The Barcelona City Council has put forward new legislation which aims to force around 200 cannabis clubs to close. The clubs will have to operate with a private club licence. It is another huge setback for many club owners and workers as the city continues to push these clubs to the edges of Catalan society.
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Another massive blow for Barcelona’s cannabis clubs
Barcelona’s city council aims to withdraw the municipal licence that they gave the city’s cannabis clubs this year. They have warned the city’s 200 ‘asociaciones’, as they are locally known, that the municipal licence they permitted the clubs to work under since 2016 is to be withdrawn.
While the city’s clubs have been freely trading in Barcelona, there have been struggles, especially after the city courts overruled restrictions on cannabis put forward by the city council in 2016. The court held a liberal stance and stated, “private consumption of cannabis by adults … is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience.”
However, ever since that day, authorities have pressed the clubs with constant setbacks, pressuring them to close. This latest law seems to be the most successful and final blow by the Barcelona government to close down cannabis clubs that have been an important part to the locals and tourists of the city.
The new measures seem so restrictive that Eric Asensio, the spokesman for the Confederation of Federations of Cannabis Associations (ConFac) held a bleak outlook of the future, claiming “They (the city council) push us to a darker place every time, we try to get out, but we keep taking steps backwards.”
He also states: “The majority of associations assume that sooner or later they will be forced to close down.”
The importance of cannabis clubs to Barcelona
Cannabis clubs have been a massive part of Barcelona culture in recent years. Much like Amsterdam, Barcelona has liberal laws towards consuming cannabis, and there are specific clubs to do so.
However, Barcelona has kept its cannabis club culture a secret. Although it is still part of the tourist experience of the city, it is not as well advertised as Amsterdam. The reason for this is because the clubs are not trading just for tourism. They are trading for Spanish residents. In the same way, as Spaniards go for a small beer in the evening, some can go relax and socialise at their local asociación. And in recent years, these clubs have become such an important part of the local culture.
However, the little kept secret of legal recreational cannabis being sold in clubs across Barcelona is becoming common knowledge. More and more tourists from across Spain and the world come to the city specifically to smoke marijuana. This is putting pressure on the Catalan government to put tighter restrictions on cannabis in the province.
The plan to close cannabis clubs down
In general, the city’s new ruling prohibits selling and consuming cannabis wherever you are. However, the city authorities expect to first tackle the biggest clubs where cannabis tourism is most common. They said they would focus on clubs mainly in tourist areas like Las Ramblas, “starting with the ones with the most negative impact and which are geared towards tourists and massive sales.”
After that, the target is smaller clubs. Locals are more likely to frequent these smaller ones, which could be when the residents start to protest.
For the ConFac the news has been extremely disappointing. Catalonia was proud to be home to 70% of Spain’s cannabis clubs. This new legislation will force many of these to close.
Barcelona was at the forefront of legalising cannabis in Europe as it showed the EU how to run cannabis shops successfully.
Eric Asensio states: “These Barcelona asociaciónes are a pioneering model both in Europe and the rest of the world, they point toward the application of new drugs policies that focus on the individual's health and balanced usage.” However, the new legislation seems to be a huge step backwards for the liberal Catalan city.