The town council in a tiny village in Spain voted 4-3 last week to allow a nearby cannabis association to use city land to grow marijuana for its 5,000 members. Rasquera, which is near Barcelona, believes it can address its unemployment problem and replenish empty city coffers by leasing out its land for cannabis cultivation.
Town leaders of Rasquera, population 900, voted to sign a deal worth 1.3 million euros ($1.7 million) with the Barcelona Personal Use Cannabis Association (ABCDA), part of a growing movement of private marijuana clubs in Spain, reports Giles Tremlett at The Guardian.
In Spain, noncommercial organizations of cannabis users collectively cultivate and distribute enough marijuana to meet their personal needs without resorting to the black market. The mere consumption — as opposed to the sale — of marijuana isn’t considered a crime under Spanish law, so private clubs that produce cannabis for nonprofit distribution have existed for years.
The town will allow the association to plant seven hectares — just over 17 acres — in cannabis. ABCDA will pay the town 650,000 euros (about $858,000) a year for the right to grow its marijuana supply there.
“This is a chance to bring in money and create jobs,” said Mayor Bernat Pellisa of the Catalan Republican Left party. “We demand our sovereignty on this.”
But a Spanish government official with the National Drug Plan said such activities would violate the law and that prosecutors would intervene as soon as the first cannabis seed was planted, reports the Associated Press.
The National Drug Plan official said the project has “zero chance” of getting off the ground, reports Huffington Post.
Meanwhile, older residents clucked that the mayor was trying to turn Rasquera into a drug-buying destination.
|Mayor Bernat Pollisa: “This is a chance to bring in money and create jobs”|
ABCDA said the project would create 40 jobs in Rasquera, including workers to grow, harvest and package the marijuana. Mayor Pellisa said he expected the deal would allow Rasquera to pay off its debt of 1.3 million euros in two years.
The deal could turn Rasquera — where the traditional local produce has been olives, almonds, and goats — into one of the biggest legal cannabis suppliers in Europe.
While secondary schoolteacher Joan Farnos felt marijuana cultivation would make Rasquera “the laughing stock of Catalonia” and one elderly woman told journalists “It will lead our grandchildren to perdition,” other villagers saw the positive side — a chance to beat Spain’s 23 percent unemployment rate and its deep recession.
“I haven’t smoked since I did my military service, but I’d go and work planting marijuana because I haven’t had a job for two years,” local farm worker Mario Amoros told El Pais.
The idea, according to CBS, is for private citizens to lend land to town hall, which would then create a company to manage the land and lease it to the Barcelona marijuana group.
|European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies|
|Martin Barriuso, Basque Cannabis Federation: “Cannabis use is an established and increasingly accepted reality in our society”|
The mayor said he had gotten legal advice that the plan — part of a package of “anti-crisis” measures passed at a standing-room-only town hall meeting — did not break Spain’s complicated cannabis laws.
“Growing for oneself is not illegal, but this is a delicate issue,” explained attorney Oriol Casals.
“The produce will only go to members of the association and it won’t all be cannabis,” Pellisa said. “There will be crop rotation with cereal and sugar beet.”
“There are five or six other projects in the wings,” the mayor said. His plans include supplying cannabis seeds to Spain’s grow shops, which are allowed to sell them to people wishing to grow their own marijuana.
A second cannabis club — this one with 7,000 members — is reportedly in talks with Mayor Pellisa about a separate deal.
“Cannabis use is an established and increasingly accepted reality in our society,” said Martin Barriuso of the Basque Cannabis Federation. “Instead of turning our backs on this reality we think the reasonable thing to do is find a way to regulate it, encouraging responsible use and making it difficult for adolescents to obtain.”
Under Spanish law, personal possession of small amounts of marijuana is allowed. But growing it for sale, advertising, or selling it are all still illegal, one anti-drug official anonymously said.
According to NORML, the acquisition of cannabis is not an offense in Spain. However, if a judge decides that marijuana or cannabis products are possessed for trafficking, then the penalty can be from three to six years in prison.