Barcelona Orders Shutdown of 50 Cannabis Clubs
The following first appeared in Cannabis Now magazine:
There’s no doubt that the folks in Europe have been enjoying the perks of all the social cannabis clubs that have been steadily rising in popularity throughout the continent. Places like London, Paris and even Slovenia have found loopholes in the system that have allowed them to provide patrons with cannabis without facing legal consequences.
For the last few years cannabis collectives springing up in Spain have been drawing lots of international attention to the country. It’s been compared to Amsterdam as a haven for smokers even though the open sale of marijuana is still illegal. Barcelona, in particular, has been a hotbed for these cannabis social clubs and Catalan lawmakers have decided to step in to curb the rapid growth and end unregulated membership practices.
After inspecting 145 clubs, authorities supposedly found deficiencies that prompted Barcelona City Hall to issue an order to shut down 50 cannabis clubs, approximately one-third of the city’s total locations. Officials cited issues such as poor ventilation, illegally selling cannabis and attempting to attract non-members and tourists to join.
A recent report claims that a New York Times article discussing the country’s standing as a paradise for potheads may have triggered the changes. After the Spanish government caught wind of the article, a series of closures were ordered. Unclear regulations have also sparked intense public and political debates that have caused many to wonder if the rash of recent closures is an attempt to preserve Spain’s national image.
The Catalan Federation of Cannabis Associations released a statement addressing the sudden shift.
“We are aware that the administration does its job well and ensures the common good but this situation would be easier if, before it acts, it sets clear rules for all cannabis associations” it read.
Many clubs have begun pushing the boundaries of the gray areas surrounding the legality of their social club model. Some collectives have started allowing people to register online, encouraging tourists from around the world to pre-register for membership so that they can smoke as much as they want following their arrival. It’s also common for employees to hand out fliers for membership near and around their location.
Spain’s Ministry of Health has plans to draft clear requirements that will regulate operating hours, maximum number of members and appropriate locations as well as health, safety and sanitation concerns. Many advocates of these associations are hopeful this will help with confusion between clubs and authorities.
“Regulation was a necessity because we have been operating with a lot of legal insecurity and things were getting out of hand,” said Jaume Xaus, the spokesman for the Catalonia Federation of Cannabis Associations.