American lawyer in BarcelonaI spent last weekend in Barcelona attending Spannabis. Our Barcelona lawyers constantly get inquiries from serious international businesspeople wanting to start a cannabis social club or some other sort of cannabis business in Spain. And with more than 200 medical marijuana social clubs in Barcelona alone, I wanted to go there to meet with key industry players to learn more about what is going on with marijuana in Catalonia’s capital city and in the rest of Spain.

Barcelona and medical marijuana felt to me like some combination of California, Oregon, and Washington seven years ago. Namely, it feels like an unregulated, quasi-commercial gray market chalk full of “collective” non-profits and rotating patient members, unclear laws and inconsistent enforcement of those laws. For a breakdown on the current medical marijuana laws in Spain and in Barcelona, go here. This unclear and pioneer atmosphere was also in full force at Spannabis, which was in many respects just like pretty much every other marijuana trade show/expo I’ve attended in the United States: light on serious education about marijuana laws and regulations and heavy on promoting marijuana consumption and on seeking to preserve the counter-culture. But with cannabis cups and consuming events dwindling in the U.S. from increasing state marijuana regulations, I would be remiss if I did not mention how the Spannabis fairgrounds managed to maintain a steady cloud of overhanging marijuana smoke from its more than 3,000 attendees who openly and consistently consumed despite the presence of law enforcement.

Spannabis had only a single panel on the legality and rules surrounding Barcelona’s (mostly medical) marijuana social clubs and the panelist gave little detail or explanation about the law that enables cannabis clubs to operate. That panel was made up of one criminal defense attorney telling attendees about the national and local government’s conflicting policy positions on health and law enforcement and the rights of individuals to consume cannabis for medical use. Needless to say, since our cannabis lawyers represent the business side, I didn’t this panel very helpful. More importantly, this panel served as just another indication that Barcelona and Spain as a whole have just not yet really “arrived” yet as destinations for those seeking to form and operate a cannabis business fully compliant with local (in this case Barcelona), provincial (Catalonia) and federal (Spain) laws. Fortunately, our Spain lawyers mostly focus on representing ancillary cannabis businesses and CBD businesses, along with the standard fare of helping foreign companies in all industries seeking to form a business in Spain and make a go of things there.

But as many in the industry there were quick and emphatic about telling me, the cannabis scene in Barcelona and in Spain is slowing maturing and slowing getting “more legal.” As we wrote just last week, the regional Parliament of Catalonia has proposed reforms in line with a 2014 initiative advocated by Regulacion Responsible in advance of the 2014 Spain national elections. The initiative’s aim was to create a framework for the national reform of cannabis laws to permit regions like Catalonia and cities like Barcelona to set their own cannabis policies. Though the 2016 legislative initiative stalled, it has recently reemerged and anticipation is building for a revised version of this bill that would mean increased regulation for legalized marijuana businesses on a regional basis. Given the inconsistent enforcement of current laws (within both Catalonia and Spain) and the lack of meaningful or comprehensive business regulations, such reforms cannot come soon enough to better protect and give more structure to those cultivating and distributing marijuana for and to patients. Patients would also benefit from such regulation as it would increase both transparency around the sourcing of cannabis products and cannabis quality assurance standards.

Even though marijuana social clubs in Spain exist in a risk-laden gray area, it’s clear that manufacturing and distributing CBD is a popular and, more importantly, legal practice in Spain and Barcelona (in contrast to the United States). Indeed, the majority of booths on the exhibitor floor at Spannabis focused on hemp seeds (there was even a company there from Humboldt County) and CBD-based products. Manufacturing and distributing cannabis paraphernalia or equipment used for consuming, cultivating or handling are also legal and ancillary companies are alive and well in Barcelona, just like in most of the U.S. This is why foreign investors looking at Spain are mostly focusing on financing, starting, managing or assisting ancillary companies and not so much on marijuana social clubs, all of which are non-profit because of existing laws prohibiting commercial “trafficking.” The Arcview Group (well-known for angel investments in ancillary marijuana businesses) held an investor meeting in Barcelona for the first time last week.

Barcelona’s medical marijuana marketplace remains immature and risky (these were the words used by many of those with whom I spoke while I was in Spain), but it no doubt has tremendous potential. Once local governments in Spain are given the freedom (and they might soon) to take the reigns on cannabis regulation and to create a better business atmosphere for cultivators, manufacturers, and distributors, Barcelona will no doubt quickly become a major marijuana city in terms of popularity, investment, and access. The lawyers in our Barcelona office can hardly wait.

American lawyer in BarcelonaAs we have written previously (See Marijuana in Spain: Our on the Ground Report), the Catalonia region of Spain — particularly its flagship city of Barcelona, home of our Spanish outpost — is a major European cannabis hub. Despite this, the laws in Spain and in Catalonia and in Barcelona are complicated and their enforcement is uneven, and all of this makes for difficulties and risks for cannabis businesses and even ancillary companies there.

The following should give you a quick “lay of the land” regarding cannabis in Spain:

  • Spain has emerged as a prominent center for cannabis culture in Europe
  • Barcelona is home to 200-plus private cannabis clubs
  • The Spanish government is not terribly interested in enforcing its national cannabis laws, especially in Catalonia
  • Cities in Catalonia have already taken steps towards sanctioning cannabis legalization, despite foot-dragging on the regional and national levels

In 2016, the regional Parliament of Catalonia proposed reforms in line with a 2014 initiative advocated by the Rosa La Verda platform in advance of the 2014 elections. The initiative’s aim was to create a framework for national reform of cannabis laws to permit regions like Catalonia and cities like Barcelona to set their own cannabis policies.

Though the 2016 legislative initiative stalled, our Barcelona attorneys report that this issue has recently reemerged and anticipation is building for a revised version of the bill.

So, what are the key points of the earlier legislation as proposed in 2016? The aim of the 2014 effort was to advocate for reforms to allow adults in Spain age 21 and over to safely and legally obtain and consume marijuana. How has the legislative rules proposal manifested in the most recent legislation?

  • The proposal would define what a cannabis association is under the law.
  • The proposal would set standards requiring the business to disclose the chemicals used on cannabis products.
  • The proposal would obligate the supply chain to document the cultivation of cannabis distribution to consumers.

It remains to be seen how – and to what extent – these policy goals will take form in new legislation. It is also uncertain whether such legislation would actually pass, and how its success or failure might interact with other regional and local action on the issue.

Nonetheless, Catalonia, Spain – and Barcelona in particular – are certain to remain at the forefront of cannabis reform and reform-minded culture both in Spain and in the Europe. The success of progressive cannabis policy in the Spanish government would undoubtedly accelerate cannabis reform in Europe and beyond.

Stay tuned as we keep you updated with the latest developments in Spain’s cannabis reform efforts.

Barcelona lawyersOur Barcelona lawyers have lately been receiving a steady stream of calls about producing and distributing cannabidiol-based products around the world, from Spain. Cannabidiol  (CBD) is a compound found in cannabis but unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound in cannabis that gives users a high, CBD is non-psychoactive. Studies suggest CBD can be effective in treating epilepsy and other neuropsychiatric disorders including anxiety and schizophrenia. CBD may also be effective in treating post-traumatic stress disorder and may have anxiolytic, antipsychotic, antiemetic and anti-inflammatory properties. With so many potential benefits, it should come as no surprise that our Barcelona attorneys are so often asked about the legality of CBD oil in the European Union?” In short, it depends on what part of the cannabis plant from which the CBD oil was derived.

CBD can be extracted from marijuana plants (cannabis sativa) or from industrial hemp plants. Both are cannabis varieties but grown for a different purpose and with a different “legal personality” reflecting the legal status of extracted CBD oil in the EU. Hemp has been cultivated throughout the world for industrial and medical purposes, and for the production of useful objects such as clothing, candles, paper, and thousands of other products. Hemp oil and hemp seeds also contain many essential nutrients. In Europe and in Spain, hemp must be grown under EU regulations. Industrial hemp must contain no more than 0.2% THC on a dry weight basis. If the EU criteria are met, then a hemp producer may obtain EU certification for the product. Failure to follow protocol can lead to trouble. Local Spanish farmers producing hemp are right now facing criminal charges for crimes against public health for having not fulfilled current regulations in production. This adds uncertainty for foreign investors in finding the right provider of raw material. Medical marijuana contains high levels of THC, concentrated mainly in flowers and trichromes of the plant.

Those wishing to import CBD based products into Spain face labeling requirements. The number of CBD products available on the Spanish market has increased but most consumers are unaware of the exact amount of CBD they should take, or do not know the exact composition of the CBD oil or tincture they are buying. Clear labeling is essential when distributing CBD in Spain. A product’s label should describe the exact concentration of CBD as an active ingredient, the content of the solution, the specified amounts of each ingredient, the manufacturing method used, and the instructions for use and dosage. The label should also refer to a website with more detailed information.

Uncertainty also comes from a recent change in US law. Previously, the legal status of CBD products in the US also turned on the part of the cannabis plant from which the product was extracted. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration recently promulgated a rule creating a new “Controlled Substances Code Number” for “Marihuana Extracts” and extends that classification to extracts “containing one or more cannabinoids from any plant of the genus Cannabis.” CBD is a cannabinoid and hemp is a plant of the genus Cannabis so the rule explicitly applies to CBD products sold in the US. Though we vehemently dislike this new rule, it does mean that companies should not distribute CBD products in the US unless they are doing so pursuant to state law in a state where marijuana is legal in some form.

The Spanish market has an appetite for CBD dietary supplements that is not being met by the many other plant-based dietary products being launched and accepted by the Spanish public. The opportunities for CBD products are clearly there in both the EU and in Spain, but this is a complicated legal arena that calls for caution.

Spain Cannabis LawyerIn Marijuana in Spain: Our on the Ground Report, I wrote how Spain is one of (if not THE) the most marijuana-friendly countries in Europe. We have more than 800 private cannabis clubs here, most of which are concentrated in the northern autonomous regions of Catalonia (where I am based) and the Basque Country. In Barcelona alone, Catalonia’s capitol city and where I am located, we have more than 200 cannabis clubs. The regional governments of Catalonia and the Basque Country generally tolerate the existence of such clubs, and cities including Barcelona and Bilbao have taken steps towards sanctioning legal cannabis.

But Spain’s national laws are not so permissive as the central government does not want to allow autonomous regions to enact regulations invading its legislative powers. This limits the capacity of an autonomous region such as Catalonia to enact cannabis laws contradicting a law enacted by the central government.

On the national level, Spanish law currently permits private cannabis consumption and cultivation for personal use, but prohibits selling or cultivating marijuana for the purpose of “trafficking.” Private cannabis clubs are ostensibly allowed because they charge a membership fee but do not directly sell marijuana to their members or to the public. That, however, has not stopped authorities from arresting club operators with large scale cultivation operations who were deemed to be “trafficking.”  Spain’s fuzzy legal framework and the conflict between its national and local policies has created significant legal uncertainty for the cannabis community and has inspired a movement towards legislative reform.

To this end, advocates for change to Spain’s marijuana laws united under the banner of the Responsible Regulation platform in 2014. Made up of multiple Spanish political parties and interest groups, this coalition advocates for reforms that would allow adults 21 years and older to obtain and consume cannabis safely and legally. Unfortunately, efforts have stalled due to the governing party being hostile to such regulation, and deep political gridlock that has persisted in Spain for nearly a year. Spain’s 2015 general elections failed to produce a majority sufficient to form a coalition government. There was still no final outcome even many months later and after a second round of elections in June 2016, and many feared a third round of elections would be necessary in December of this year to end the electoral impasse.

In the meantime Spain was ruled by acting President Mariano Rajoy of the center-right People’s Party. Both Rajoy (who was initially sworn in as Prime Minister in 2011) and his party oppose progressive marijuana reforms. Indeterminate election results in 2016 caused much confusion and brought into play the potential of a third round of elections. An October poll showed that an alliance with the pro-cannabis reform Ciudadanos party was the easiest way for the People’s Party to obtain the votes needed to form a coalition government in the third round. Contemporary reports predicted the Socialists party (PSOE) would preemptively throw its support behind the People’s Party to keep its seat at the table in the Spanish Parliament. PSOE does not advocate marijuana legalization but it does at least support reopening debate on the issue. Either party’s increased political clout could have created an opening for the Responsible Regulation platform to make headway or at least prevent national encroachment on regional progress.

Eventually, however, PSOE stood down and allowed Rajoy to form a governing coalition. On October 29, Rajoy became President.

It remains to be seen what ultimate impact this new political panorama will have on the autonomous regions, their political and regulatory aspirations, and the future of cannabis in Spain. We remain optimistic about the potential of the Catalonia and Basque cannabis markets and we will bring you any further cannabis updates as they develop.

Spain Cannabis LawyerEn Marihuana en España: Desde el Lugar de los Hechos, escribí cómo España es uno de los países (si no EL país) más permisivo con el consumo de marihuana en Europa. Tenemos más de 800 clubes privados de cannabis aquí, la mayoría de los cuales se concentran en las regiones autónomas del norte de Cataluña (donde estoy yo) y el País Vasco. Solo en Barcelona, en la capital de Cataluña y donde estoy ubicada, contamos con más de 200 clubes de cannabis. Los gobiernos  autonómicos de Cataluña y País Vasco generalmente toleran la existencia de estos clubes y ciudades como Barcelona y Bilbao han dado pasos hacia la sanción del cannabis legal.

Pero las leyes nacionales de España no son tan permisivas y, además, hay que tener en cuenta que el gobierno central no permitiría que una autonomía regule invadiendo sus competencias,  lo cual podría limitar, por ejemplo, la capacidad de una autonomía como Cataluña para adoptar leyes de cannabis que fueran en contra de una Ley que emane del gobierno central o bien en caso de invadir sus competencias.

A nivel nacional, la legislación española actualmente permite el consumo privado de cannabis y el cultivo para uso personal, pero prohíbe vender o cultivar marihuana con el propósito de “traficar”. Los clubes privados de cannabis están teóricamente permitidos  porque cobran una cuota de membresía,  pero no venden directamente Marihuana a sus miembros o al público. Sin embargo, esto no ha impedido que las autoridades arresten a los operadores de clubes con operaciones de cultivo a gran escala que se consideran “tráfico”. El difuso marco jurídico existente en España y el conflicto entre sus políticas nacionales y locales (autonómicas) han creado una incertidumbre significativa para la comunidad de cannabis y ha inspirado un movimiento hacia la reforma legislativa.

Para ello, los defensores del cambio de las leyes de marihuana en España se unieron en la plataforma de Regulación Responsable en 2014. Compuesta por múltiples partidos políticos y grupos de interés españoles, esta coalición aboga por reformas que permitan a los mayores de 21 años obtener y consumir cannabis de forma segura y legal. Desafortunadamente, los esfuerzos se han estancado debido al partido en el gobierno hostil a dicha regulación y a un profundo embotellamiento político que ha persistido en España durante casi un año. Las elecciones generales de 2015 en España no lograron una mayoría suficiente para formar un gobierno de coalición. Sin un resultado final muchos meses después y abocados a una segunda ronda de elecciones en junio 2016, muchos temían que una tercera ronda de elecciones fuera necesaria en diciembre de este año para poner fin al impasse electoral.

Mientras tanto, España ha sido  gobernada por el Presidente en funciones, Mariano Rajoy, del Partido Popular, (centro-derecha). Mariano Rajoy (quien inicialmente fue juramentado como primer ministro en 2011) y su partido se oponen a las reformas progresivas de la legislación sobre marihuana. Los resultados electorales indeterminados en 2016 causaron mucha confusión y pusieron en juego el potencial de una tercera ronda de elecciones. Un sondeo realizado en octubre de este año mostró que una alianza con el partido Ciudadanos, partidario de una reforma pro-cannabis, sería el camino más fácil para que el Partido Popular obtuviera los votos necesarios para formar un gobierno de coalición en la tercera ronda. Informes preveían que el Partido Socialista (PSOE), apoyaría al Partido Popular para evitar unas terceras elecciones. El PSOE es un partido político que no aboga por la legalización de la marihuana, pero al menos apoya la reapertura del debate sobre el tema. El aumento de la influencia política de cualquiera de los partidos podría haber creado una apertura para que la plataforma de Regulación Responsable progresara o al menos impidiera la invasión nacional al progreso a nivel regional.

Sin embargo, al final el PSOE se abstuvo y permitió que Rajoy formara una coalición de gobierno. El 29 de octubre, Rajoy se convirtió en Presidente.

Queda por ver qué impacto final tendrá este nuevo panorama político en las autonomías, sus aspiraciones políticas y regulatorias, el futuro del cannabis en España. Seguimos siendo optimistas sobre la potencialidad de los mercados del Cannabis  en Cataluña y en el País Vasco, dentro de un futuro marco legal que abra nuevas perspectivas en su uso. Publicaremos aquí más actualizaciones a medida que se desarrollen.

NOTE: If you wish to read this same post in English, go here.

 

España + Cannabis = Spannabis.

La 13ª edición de Spannabis, la feria más grande de Europa del cáñamo, cannabis y de las Tecnologías Alternativas, se celebró recién en Barcelona. Spannabis no sólo es la feria más consolidada del sector del cannabis en Europea y la más importante a nivel de negocio; también es uno de los eventos más importantes para los consumidores de cannabis en Europa, y ha traído a la cuidad las últimas novedades del sector.

Aquel fin de semana, Cornella, un barrio a las afueras de Barcelona, ​​fue un ir y venir de consumidores de cannabis, con ropa con motivos jamaicanos, rastas y una nube perpetua de humo de marihuana tras de sí. Pero también atendieron activistas, científicos e incluso abogados (como yo) que ofrecen asesoramiento jurídico a las asociaciones de cannabis. El programa incluyo actuaciones musicales, así como la entrega de los Premios Spannabis 2016 para premiar el mejor stand, el mejor banco de semillas, el mejor nutriente, el mejor producto de parafernalia, el mejor producto de cáñamo y el mejor utensilio de cultivo.

Al entrar en el recinto de la feria, sorprendió algo la enorme cantidad de asistentes a Spannabis que estaban fumando cannabis en absolutamente cualquier lugar de la feria. Fumar dentro de edificios públicos está prohibido en España y fumar marihuana en vía pública (es decir, al aire libre) es ilegal. Sin embargo, en Spannabis se fumaba marihuana en lugares muy públicos e incluso cerrados. La policía local estaba afuera, observando el evento, sin que hubiera incidentes por lo que yo sé. Parece otra vez que a pesar de la ilegalidad de consumir en la vía pública, el consumo de cannabis puede pasar desapercibido por la policía. No es de todo correcto; al que detienen por la calle le esperan multas altas. Pero se sabe que en el marco de un festival como éste, uno corre poco riesgo de ser multado por el consumo o tenencia de estupefacientes en vía pública.

La feria recibió más de 30.000 visitantes y se acreditaron unos 3.000 profesionales, con más de 300 medias de comunicación nacionales e internacionales y más de 500 empresas representadas en 200 stands. En los stands, muestras de filtros de cerámica, pipas, controladores de temperatura y humedad, ropa orgánica y más – cualquier cosa que un consumidor de cannabis podría desear. También se ofrecieron semillas de todo tipo y fertilizantes orgánicos, la mayoría de bancos de semillas holandeses.

Este año, se han consolidado las World Cannabis Conferences que han celebrado su tercera edición. Una de las novedades de este año fue la primera reunión de Mujeres Cannábicas, ONG que se había fundado unos días antes. Durante dos días, se reunieron los principales representantes a nivel nacional e internacional del sector. Se habló mucho de la regulación de la marihuana desde una perspectiva internacional; analizando en profundidad el potencial y la viabilidad de la normalización en los distintos países.

Temas de interés que se hablaron tanto en el escenario como entre los participantes eran los cultivos, la tenencia y el consumo de marihuana (sobre todo en España, pero también en Alemania e Inglaterra y Francia), y las últimas sentencias del Tribunal Supremo español por las que se cerraron varios clubes de cannabis a finales de 2015. El tribunal dictaminó que las actividades de los clubes estaban convirtiéndose en actividades comerciales y ya no podrían considerarse consumo privado. En estos momentos, hay una diferenciación delicada en España entre ser considerado un club privado (con número limitado de miembros, un control significativo del consumo, todas las licencias completas, etc.) y ser considerado una actividad empresarial.

Muchos también estaban hablando de las elecciones de España y de la forma en que podrían afectar la regulación del cannabis. Pocos estaban dispuestos a hacer predicciones.

La 13ª edición de Spannabis ha sido todo un éxito como demuestran los números de asistentes.  En general, parece que había muchos más extranjeros (principalmente de Europa, Australia y América del Norte y del Sur) que nunca antes, la mayoría de los cuales habían venido para explorar posibilidades de inversión en Europa o de expansión de sus negocios existentes hacía aquí.

Hay que esperar con paciencia la próxima edición del año que viene.

Spain Cannabis lawyersThe thirteenth edition of Spannabis, Europe’s largest hemp, cannabis and “alternative technologies” event was recently held in Barcelona. Spannabis is not only the European cannabis industry’s most established trade fair; it is also one of the most important events for cannabis users in Europe, bringing the sector’s latest developments to the community.

This past weekend Cornella, a suburb just outside of Barcelona, was the venue for cannabis consumers with Jamaican shirts, dreadlocks and a perpetual cloud of pot smoke in tow. Also present were activists, scientists and even attorneys (like me) offering legal advice to cannabis associations. The program included musical performances as well as the Spannabis 2016 Awards for Best Seed Bank, Best Nourishing, Best Hemp Product, Best Product of Paraphernalia, Best utensil crop and Best Stand.

Upon entering the fairgrounds, I was somewhat surprised by the massive number of Spannabis attendees smoking cannabis anywhere they pleased. Smoking inside public buildings is forbidden in Spain and smoking marijuana in public places (outside) is illegal. Yet many were smoking pot in very public places and even smoking indoors. So much for law enforcement in Spain. The local police were standing outside and observing the event, with no incidents as far as I know. Apparently, in the framework of a festival like this, there is little risk of being fined for open consumption or possession of drugs.

The fair had more than 30,000 visitors and hosted about 3,000 professionals, with more than 300 national and international media companies and more than 500 companies represented in about 200 stands. At the stands, companies displayed seeds of all kinds, ceramic filters, pipes, temperature and humidity controllers, organic clothing and more —anything a cannabis consumer could want. Also offered were seeds of all kinds (mostly from Dutch seed banks) and organic fertilizer.

This year’s fair was combined with the third annual World Cannabis Conference. A new feature was the first meeting of Mujeres Cannábicas (Cannabis Women) a newly founded lobbying association. For two days, major industry representatives on both a national (Spain) and international level spoke. The speakers approached marijuana regulation from an international perspective, focusing in large part on legalization’s potential and on its feasibility in various countries.

Much was discussed both on stage and among the participants regarding cultivation, possession and consumption of marijuana (mostly in Spain, but also some about Germany and England and France), and the  latest Spanish Supreme Court rulings closing several cannabis clubs at the end of 2015. The court ruled that the clubs’ activities were becoming business activities and could no longer be considered private consumption. There is a fine line right now in Spain between being considered a private club (with limited membership, significant control of consumption, full licensing, etc.) and being considered a business activity.

Many were also talking about Spain’s elections and how that might impact cannabis here. Few were willing to make any bold predictions.

The thirteenth annual Spannabis once again exceeded past events in terms of attendees and everyone seemed to think there were many more foreigners (predominately from elsewhere in Europe, Australia, and North and Latin America) than ever before as well, most of whom were here to explore investing in Europe or expanding their existing businesses here.

I can hardly wait till next year.

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Spain’s cannabis laws have progressively liberalized to the point where Spain is now one of the most cannabis-friendly countries in Europe. Spain is a relatively decentralized country, with independent communities having a great deal of autonomy. Consequently, each region can for the most part set its own laws regarding marijuana. Catalonia, where I am based, has actually become Spain’s center for cannabis. In fact, Barcelona, Catalonia’s capital city, has more than two hundred cannabis clubs, whereas Madrid has far fewer.

I expect the cannabis economy and culture in Spain will continue to grow and develop. Nearly ten percent of the people in Spain consumed marijuana in the past year and much of the country has an ideal climate for cultivating cannabis. In addition to the many private cannabis clubs that have emerged here in Barcelona, it is not at all uncommon to see (or smell) cannabis being smoked in public on the streets or in the bars and clubs in many Spanish cities. Despite the illegality of consuming in public places, in many of Spain’s cities the police generally overlook public cannabis consumption and have made it a low enforcement priority. It is a rare Friday or Saturday night when I don’t smell cannabis somewhere in Barcelona.

In addition to the abundant marijuana crop produced nationwide, a significant amount of hashish comes into Spain from Morocco. In its annual report of 2015, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) of the United Nations noted that Spain is one of the main entry points for cannabis produced in Morocco.

Cannabis cultivation in Spain is actually subject to criminal penalties if done with the purpose of “trafficking” but small-scale cannabis cultivation in Spain rarely results in legal problems. However, larger grows are sometimes raided if there are indications the plantings have a commercial purpose. In contrast, growing marijuana for personal consumption is excluded from criminal prosecution. Perhaps most importantly, Spain’s Criminal Code prohibits the sale of marijuana, but it does not prohibit its consumption (hence the private consumer clubs). Selling cannabis seeds, cultivating cannabis for personal consumption, and consuming marijuana in private are all legal. Manufacturing and distributing cannabis paraphernalia or equipment used for consuming, cultivating or handling are also legal. Spain, and especially Barcelona, have many grow shops selling these ancillary goods.

During Spain’s 2015 general elections, some of the political parties declared their intention to legalize marijuana so as to control consumption and to eliminate or at least greatly reduce the illegal market. The political discussions have centered around increasing regulation so as to make more consumption “responsible,” by among other things, setting 21 as the minimum age for consumption and requiring more information about consumption. Many in Spain have already reached out to us for information and for our opinions on how the various states in the United States have handled their legalization.

One of the distinctive characteristics of cannabis in Spain is its cannabis clubs or associations, of which Spain has more than 800. A Spain Supreme Court decision essentially legalized these associations, and they are now pretty much everywhere — particularly in Catalonia and in the Basque Country. The idea is that consumption within these associations is “responsible” because the association controls the consumption and the age of its members. Nearly all of these associations set a minimum age for their members, restrict on-site consumption amounts, and require all consumption occur on association’s property. A notable difference from the U.S. is that Spain’s laws do not distinguish between recreational and medicinal use. Still, more people in Spain favor legalizing medical cannabis over recreational marijuana, and Spain’s criminal courts generally treat medical defendants more leniently than recreational defendants. For now though, people needing medicinal cannabis mostly go to cannabis clubs to obtain and use their medicine. Doctors in Spain are not allowed to prescribe cannabis to their patients, which is why patients who choose this route must join associations or seek out the illegal market.

These clubs got their start in Spain way back in 1993, when the pro-legalization group Asociación Ramón Santos de Estudios Sobre el Cannabis (based in Barcelona, of course) petitioned Barcelona’s drug prosecutor to confirm the legality of cannabis cultivation for consumption purposes by a collective of adults. The prosecutor opined that “collectives” are not illegal, and the group then began cultivating cannabis, oftentimes in front of the national media. Despite the prosecutor’s opinion, the police seized the group’s initial harvest and detained its members. A Court of Appeals acquitted those members but two years later, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled that though the cannabis the group produced was not intended for commercial purposes, cannabis cultivation by the collective was “undesirable” and should be penalized accordingly.

Other groups soon emerged to challenge this ruling and in 1997, Kalmudia Association, in Bilbao, successfully completed a marijuana harvest without facing any legal obstacles. In 2000, after completing three harvests without incident, the clubs began looking for a legal framework for their activities. Spain’s first cannabis social club, the Club de Catadores de Cannabis de Barcelona, was founded in 2001. From 2001 to 2003, Spain’s Supreme Court issued a number of rulings establishing that possession of even large amounts of cannabis was not a criminal offense unless there was an intent to traffic or sell the cannabis for profit. These Supreme Court rulings ultimately paved the way for Spain’s cannabis clubs.

On March 11, 12 and 13, Barcelona will for the thirteenth time be hosting Spannabis and along with that, the World Cannabis Conference. I will be attending both events and I hope to see you there.

NOTE: Nadja Vietz joined our firm back in 2005 practicing out of our Seattle office. At the beginning of this month, Nadja opened our Barcelona office, to enable us to better provide Spain and EU law services to our clients. Nadja is a licensed lawyer in Spain, Germany and the United States (Washington State) and she is fluent in English, Spanish, German, and French and she also speaks Catalan and Russian. With all that has been going on with cannabis in Europe and with our having just opened an office there, we will be covering Europe more and more here on the blog, with a particular focus on Spain.

Nadja also wrote this post in Spanish here.

Barcelona_9_2013

En España, las leyes relativas al cannabis se han ido flexibilizando progresivamente hasta el punto de que España es ahora uno de los países más liberales respecto al cannabis en Europa. España es un estado relativamente descentralizado, y las comunidades autónomas tienen un alto grado de autonomía. En consecuencia, cada región puede establecer sus propias políticas y regulaciones, y tomar sus propias medidas, con respecto a la marihuana. Cataluña, donde estoy yo, en realidad se ha convertido en el centro de España para el cannabis. De hecho, Barcelona, capital de Cataluña, cuenta con más de doscientos clubs de cannabis, mientras que en Madrid, los clubs son menos numerosos.

La industria y la cultura del cannabis en España va a seguir en expansión y desarrollándose. Casi el 10% de la población española consumió marihuana en el último año, y en gran parte de España, el clima resulta perfecto para cultivar cannabis. Además de en los numerosos clubs de cannabis privados que han surgido aquí en Barcelona, se suele ver (y oler) cannabis que se fuma en público, en las plazas y fuera de los bares y discotecas, en muchas ciudades españolas. A pesar de la ilegalidad de consumir en la vía pública, en muchas ciudades de España, este tipo de consumo de cannabis suele pasar desapercibido por la policía. Sería un viernes o sábado atípico si pasaras por las calles del centro de Barcelona y no hubiera olor a cannabis en algún lugar.

Además del abundante cultivo que se produce a nivel nacional, se trafica una importante cantidad de hachís desde Marruecos. En su informe anual del año 2015, la Junta Internacional de Fiscalización de Estupefacientes (JIFE) de la ONU ha destacado que España es uno de los principales puntos de entrada del cannabis producido en Marruecos.

En realidad, en España el cultivo de cannabis es una actividad que únicamente puede ser sancionada a nivel penal si se lleva a cabo con el  fin y ánimo de traficar, quedando excluido así el cultivo de  marihuana para el autoconsumo y en pequeña escala que no suele presentar problemas de cara a la ley. Sin embargo, incluso los cultivadores privados que crecen más cantidades pueden llegar a sufrir redadas, si hay indicios de que su plantación tiene algún fin comercial. Por el contrario, el cultivo de marihuana para el autoconsumo no está sancionada a nivel personal. Lo más importante, el Código Penal prohíbe la venta pero no prohíbe el consumo de cannabis (de ahí nacen los clubs privado de consumo). De este modo, es legal la venta de semillas y también el cultivo de cannabis para consumo personal y el consumo de marihuana en lugares privados. También es legal la fabricación y distribución de cannabis parafernalia o maquinaria para el consumo, el cultivo o la manipulación. En España, y particularmente en Barcelona, existen GrowShops que son tiendas de distribución al detalle de estos productos.

Durante las elecciones generales de España a finales de 2015, algunos de los partidos políticos abrieron la polémica al declarar su intención de legalizar la marihuana con el fin de controlar el consumo y para eliminar o al menos reducir en gran medida el mercado ilegal. Las discusiones políticas se han centrado en conseguir una regulación más restringida mediante, entre otras cosas, el establecimiento de 21 años como edad mínima para el consumo y una mayor información sobre el consumo del cannabis y, por consiguiente, un consumo responsable y moderado. Nos han llegado ya varias consultas desde España para obtener información y nuestra opinión sobre cómo los diferentes estados de los Estados Unidos han manejado su legalización.

Una de las características distintivas del mundo de cannabis en España son sus clubs o asociaciones de cannabis. Actualmente existen en España unos 800 que se basan en la jurisprudencia del Tribunal Supremo relativa al consumo compartido, sobre todo en Cataluña y en el País Vasco. La idea es que dentro de estas organizaciones el consumo es “responsable”, ya la asociación realiza un control estricto del consumo y de la edad de cada socio. Existen ciertos criterios que deben cumplir de forma general las asociaciones, como la edad mínima de socios, la cantidad de droga a consumir, y que el consumo se produzca en un lugar cerrado en las instalaciones del club. Otra diferencia notable entre los EE.UU. y España es que aquí la ley no distingue entre marihuana terapéutica y marihuana recreativa. Sin embargo, este último está siendo cada vez más tolerado, y varias decisiones penales  muestran que esta distinción está siendo cada vez más valorada desde el punto de vista judicial, ya sea a la hora de dictar una sentencia o imponer alguna sanción. Pero por ahora, las personas con enfermedades tienen que ir a los clubes de cannabis para obtener y utilizar la marihuana. No está permitido que ningún médico recete una dosis de cannabis a sus pacientes, motivo por el cual los enfermos que optan por esta vía, deben acudir a asociaciones de marihuana o al mercado negro.

Los clubs de fumadores se iniciaron en España por el año 1993, cuando el grupo pro-legalización Asociación Ramón Santos de Estudios Sobre el Cannabis (ARSEC) (con sede en Barcelona, por supuesto), abrió un nuevo camino al dirigirse por escrito al fiscal antidrogas para preguntarle por la legalidad del cultivo de cannabis para el consumo de un colectivo de miembros adultos. La respuesta de la fiscalía afirmaba que el concepto no era ilegal, en principio, por lo que el grupo se embarcó en un experimento de cultivo, que fue difundido por los medios de comunicación. A pesar de la opinión muy favorable de la fiscalía, la cosecha fue incautada por la policía y los miembros del grupo fueron detenidos. Más tarde fueron absueltos por la Audiencia Provincial pero dos años después, el Tribunal Supremo dictaminó que si bien el cannabis no estaba destinado a fines comerciales, el cultivo de cannabis por parte de los colectivos era indeseable y debería ser penalizado.

Sin embargo, enseguida surgieron otros colectivos que impugnaron la sentencia, y la asociación Kalmudia, de Bilbao, fue la primera en 1997 en completar con éxito una cosecha sin enfrentarse a ningún obstáculo legal. En 2000, después de completar tres cosechas sin incidentes, los colectivos comenzaron a buscar un marco legal para sus actividades. El primer club social de cannabis en España, el Club de Catadores de Cannabis de Barcelona (CCCB), se fundó en 2001. Entre 2001 y 2003, el Tribunal Supremo aprobó una serie de resoluciones que establecían que la posesión de, incluso, grandes cantidades de cannabis no era un delito penal si no podía establecerse que existiera la intención de tráfico o venta con fines lucrativos. Estas resoluciones históricas prepararon el camino para la explosión de los clubs de cannabis.

Barcelona se convertirá el próximo 11, 12 y 13 de marzo en la capital mundial del cannabis con motivo de la 13ª edición de Spannabis y la tercera edición de las World Cannabis Conferences. Voy a asistir a ambos eventos y espero verte allí.

Nota: Nadja Vietz se incorporó en nuestro bufete en el año 2005, y estuvo ejerciendo desde la oficina en Seattle. A principios de este mes, Nadja estableció nueva oficina de Harris Bricken en Barcelona, que nos permitirá ofrecer mejor asesoramiento legal en derecho español y europeo a nuestros clientes. Nadja, licenciada en Derecho y colegiada en Alemania, España y el estado de Washington, EEUU, dirigirá dicha oficina. Ella habla fluidamente inglés, español, alemán y francés y entiende el catalán y el ruso. Con todo lo que ha estado ocurriendo con el cannabis en Europa y con la recién apertura de nuestra oficina allí, estaremos cubriendo Europa cada vez más aquí en el blog, con un enfoque particular en España.

Nadja también escribió esto en Inglés y que el artículo se puede encontrar aquí.