Barcelona cannabis clubs face closure in new legal setback

Barcelona’s 200 cannabis clubs face closure after the supreme court shut a legal loophole that has seen the city become Spain’s marijuana capital.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks for the asociaciónes, as they are popularly known. Nel 2017, the court overruled a law passed by the Catalan parliament which said “private consumption of cannabis by adults … is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience”.

Since then the clubs have operated under a Barcelona city bylaw that regulated their use, but this too has now been overturned, with the judges ruling that the city authorities were not competent to legislate on matters governed by the state.

“The majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close down,” said Eric Asensio, spokesman for the Federation of Catalan Cannabis Associations. Di 70% of Spain’s cannabis clubs are in Catalonia, the majority in Barcelona.

The city, which supports the associations’ quasi-legal status, has informed them that the latest ruling prohibits “the sale, consumption or promotion” of cannabis. It said it would soon be inspecting the clubs, “starting with the ones with the most negative impact and which are geared towards tourists and massive sales”.

Although in essence private members’ clubs, the associations have become the main point of sale to tourists, with a membership fee – generally around €10 (£8.50) – that often goes towards the first purchase.

The associations began as private clubs where members could buy and smoke cannabis on the premises. Negli ultimi anni, many have departed from this model to become outlets for the massive quantities of cannabis grown in Catalonia, often under the control of eastern European and other mafias.

tuttavia, the associations, city authorities and police all agree that the clubs reduce street dealing and consumption. The police say they are not opposed in principle to the clubs.

“Once again the judiciary is attacking the associations without taking into account the reality of Barcelona, a city that has co-existed with these entities for more than 30 anni,” the federation said in a statement.

“The Barcelona associations are a pioneering model in Europa, exported internationally, the application of new drugs policies that focus on the individual and their health.”

The federation has asked to be part of the working group the city council is setting up to seek a legislative solution.

“What’s needed is a legal framework that recognises the existing reality and to obtain the necessary regulatory mechanisms in collaboration with the public authorities, with a clear emphasis on public health,” Asensio told the Guardian.

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