All of Europe is straining under the crisis. Well... maybe not all of Europe. An idea developed by some indomitable friends of hemp friends is flying straight in the face of the crisis. The first cannabis social clubs were established more than 10 years ago in Spain and today, every medium or large Spanish city centre has one. Even in Belgium, a legal cannabis social club by the name of "Trekt uw Plant" is in operation and in Uruguay, where cannabis has been made legal once again, this type of club is able to manoeuvre operate freely.
In France, where drugs legislation has been antiquated for years, the branch of the cannabis social club movement that was brought to life by Dominic Broque Broc is receiving increasingly more attention from the media and is gaining more supporters.
Germany is characterised by associations and clubs
Nowhere else in the world are there so many clubs and associationsgroups that embody such diverse, and sometimes ludicrous, interests. Consider, for instance, the association to save the smock (Zusammenhang nur der Verein zur Rettung der Kleiderschürze), or the one to slow down time (Verein Zur Verlangsamung der Zeit).
In light of these two, why not have a cannabis social club? After all, there are an estimated four to six million cannabis users in Germany – far more than the wearers of flowery smocks or those carrying time-slowing devices.
The Dutch way
The idea of ‘social cultivation’ is so attractive because it excludes the thought of commercially exploiting the crop.
The tried and tested Dutch coffee shop model, on the other hand, is in grave danger, especially since the appointment of minister Ivo Opstelten, who has yet to find a solution to the balancing act between illegality, tolerance and commerce.
In contrast to paying a visit to a coffee shop, members of a cannabis cultivation association strive to achieve transparency and to fully separate their crops from the commercial trade. After all, the supply is always geared towards the association’s internal demand.
Production is limited to a pre-determined maximum and it is monitored very strictly; a model that is very reminiscent of the Eastern European planned economy, but with a twist. A model along these lines is less likely to be criticised for unlimited availability of the product.
As production is fully geared toward personal use, it is easier to reconcile with applicable international legislation and, very importantly, by collaborating with doctors and other experts, an association such as this can help to contribute towards preventing abuse.
Furthermore, minors are protected thanks to the minimum age requirement in effect under this model.
Legal clubs also offer those involved more legal certainty than, for instance, the policy of tolerating coffee shops does, and they are less subject to the political winds that blow when a new mayor is appointed or a new coalition is formed.
The Spanish model
To join most clubs in Spain, a member must be at least 21 years old, although some maintain a minimum age of 25 for new applicants.
In order to keep the association small and to suppress the temptations brought about by dreams of profit, most Spanish clubs limit the number of members and in doing so, the maximum amount of cannabis to be cultivated.
For this very reason, the size of the cannabis social clubs in Uruguay is limited to 99 members each. Furthermore, every aspiring member must be introduced by an existing member who will act as a guarantor for the newcomer, as it were.
Social Clubs for Spanish patients
Individuals suffering from chronic pain are admitted without an introduction, even after the maximum number of members has been reached. These individuals are only required to produce proof of their condition issued by a doctor.
Aspiring members are asked about the approximate amount of weed they smoke, eat or inhale in the course of a month. The individual monthly maximum amount varies from club to club and lies between 30g and 100g;, any more than that is not going to make many people happy.
The members decide collectively on the strains that will be cultivated and may purchase the end product at a reimbursement of expenses of €6.00 per gram on average. This amount covers the costs of sowing seed, electricity, fertiliser, the rent of the club building, the salaries of the professionals on both sides of the bar, as well asand a voluntarily paid tax.
Members are committed to the responsible use of cannabis, which is why they only allow it to be distributed by trained personnel. Their rule of thumb is that whoever requires more product than is allowed in the club’s charter either needs advice or counselling, and most associations are happy to provide it, too. After all, cannabis can be treacherous for those who don’t know when to stop.
The members elect a fixed group to cultivate the plants and ideally, the individuals appointed to this group already have some experience growing cannabis under artificial light. It’s not hard to calculate how much this team has to produce to meet the demand of 100 members who each use an average of 1g to 2g per day. When it is time to harvest the fruits of their labours, members can take on the role of voluntary pickers, which is something many do.
Cannabis social clubs in Germany — Are they even possible?
Now that the discussion surrounding cannabis has taken off in Germany too, the Deutsche Hanfverband (DHV) has published a handbook on the Internet. The handbook is intended for politicians and it has already been downloaded many times to serve as the foundation for a cannabis social club motion in municipal and district councils.
So far, many petitions have been submitted regarding cannabis social clubs and coffee shop pilot projects, and the DHV homepage provides detailed instructions and gives handy tips for starting a petition. There’s not much else that you can do with the prospect of four years of drugs legislation conservatism under the large social and Christian democrat coalition.
Fortunately, a cannabis social club or coffee shop pilot, such as the Kreuzberg district council in Berlin is advocating, is much more interesting than the rabbit breeding association committee elections, or the commission of a new community centre.
Free local papers are still read in the age of the Internet in almost every household and they spread our arguments to exactly where they need to be heard: to the people who don’t use cannabis and who are therefore satisfied with a general prohibition because they don’t quite realise that legalisation within strict child welfare legislation is also in their best interest.
There is still a great deal of work to be done, but the first click of a mouse is half the battle!