Two days before his appearance at the House of Lords for the Drug Policy Reform, Martin Barriuso, the President of the FAC ( Federation of Cannabis Associations) and Pannagh association was detained in Bilbao (Spain) accused of drug trafficking. His detention was part of a broader operation targeting other cannabis associations of less transparent character.
Barriuso is one of the most prominent proponent of the CSC (Social Clubs for the Cultivation of Cannabis), whose objective is guaranteeing the rights of cannabis users, whether they consume for therapeutic or recreational use. They define themselves as a social movement which reacts against the current prohibitionist approach against drug use to act as a real alternative to the black market.
The CSCs are constituted of associations covered by the Spanish register of associations. Their activities are designed to promote self-grow and available legal advice to users to reduce the potential risks of cannabis consumption. The FAC clubs pay 18% corporate taxes and, since this autumn, have started to audit their production and report their locations to local police offices to promote the transparency of their activities.
These associations produce marijuana in a close circuit system under self regulation. Such normative procedures are subjected to a sentence of the Tribunal Supremo (Spanish High Court) in 2008 which covers collective consumption. Each year the members of the clubs register an estimate of the annual consumption which would be part of an overall limited production; if production exceeds this then it would be considered as trafficking.
All members of the CSCs must be over 18 years old, not suffer from any mental disabilities and be consumers of cannabis. Any activity related to the consumption or production of cannabis has to take place in a private space and cannot involve third parties.
In addition to collective consumption, over the last 6 years Police Officers have adopted a more tolerant attitude. The most symbolic case was in 2007 when the Bizkaia court of justice judged in favor of Pannagh, ordering the return of 150 kilos of marijuana decommissioned in 2005.
In spite of these considerations there is still exists a legal vacuum and contradictions in a legislation that penalises the use of cannabis with administrative and prison sentences. Furthermore, there are laws which penalise possession and consumption in public spaces. The absence of a law which restricts the activity of the associations and its compatibility with ‘Coscuera’s Law’, challenges the status of the CSC and its members.
After a week of protest and uncertainty, Barriuso has been released under a 15,000 Euros bail which would be funded by member’s and supporter’s donations. In declarations to the media, Barriuso denounced the vexatious treatment he was subjected to and insisted on the importance of the CSC as a social movement and as an alternative to the black market. However he was pessimistic about the future of the clubs, convinced that “there is no prospects of change”. “We are on the edge of the law, not against the law”.