|The Basque Country in Spain (yellow area on the map) is legalizing marijuana in 2012.|
As the U.S. federal government torques up its war on marijuana, parts of Europe are going in the other direction. The Socialist government of the Basque Country in Spain will approve a law in early 2012 which legalizes the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis, according to health authorities in the province.
The Basque government, led by Patxi Lopez, has decided it is better to regulate clubs where consumers will be able to use marijuana which will be produced and distributed by members of the club themselves, reports Typically Spanish.
Spanish drug laws currently distinguish between possession for personal use, and production or sale. Possession carries administrative fines, but production and sale currently can result in jail time.
Government officials said the new law would better explain the consequences of consumption to the public, and would create "a certain space for personal autonomy," adding that prohibition only leads to "clandestine action, delinquency and the black market."
"It is better to regulate than to ban," said Jesus Maria Fernandez, second in command at the region's health authority, reports the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD). Fernandez called marijuana use "a practice that is already consolidated."
"We do not want to be prohibitionists," agreed leading health official Rafael Bengoa, who said "technical and legal studies have been undertaken."
The Basque region already has many cannabis social clubs, which until now have been subject to occasional raids by the police.
According to Bengoa, the Basque regional government wants to "open a debate" with groups in favor of cannabis legalization and to "shape their rights."
Marijuana legalization is just one part of an overall bill on drug addiction, which also addresses treatment for gambling addictions (which reportedly affect two percent of the Basque population) and for "addiction to new technology" (of course we wouldn't know anything about that).
The news from Spain follows Switzerland's announcement that it will permit residents to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal consumption starting on January 1, 2012.
In much of Europe, cannabis has become so much a part of everyday life that almost nobody takes notice of its legal standing anymore, reports PR Canna Zine. The process now underway is one of laws and politicians finally catching up with the public.