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Cannabis Legalization in Spain, It’s Complicated

Cannabis, popularly known as “ganja”, is a popular drug in Spain. However, the legal status of the drug is complicated.

Every year, cannabis advocates and entrepreneurs in Spain come together to discuss current issues in the sector. This event is called the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) and is held annually in Barcelona. This year’s ICBC event took place a week ago to the delight of many. No thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event had to be postponed to 2020 and 2021 as the world was focused on the urgent matter of supporting its citizens in difficult times. It was no surprise that the agenda to be discussed this year was filled to the brim.

The famous International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) brought together several notable personalities who are all invested in the European cannabis industry. Several panels were organized to discuss issues related to the latest cannabis technologies, Cannabis 3.0, and the various obstacles facing cannabis spaces in the country. Debates have also taken place to discuss whether or not adult-use cannabis is the next step for the industry. Some argue that it would be better if cannabis were made available to the public only through licensing and limited exports.

The issue of legacy cannabis operators and production was also addressed and discussed in depth.

Regulating cannabis in Spain

In October 2021, a new bill to regulate and control cannabis sales was introduced in the country’s legislature. The bill is titled Proposición de Ley Dr. Regulación Integral y Control del Cannabis en Personal Adultas (translated as Internal Regulation and Control of Cannabis for Recreational or Adult Use).

The Spanish Congress has yet to debate or enact the bill into the constitution, despite Spain’s thriving cannabis culture. The majority of Spanish residents have expressed overwhelming support for any form of cannabis reform, be it medical cannabis, recreational cannabis, or both. Unfortunately, the government has not yet responded to the appeals of its inhabitants.

Spain has had at least five years to establish an organized structure for its cannabis industry. There is very little political advocacy for drugs and no arrangement to organize an industry lobby. The gray area provided by law has been the founding of cannabis clubs in cities. Cannabis clubs have been around for 20 years or more. These clubs are a source of tourism revenue for the country. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court shut down these operations last year when it ruled against their existence. The Senate also rejected a bill to legalize cannabis at various levels of the state.

The current outlook for cannabis legislation in Spain is ubiquitous. The only thing the country can boast about is a bill that partially decriminalized cannabis use a few years ago. There are no regulations on medical cannabis, nor a solid framework to encourage self-cultivation and the consumption of medical cannabis.

The reality of cannabis legislation in Spain

During one of ICBC’s panels, members criticized the country’s lack of cannabis laws. They compared the existing situation to the faster adoption of cannabis reforms in North America and in European countries such as Germany and Switzerland. Panelists pointed out that the Internal Regulation Bill that was recently introduced could be the solution to the challenges of cannabis regulation in Spain. The bill would provide the much-needed legal framework for medical cannabis or an adult-use sector.

The ICBC event also acknowledged the low likelihood of passage of the proposed bill. They set the probability of this happening at 1%. It is still too early to conclude on this. However, the proposed bill will undoubtedly reignite the debate over cannabis reforms. Even if it fails to grow, it will achieve an important goal of moving the country forward on the path to legalizing cannabis.

Some of the rules governing cannabis use in Spain include use in private spaces (homes or cannabis lounges), age over 21, and if you are caught breaking the rules you will be sent in jail or fined.

What’s in it for Spain?

ICBC panels provided insight into how Spain could benefit from the legalization of medical cannabis. Many business opportunities will arise once medicammabis is legalized and commercialized by the pharmaceutical industry. The panel said cannabis could be heavily regulated and taxed to generate massive revenue for the country. They explained that cannabis does not have to be legalized for this to work.

Regarding the cannabis club, many activists and owners have expressed their dissatisfaction with the plan to close these lounge spaces. The owners pointed out that business opportunities could be discovered in the sector if better reforms were adopted.

The Supreme Court’s directive to shut down cannabis clubs would result in a massive loss of jobs. Hopefully the decision will be appealed and overturned in the coming months.

Cannabis markets in the neighborhood

Spain is surrounded by a few European countries with legal cannabis markets. During the conference, panelists referenced cannabis markets in the United States, Switzerland, and Germany. They discussed some of the business opportunities in these different cannabis markets and offered ways to enact some of the reforms in these countries.

Panelists considered the likelihood of a slowdown in the European cannabis market in the coming months due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Before the war, the European cannabis industry was gearing up for an exciting move to rally support for recreational cannabis. However, for now, any legal development will be put on hold until Ukraine is settled.

Final remark

ICBC panelists commended the government for doing everything to make the event a success. If the government maintained the status quo, which decides not to approve any cannabis reform projects, the pharmaceutical industry would take over. These companies choose where to export the cannabis.

Spain could have one of the largest markets for CBD if the government approves an initiative to legalize cannabis. Even without licensed production facilities, Spain currently has a large CBD market. Currently, no one knows what the future of cannabis will look like in Spain, but everyone is keeping their fingers crossed and hoping for the best.







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