I love Spain. It rules. With that prejudice declared, here’s a great tale of Spaniards (and Catalans) doing what they do best- bending the law to create hippy socialist drug heavens. Or, in their words, “Cannabis Social Clubs”. A paper by Martin Barriuso Alonso describes how they work:

Cannabis Social Clubs, are noncommercial organisations of users who get together to cultivate and distribute enough cannabis to meet their personal needs without having to turn to the black market.

Since their appearance in 2002, CSCs have enabled several thousand people to stop financing the black market and to know the quality and origin of what they are consuming, whilst creating jobs and tax revenue. All of this happened without having to withdraw from existing UN drug treaties.

In order to ensure that they don’t contravene the treaties, the Andalusian regional government was advised that these places should be:

Centres that are not open to an indiscriminate public, but where access is restricted to hashish or marijuana smokers. As a method of controlling access, people would have to be regular users. These would be places of private consumption amongst regular users, where they would be able to obtain and consume quantities that would not exceed the fixed consumption limit.

This legal advice was upheld in a 2003 Supreme Court ruling establishing that possession of cannabis, including large quantities, is not a crime if there is no clear intention of trafficking. There are now between 100 and 300 clubs in Spain. Here’s a summary of how they work:

The typical evolution of a cannabis social club starts with it being founded and recorded in the registry of associations. Next, the members who wish to approve a collective agreement on cultivation do so. The club rents or buys land, buildings, equipment and all that is necessary to cultivate and later distribute the harvest. The calculation of how much is cultivated is done on the basis of a prediction of each member’s consumption. The care of the plants… is carried out by voluntary members, staff hired directly by the club, or professional cultivators (who are usually also members) who are paid for the land rental and the hours worked… Distribution is done on the club’s premises…and only club members and accompanying adults can attend. ..Those who participate in cultivation pay membership fees proportionate to their consumption, used to cover production costs, storage and management…any economic profit is reinvested in the association…Administration is democratic.. but the ultimate decision making body is always the general assembly of members.

What I really like about these clubs, is that they offer an alternative to the commercialized world of Marlboro Marijuana that many of us fear should drugs ever be legalized.

Rather than change the current panorama of repression and criminal mafias for a different scenario of adulterated and unecological marijuana, packaged by multinationals in seductive shiny wrappers, we would prefer to imagine a world in which psychoactive plants such as cannabis or obtained through a network of democratic groups who want to improve the quality of life of many, instead of making a few people richer.

From Cannabis social clubs in Spain: A normalizing alternative underway, TNI Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies Nr 9.  January 2011.

Illustrations by Ron English, via Dangerous Minds