Cannabis clubs in Barcelona risk closure in new legal setback

cannabis club barcelona

Around 200 cannabis clubs in the city face an uncertain future after a brutal court ruling

Barcelona's 200 cannabis clubs risk closing after the Supreme Court ends a legal loophole that had allowed the city to become Spain's marijuana capital.

This is the latest in a series of setbacks for asociaciónes, as they are popularly called. In 2017, the court overturned a law passed by the Catalan parliament which stipulated that “the private consumption of cannabis by adults… is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience”.

Since then, the clubs have operated under a Barcelona municipal decree that regulated their use, but this was also overturned as judges ruled that municipal authorities were not competent to legislate on matters governed by the state.

"The majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close," said Eric Asensio, spokesperson for the Federation of Catalan Cannabis Associations. About 70% of Spanish cannabis clubs are located in Catalonia, the majority in Barcelona.

In 2014, the Public Health Agency of the Generalitat de Catalunya proposed new strict measures to regulate clubs. The Generalitat is Catalonia's regional government - with broad powers under Spain's decentralized system, although it cannot override Spanish national law. And Spanish law allows private consumption of cannabis.

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Cannabis clubs suffered a setback in 2017, when the Supreme Court overturned local Catalan law. This law once held that “the private consumption of cannabis by adults… is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience. "

The clubs, however, continued to operate under a municipal bylaw that regulated the sale of cannabis. But that too was overturned by the judges, removing authority from city officials.

Over the past year, police have dismantled 34 cannabis-related criminal organizations and destroyed 319 plantations. Spain is remarkably tolerant of cannabis-related offenses, and criminals rarely stay in prison for more than two years for any type of cannabis-related offense.

With the collapse of tourism in Barcelona due to COVID-19, the cannabis trade is one of the few to thrive in Catalonia, but beyond the dim lights and laid-back vibe of associations, darker forces are emerging. at stake. An internal report by the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police force, claims that "Catalonia is the epicenter of the illegal marijuana market in Europe" and that it has become a net exporter of cannabis to other countries Europeans.

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Also filling the void, a Chinese gang known as the "Bang of Fujian" was using clubs in Barcelona and other Spanish cities to sell illegally cultivated cannabis. Europol invested 29 warehouses in Barcelona, ​​thus putting an end to the gang's activities.

Barcelona's once innocent tourist cannabis club industry could worsen if the Supreme Court continues to reject municipal regulations that make the city safer.

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