The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform


In Spain, possession or use of psychoactive drugs, including cannabis, is technically prohibited by law, yet does not result in enforcement or punishment, especially when involving small amounts and/or use in private places.[1] Rulings by the Spanish Supreme Court in 2001 and 2003 established that cannabis possession, even of large quantities did not constitute a crime if there is no clear intention of trafficking. Spain has one of the lowest levels of drug use and drug related death in Europe.

Since 2002 Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs) have appeared in the country. These are “non-commercial organisations of users who get together to cultivate and distribute enough cannabis to meet their personal needs without having to turn to the black market”[2].

In Catalonia and the Basque country, they have achieved legal recognition and legitimacy. Club members rent a greenhouse where the cannabis is cultivated and harvested. Every member has a right to receive a fixed amount for personal consumption, at a price set lower for medicinal than for other users; members agree not to pass on cannabis to third persons.

Although there are many unresolved questions in terms of regulation, the Spanish offer a model of supply as an alternative to regulation and taxation of cannabis production under a free market system.

Accountability within the group means that health concerns, particularly for those who consume cannabis for medicinal reasons, are primary.


According to one report, CSCs have “…enabled several thousand people to stop financing the black market and to know the quality and origin of what they are consuming, whilst creating jobs and tax revenue” [2]. Estimates, based on a roll out of CSCs across Europe, indicate that 7,500 direct jobs and around 30,000 indirect jobs could be created in Spain alone. At a European level, it could create 8.4 billion euros of revenue for member governments. [3]

Since, 2002 it is estimated that Cannabis Social Clubs have enabled several thousand people to stop financing the black market and to know the quality and origin of what they are consuming, whilst creating jobs and tax revenue.

In October 2005, the autonomous government in the region of Catalonia launched a program of therapeutical use of Sativex for 600 patients of a wide set of illnesses, from multiple sclerosis to cancer, in order to avoid nauseas or to relax tense muscles. The product is presented as an atomizer to be taken orally, and it will be delivered at drugstores inside some hospitals.



[1] Van het Loo, M., Hoorens, S., van’t Hof, C. & Kahan, J. (2003). Cannabis Policy. Santa Monica: RAND Europe.

 [2] Barriuso Alonso, M. ‘Cannabis social clubs in Spain: A normalizing alternative under way’, TNI Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies, Nr. 9, January 2011.

 [3] Alonso MB 2011: Cannabis Social Clubs in Spain: A Normalising Alternative Underway: Transnational Institute and Federation of Cannabis Associations: Series on Legislative Reform of Drug Policies no 9: January 2011