Side Events: Introduction to cannabis social clubs

Constanza Sanchez Aviles, ICEERS: Fewer cannabis users resort to the illegal market as a result of cannabis social clubs. The clubs are non-profit organisations. You have to be 21 to join. Consumption and distribution take place on private premises. The club doesn’t look for new members. They organise themselves and estimate how much cannabis they’re going to need to grow in order to meet demand. This CSC model does not break any laws; it exists within a legal grey area. Drug use is not criminalised in Spain if it’s done in a private place. The lack of regulation of the clubs has been problematic.

Joseba del Valle, Fundacion Renovatio: Spain has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in Europe. Prohibitionist policies have not really affected consumption or availability. The CSC model was originally seen as a kind of mid-position between full legalisation and prohibition, but now is recognised as an endpoint in its own right because of its success. The black market for cannabis has decreased in areas where these clubs exist. We have also done research that shows that levels of use don’t increase when CSCs are established. The clubs analyses the cannabis before they give it to the users – they check for fungus, heavy metals, etc. – so they help protect health. Other substances aren’t being offered at CSCs, unlike on the illicit market, where dealers may offer you more dangerous substances. The clubs provide legal advice to users. We think this model is an effective alternative to the black market, where the risks are far higher.

Mafalda Pardal, Ghent University: First CSC in Belgium was established in 2006. There is a great deal of legal uncertainty about the clubs. Some clubs have been prosecuted. The Belgian clubs’ model is similar to the model of clubs found in Spain. There are about 5 CSCs in Belgium – but this is changing, as new ones spring up when others close. It is not clear whether the clubs are compatible with current legislation.

Ramón Morcillo: Spain’s CSCs emerged in the 1990s. The clubs are closed to non-members; members must be 18. There is great legal uncertainty over the clubs. We have little information from central government. CSCs try to control cannabis distribution. Most representatives in parliament are pro-CSCs. We think that the CSC model is about harm reduction, not commercial profit.

Farid Ghehiouèche, Chanvre et Libertés: The CSC model works. It can be seen as an emergency response from the users of cannabis, in the absence of any better protection of their health and safety.

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