Regulation The cannabis debate in Spain has now arrived to the Senate in the form of the Non-Legislative motion presented in March by Unidos Podemos in collaboration with Regulación Responsible. The NLM intends to open the medical and recreational cannabis regulation debate in order to give answers to a reality that can no longer be avoided. Keep reading.
The debate on cannabis settles on Spanish institutions and it now arrives too to the Spanish Senate, thanks to the Non-Legislative Motion (NLP) that was registered on March 22 by the Unidos Podemos party – with the support Regulación Responsable, a platform in favor of cannabis regulation. This initiative, which will be debated in a joint commission, not only wants to open the debate about cannabis regulation and its therapeutic use, but also its recreational use. It is a comprehensive proposal that is inclusive of all the cannabis community.
It seems like many Spanish politicians have finally stopped avoiding the cannabis legalization subject and are getting ready to give answers to an unavoidable reality.
In order to help the debate on the current legal status of the plant and its regulation in our country, on March 22 the senators from the parliamentary party Unidos Podemos – En Comú Podem – En Marea, Joan Comorera and Conchi Palencia, registered the Non-Legislative Motion in the upper house – a motion based on the model proposed by Regulación Responsable.
Yes to Medical and Recreational Cannabis
The NLM that will be debated in the Joint Commission on the Study of the Problem of Drugs, intends to contribute with a new approach to the subject of the use of medical and recreational cannabis – similar to the one that is being adopted by many countries around the world – that moves away from inefficient and overused prohibitionist policies applied during the last decades.
The registered motion by Unidos Podemos is the result of collaborative work of many experts, jurists, and cannabis activists gathered in the Regulación Responsable platform, which advocates for cannabis regulation and consumption in Spain. Araceli Manjón, who was the Director of the National Drug Plan, also contributed to the making of the document.
The model proposed by Regulación Responsable is based on five fundamental pillars: the right to self-consumption, autoculturing, the regulation of cannabis social clubs, licensed trade, education of responsible consumers, and access to medical cannabis.
Even though, as the platform has stated, “it would have been ideal to present a text jointly with the other political forces, it still is great news that Unidos Podemos decided to take this initiative, which will likely be supported by the majority of the parties”.
In the exposition of the reasons that motivated this initiative, it is suggested that after the reinterpretation of the framework of the international drug control program that took place during a recent UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS) in New York in April 2016, it is possible to accept a flexible interpretation of the three treaties used by member states to formulate and apply, “national drug policies according to their own priorities and needs”. Proof of this can be seen in the fact that none of the states that have regulated recreational and medical cannabis use have been penalized.
This is how senators of the purple formation summarized the current cannabis situation in other countries: “In 2013, Uruguay was on the news for regulating legal access, with therapeutic or recreational purposes, to cannabis, following the example of Netherlands. In 2017, Canada is supposed to legislate in the same direction, just as it happens in the USA, where Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Colorado regulation has already been put in place, and where, via a referendum, California, Massachusetts, Maine and Nevada will try to move forward in the same path this year”.
The Current Situation in Spain Is Complex and Legally Uncertain
The fact that for the last years Spain has been going in the complete opposite direction as the countries mentioned above has created a “complex” situation of “legal uncertainty” in what concerns cannabis consumption, in addition to revealing the inefficiency of current cannabis law. It is evident that Spain needs a legislative change in the area of cannabis.
The NLM reminds us in the last 15 years in Spain, cannabis consumption has not been considered to be a crime, and the jurisprudence in place has allowed certain forms of cannabis supply and collective consumption as in the case of the Clubes Sociales Cannábicos. These organizations have been in operation for 15 years, and have been carrying out their activities without having to follow administrative rules – despite which, they have managed to avoid having many disputes with the current legislation, up until recent years.
When the Prosecutor General’s Office strategy changed with Order 2/2013, these institutions could be accused of drug trafficking, illegal association, or organized group integration – which meant that a stricter sentence could be asked for by prosecutors, and at the same time also, the possibility to appeal to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court believes that the only solution to solve this issue without criminalizing these associations is to change the legal status of cannabis, so that judges may be able to act according to the law. The Supreme Court recognizes, in a sentence dated September 7, 2015, the debate about cannabis regulation, but considers that it must take place at the parliamentary level.
Nonetheless, a number of regional parliaments in Spain such as those of Navarra and the Basque Country, have approved legislation that recognizes and regulates the Clubes Sociales de Cannabis – and in addition, they request “the Spanish Courts, the Government, and the administration of justice” to move forward towards cannabis use regulation.
Other parliaments, such as the one in Catalonia, are debating popular legislative initiatives, on the motion of different cannabis users’ associations, like those of medical cannabis patients. Certainly, the moment has come for the Spanish Parliament to begin taking the necessary steps to bring forth change and evolution – just like Spanish society has done it, and like the majority of political parties that comprise it seems to be doing.
It is Necessary to Ensure Secure Access to Cannabis
We cannot forget – as the NLM text mentions it – that since the entry into force of the new Organic Law on the Protection of Public Safety, popularly known as the Gag Law, on March 20 2015, “given the wide range of punishable behaviours” legal uncertainty has been on the increase.
Even though cannabis growing for personal use is not a crime in Spain, it is not regulated – for this reason it is a practice that is exposed to judicial interpretation. What the NLM requests the government is the possibility to have access to cannabis with legal and sanitary safeguards, which should take place through pharmacies, specialized businesses or other means, in addition to users’ associations – as it is the case in many other countries in the world.
Likewise, we cannot forget that the Spanish legal framework has to answer to the cannabis industry and sector, which is established in Spain and does not stop growing. More than a thousand grow shops, important fairs such as Spannabis or Expogrow, distributors, producers, and others, are obliged to carry out their activities under the legal uncertainty created by the Spanish legal system in what concerns the cannabis plant.
Initiatives Calling for Cannabis Regulation Are on the Increase
Finally, at last, there seems to be willingness for change in the Spanish parliament, and the political parties are finally passing to action – in collaboration with citizens’ platforms and associations in favor of recreational and medical cannabis legalization and regularization – to give solutions to all the cannabis community.
In the last months, a significant number of legal proposals aimed at opening the debate on cannabis law reform – for both medical and recreational cannabis – have been registered, which could contribute to the decriminalization of cannabis consumption and cannabis possession in Spain.
This is the case of the proposal put forth last year by Esquerra Republicana de Cataluña (ERC) in the Congress of Deputies, which addressed the integral regulation of cannabis, just like the NLM presented by Unidos Podemos.
Also in December 2016, the Representación Cannábica Navarra (RCN) party presented a Popular Legislative initiative, which has been accepted for processing in the Congress of Deputies. Its objective is to collect half a million signatures in order to promote change at the legislative level in the country.
At the end of February 2017, the Ciudadanos party together with the Observatorio Español de Cannabis Medicinal (OECM), presented a NLM in the Congress of Deputies in order to regulate medical cannabis use and its derivatives in Spain.
Curiously, the fourth NLM of this type was announced by Jesús María Fernández, a PSOE member of parliament and spokesman for health matters, during the debate of the NLM by Ciudadanos to regulate medical cannabis, at the beginning of April. It seems like the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE) wants to present its own NLM in order to study a form of cannabis regulation that takes care of the “different methods of cannabis use”, that is to say, of the medical and recreational applications of the plant.
A few days later, on March 11, all the Parliament of Cantabria – in its entirety and unanimously voted by all the parties, including the Popular Party– approved the presentation of a non-legislative motion asking the central government of Spain to implement medical cannabis regulation that facilitates and guarantees secure access to cannabis. This big step was brought about in particular by PP spokesman in the Cantabrian parliament, Eduardo Van den Eynde, who a few months ago published a letter on his Facebook account asking for the legalization of medical cannabis, which he himself uses to deal with the symptoms of his cancer and the effects of his chemotherapy treatment.
From Reflection to Action
There is no doubt that, as mentioned by Unidos Podemos, “the cannabis consumption phenomenon demands mature reflection that includes the contribution of all the parts involved”, so that afterwards, action becomes possible and a more reasonable and efficient regulation for all sees the light of day. A regulation that is consistent with the new national and international contexts, that considers human rights at the individual and collective levels, and that is based on demonstrated scientific evidence to protect our health – as the initiative by Unidos Podemos and Regulación Responsable intends.
It seems that, at last, a fundamental process is being opened at the parliamentary level, both in Congress and the Senate. This process should lead to a comprehensive legislative reform of cannabis in Spain, one that ends criminalization and stigmatization – as well as the helplessness – to which collectives of cannabis consumers and users as well as the cannabis sector in Spain have been subjected for so many years.