A bill announced on Monday 12th December 2011 should be presented to the autonomous Basque parliament early next year in order to legalize the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis to adults “responsibly”.
The Department of Health is studying the legal requirements for this very complex regulation which would amend the Addiction Law, before submitting the draft to parliament in the first months of 2012 with the hope that it will be implemented by next summer.
The Basque Deputy Minister of Health, Jesús Maria Fernandez, said Monday that there is a need for “a new law to regulate the cultivation, sale and consumption of cannabis in our society to close the loopholes, as it is better to regulate rather than ban behaviors already established in society.”
The main aspect of this proposal will “leave a little room for personal choice as long as two basic principles are respected: to ensure that there is complete information on the consequences of use [of cannabis], and respect for the right to health of other citizens. ”
An anti-prohibitionist approach to cannabis
Under the terms of the Basque Health Minister, Rafael Bengoa, “The general logic is not to be prohibitionist, [it is to] ensure that people are made accountable through education and information”.
Although local authorities cannot change the application of the Penal Code which is applied across the country (this depends on Madrid), the Deputy Minister said it was to leave “some autonomy” for the cannabis cultivation, sale and consumption when every citizen has received complete information on the consequences of its use.
Mr. Fernandez also stated that prohibition only leads to “clandestine action, delinquency, the black market and injustice in the producing countries” as demonstrated by numerous studies and reports from international health authorities and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
A new European political trend?
Just before the official declaration of the Basques, Poland voted to decriminalize possession of small quantities of cannabis based on the Portuguese and Czech model. A new Polish political party has gone further by proposing the legalization of all drugs in small quantities.
Denmark is expected to vote next year for a regulation of the cannabis market at the request of the Copenhagen City Council. According to the council, cannabis should be sold by civil servants rather than by unscrupulous dealers.
In Switzerland, four cantons have already ratified the Concordat latin sur la culture et le commerce du chanvre (Latin Concordat on hemp and cannabis cultivation and trade) that allows up to four individual plants per person and plans to provide licenses beyond this limit. Presented as a way to limit “drug tourism” between cantons, the arrangement will come into action on 1 January 2012 and could well serve as a legal basis for full legalization in the future.
From these observations, Basque officials have drawn logical conclusions and made pragmatic decisions in terms of amendments to their Addiction Law. This extends beyond cannabis, as they also plan to include addiction to gambling, social networks or the Internet to the amendment.