

This blog post was first published on ICEERS' website and is available here.

More than 20 years ago, a groundbreaking approach to cannabis regulation and consumption emerged in Barcelona with the creation of Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs). CSCs operate as non-profit organizations, providing safe spaces for adults to responsibly consume cannabis and create a safer alternative to the unregulated market. This innovative model has become an inspiring example for international drug policy reform, attracting international interest from countries like Uruguay, Malta, and Germany. Despite operating in a legal gray area, the CSCs in Barcelona and Catalonia have become instrumental in shaping a more inclusive and informed approach to cannabis legislation.

With the arrival of a new mayor of Barcelona, Jaume Collboni (PSC) and his governing team, there has been a significant shift in the city’s policy towards Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs). This change occurred after the Catalonia Superior Court of Justice suspended a municipal ordinance enacted by the previous administration led by Ada Colau. This suspension left the clubs operating as private entities lacking specific regulations.

In contrast, the new administration has embraced this court ruling and started inspecting CSCs, specifically looking for cannabis-related activities. They cite the ordinance’s repeal as their reason, arguing that it limits their ability to deal with cannabis-related issues. However, this is an overreach of their authority since CSCs are private spaces, and City Hall should therefore not impose arbitrary restrictions.

As recently reported by Público, several CSCs are considering legal action against City Hall due to these ongoing impositions and changes. What’s most notable is that with this new government, explicit statements against the established CSC model have been made without clear distinctions. This position contradicts international drug policy trends and two decades of the CSC’s existence, which could drastically harm a referential model for international governments and policymakers.

ICEERS is based in Barcelona and has spent almost 14 years advocating for the rights of CSCs. Numerous international experts and organizations have come to the city to study the CSC model and explore ways to implement it in their own regions. In light of recent events, ICEERS sent a letter to the Third Deputy Mayor’s Office, Albert Batlle, to urge City Hall to adopt a well-informed and respectful approach to cannabis regulation in Catalonia. The goal is to let Barcelona continue to lead by example as a compassionate, evidence-based approach to cannabis regulation on a global scale. The letter received 179 signatures from over 53 different countries that support the Barcelona CSC model.

The letter includes various ways the Barcelona City Hall can support the CSC model:

  • Advocate for laws that respect and tolerate CSCs, such as the Catalan municipalities of Mataró and Granollers, to ensure equal rights and freedoms for cannabis consumers.
  • Engage in dialogues for a stable legal framework that ensures safety for the members and workers of CSCs.
  • Initiate parliamentary debates to remove discriminatory laws against cannabis consumption and decriminalize the plant in all forms.
  • Establish medicinal cannabis access programs that mandate the protection of health as a fundamental right.
  • Develop international alliances with other municipalities committed to drug policy reform, centered on defending human rights and upholding scientific evidence.