The Catalan regional government says that it has drawn up detailed plans to regulate cannabis consumption following the arrest in July of a number of people involved in running cannabis clubs in Barcelona on suspicion of money laundering.
Catalonia has around 400 cannabis clubs, with a total of 165,000 members – half of them in Barcelona – according to figures provided by Fedcac, the umbrella organization that represents cannabis clubs. Just two years ago, there were only 40 such clubs in the entire region. The sector is estimated to generate around 5 million euros a month.
The Catalan regional health department says that it intends to control all aspects of cannabis use: growing, distribution, sale, and who it can be sold to. From now on, membership of cannabis clubs in Catalonia will be restricted to Spanish residents, a move aimed at preventing trade in the substance among the many visitors to Barcelona and other cities in the region. Membership will be further restricted to the over-21s, and a period of two weeks must pass from joining a club to being able to consume. Cannabis cultivation can only take place after clubs have agreed with members on the amount needed for the coming months. The fastest-growing seeds take 45 days to produce a plant that can be harvested. All production will have to be registered with the authorities, and must be tested once a year by government-approved laboratories. Cannabis clubs will be forbidden from buying on the black market.
Transport will also be overseen. All drivers moving cannabis must be employed by the club, and carry documentation proving that the cannabis they have in their possession belongs to the club. Clubs will only be allowed to open between 10am and 2pm, and 5pm to 8pm. Non-members must be accompanied by a member.
So far, the amount of cannabis that each member will be allowed to purchase has not been agreed, but is expected to be between 60 and 100 grams a month. Some associations have more than 5,000 members, although the average number is around 500, says the regional government of Catalonia. Clubs will be required to keep detailed accounts of all transactions.
In reality, most of the 400 cannabis clubs in Catalonia already meet these requirements. Jaume Xaus, the spokesman for CATFAC, the Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalonia, broadly welcomes the move, saying: “In general it is positive.” He also recommends that the requirements for a license to run a cannabis club be established at regional level, so as to avoid running into problems with local councils that may be opposed to having clubs in their towns.
The regional health authority wants clubs to charge members for cannabis purchases via credit card, and for such purposes to be made once a month, something that Xaus says will also have to be discussed: “Not everybody knows how much they are going to smoke in a month.” Most varieties of cannabis sell for around 10 euros a gram, with the average club member spending between 60 euros and 100 euros a month.