Society 22/08/2021

Barcelona announces crackdown on cannabis clubs

The City Council uses the High Court as grounds to introduce limits

2 min
Some cannabis clubs are located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona.

BarcelonaWithout making much noise, the Barcelona City Council sent out a statement at the end of July warning that "cannabis associations will have to adapt to a new legal situation". The council issued the warning after a ruling by the High Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) that overturned the municipal urban planning regulations for cannabis clubs. The TSJC argued that the City Council is not competent to regulate them, "not even from the urbanistic point of view", because it considers that they are spaces "susceptible of committing crimes". It claims that it is the exclusive competence of the State.

Ada Colau's government takes refuge in this ruling to now supervise cannabis associations. The council said it would announce the changes to the clubs before carrying out inspections to control them, and the letter has already arrived. According to ARA, the letter states that the activity "must be limited to providing information, preparing or disseminating studies, making proposals, expressing opinions on the matter in any way, and promoting meetings or seminars". The document adds that "in no case does this authorization allow for the promotion of cannabis consumption, cultivation or distribution", including sales. Municipal sources say that the nearly 200 licenses in force in the city "become private social clubs", which also prevents, for example, the display of cannabis products.

The City Council has announced that the Security Department, headed by Deputy Mayor Albert Batlle, will begin the campaign of inspections in "the cannabis clubs that generate the most negative impact, focused on tourism and mass sales", but "later on" it will also "address community and self-consumption groups".

Doubts about controls

The situation has caused uncertainty. The spokesman for the Federation of Cannabis Associations of Catalonia (CatFac), Eric Asensio, recalls that the ruling annuls an urban planning regulation "that did not deal with consumption or dispensation". That is why he considers that "it goes too far" when it comes to focusing on the clubs. In spite of everything, Asensio is confident that the model CatFac defends, "that of non-promotion", in which only members can always consume cannabis inside the premises, will not be affected by the inspections of the Guardia Urbana of Barcelona.

"We are going backwards and playing with an ambiguity that favours no one", warns Asensio, who believes that this new lack of recognition of clubs leaves them even more "unprotected and helpless" in the legal debate. He recalls that cannabis associations in many municipalities "operate without any specific license", which is why he calls on the State to regulate them. Despite the fact that the Barcelona government is made up of the same partners as the Spanish government, the city council is also making the same request. The Catalan Parliament has already passed a law to regulate the clubs, which was later overturned by the Constitutional Court.