Legislation Passed to Formally License Catalonia's Cannabis Clubs For First Time

The Catalonian government in Spain has passed a new set of guidelines to formally license cannabis social clubs (CSCs) for the first time in the autonomous region.

Under the new guidelines, published by the Catalonian Department of Health on January 29 in the Official Journal of the Catalonian Government (DOGC) and formally approved the same day by the legislature, cannabis clubs will have 17 points to follow in order to be officially licensed by local town councils. Among these are:

  • Members must be over 18 years of age.
  • Members must not belong to another cannabis clubs and must be "habitual" cannabis users.
  • In order to become a member, you must be recommended by an existing member.
  • Clubs can only operate for eight hours per day, closing no later than 10 p.m. from Sunday-Thursday and 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
  • Clubs cannot sell other drugs or alcohol.

According to 20 minutos, clubs must register with the municipal authorities under the new guidelines, with 200 already doing so. A further 150 clubs have applied to register. 

The Federation of Catalonian Cannabis Associations (CatFAC) welcomed the move for the legal clarifications it will now provide clubs, and praised the adaptability of the local government and its willingness to listen to social movements. However, CatFAC noted that this is just one step, adding that more can be done in terms of regulating cultivation and sale in order to better protect clubs and the health of users, reported Europa Press.

Oriol Casals of the Observatorio Civil de Drogas similarly praised the move, though criticized the government for not doing more, saying:

Parliament's resolution was for its regional government to regulate cannabis associations in order to provide the hundreds of [clubs] with some legal security. It is a shame that the government has instead chosen to pass the buck to the town councils with a series of recommendations for the licensing of cannabis clubs -- some of which appear to have very little to do with public health and others of which strike us as disproportionate and encroaching on the fundamental freedom of association. The recommendations that a citizen should only be allowed to join one cannabis association and that they must be a resident of Spain in order to do so both interfere with the constitutionally protected right to freedom of association.

There are currently around 400 cannabis clubs in Spain, the majority of which are in the northern Basque Country and Catalonia.

The first CSC opened in Barcelona in 2001 and clubs have since had to rely on a model of self regulation due to certain legal ambiguities surrounding their existence.

Last year, Barcelona ordered the closure of a third of the city's cannabis clubs and forbid the opening of new ones over fears that the city was becoming a tourist destination for marijuana users and that not enough was being done to monitor the age of people using clubs.

The new guidelines should ease tensions between local authorities and clubs in Catalonia and hopefully pave the way toward further progress on the issue.