At an event hosted by the International Drugs Policy Consortium and the New Zealand Drug Foundation titled: “Through the Maze – Cannabis & Health,” Steve Rolles of Transform Drugs Policy Foundation went head to head with Keven Sabet founder of Project SAM on cannabis policy. Cannabis law reform is well under way on the world wide stage and there are many countries that are trailing different approaches to see how regulation works. It is becoming increasingly accepted that the cost of prohibition outweighs any positive impacts that waging a war on people who like to feel enjoyment or medical benefit from a plant, such as cannabis can bring.
The criminalisation of cannabis consumers and growers has not stopped the increasing number of people that have started using cannabis since its prohibition began back in the early 1970’s and the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 was implemented in the UK. Indeed, it has only led to inflated prices that are largely controlled by and fund organised crime. Cannabis prohibition costs the police in the United Kingdom £500million per year but they aren’t making any change in the scale of the market and probably only serve to maintain the high prices that cannabis has reached in recent years.
The United Kingdom Cannabis Social Clubs (UKCSC) have formed as a response to the increasing prices and lowered quality of the Cannabis market. UKCSC support the right to grow at home or as part of a member’s collective where people can grow their cannabis together. There are many benefits to this model which removes street dealing, requires age restriction and ensures a clean product at a fair trade price and it aims to facilitate the implantation of Social Club environments for cannabis consumers. Spain is where the Cannabis Social Club (CSC) model originated and is now operating in as many as 8 countries in Europe including: Belgium, Austria, Germany, Italy, Slovakia and France. Barcelona has become quickly known for its CSC’s and is also home to the new Hemp and Marijuana Museum which was opened by Sir Richard Branson in 2013.
Steve Rolles Senior Policy Analyst at Transform, a UK based charity and drug policy reform organisation explained at the Cannabis and Health Symposium in New Zealand in 2013 the Spanish Cannabis Social Club model, “[They] kind of happened under the radar, not a lot of people know about it. But the decriminalisation provisions in Spain allow personal home growing of up to two plants and what has happened is informal groups have got together under a series of informal guidelines pool their two plant allocation. So say 100 people would get together and they would pool their 200 plants and give it to a farmer who will grow those 200 plants and supply the club members with that pooled farm.”
“There are as many as 300 and up to 700 of these clubs in Spain, and it is kind of interesting. They are self-contained and a non-profit model with kind of a hippy ethos that seems to work quite well because it isn’t leaking into the wider market” “It’s a defacto form of legally regulated supply, it’s operating in a slightly strange legal grey area and the UN hasn’t said anything about them. It’s possible that they are allowed within international law but it certainly isn’t clear, it’s sort of against the prohibition of spirit but it may be allowable within the letter.”
Transform aided the Uruguayan Government in developing their system of legalisation which will roll out either some time in 2014 or 2015, and it also includes a Cannabis Social Club option alongside growing Cannabis personally or obtaining it from a pharmacy for medical use. People will be able to grow 6 plants for themselves or become a member of a club which allows up to 99 members and access up to 40 grams per month. You can also get a copy of their book as a PDF, “How To Regulate Cannabis” here for free.
The UKCSC has developed a model similar to this based on international models already in existence and with the help of other drug policy charities and organisations in the UK and Europe, such as ENCOD, Federation of Cannabis Association (FAC) and VOC Netherlands; we have made this model accessible to you via our website with a full set of the UKCSC policy documents, guidelines and registration forms to join as an official UKCSC where we can help you in your activism and you can contribute to the wider campaign happening around the rest of Britain. We have also offered advice for those already or intending on growing their own cannabis – whilst we recognize that it is still (ridiculously) a criminal offence to do so in the UK we hope that by taking our advice you can reduce the impact of the law if the worst should happen. Please find out more here even if you aren’t intending to grow or already growing your own. We hope you enjoy the debate video and learn something from it to use in your own activism, if you have any comments on this, or our proposed model for the creation of Cannabis Social Clubs in the UK please leave them below. Don’t forget to check out Transform on Facebook, Twitter and their website. And here are our social networks for you to join in more of the cannabis conversation. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.