As almost always when a new debate is opened in our country, the first thing is the humorous comments. I do not know if it will be a natural reaction, but many take the unknown as a joke. Then comes the real interest in the proposal and, after that, all the political agents try to jump on the bandwagon. As one of the drafters of the bill presented by Más País to establish a comprehensive regulation of cannabis, I will try to circumvent this first phase and anticipate the second, in which many people can legitimately question the need or suitability of a regulation like this.
Why establish a comprehensive regulation of cannabis?
There is no single answer to this question, although there is one that stands out above the rest: for health. This argument, in turn, is split in two. In the first place, to reduce its consumption, especially among minors, and limit the harmful consequences of it. We cannot forget that cannabis is a drug, like alcohol or tobacco, and that its use is not without risk or harm. However, the consumption figures are only increasing year by year. We think that information and education are more useful to discourage it than repression and fines. But we also do it for the physical and mental health of thousands of patients who today use cannabis as an effective way to alleviate some of the worst consequences of diseases such as cancer, epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. We are convinced that a regulation such as the one we have registered will facilitate and improve the treatment of these people, with the assurance that it will be produced under medical prescription, promoting research and development of new therapies.
Second, we believe that it is the best way to fight the mafias and drug trafficking, which has become a real public order problem in places like Andalusia or Catalonia. The lack of regulation is the best breeding ground for criminal organizations that, without competition in supply through legal channels, roam freely in what, de facto, is a monopoly of the mafias. The discussion does not revolve around whether this will facilitate access to the substance or not, but whether that access will be the responsibility of a State that protects its citizens or if we continue to give wings to criminal organizations of all kinds. The call War on Drugs It has been a resounding failure, and it is time to correct the errors of a drug policy that is already being reviewed in many countries.
And thirdly, by economy. We cannot cover our eyes to the legislative advances that are taking place in the countries around us. To the regulations established in a multitude of states such as California, Colorado or Washington (and the more than foreseeable decriminalization at the federal level) are joined by those of Canada, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina or Colombia, which with more or less ambitious legislation have addressed a or otherwise cannabis regulations. But you don’t have to cross the Atlantic to observe this trend. Portugal or Germany already allow medicinal consumption, while Italy has recently decriminalized self-cultivation, and is preparing a referendum to legalize the recreational use of the plant for next year. Faced with an international scenario like this, and taking into account the privileged position of our country, it would be foolish not to consider something like this. Spain is at the forefront when it comes to cannabis, with some of the most important seed banks (the companies that develop, produce and distribute the different varieties of cannabis) in the world, and many of the most advanced research in the field as well. They carry Spanish stamp. Our special link with Latin America gives us the option of being a preferred partner and the commercial link between that continent and ours. With these possibilities, Spain would be in a position to be the largest producer of cannabis in Europe, replacing the North American companies that currently supply this substance to our community partners in the market. As an example, 32% of medical cannabis imports made by Germany during the first half of the year came from Canada, in the absence of producers in European territory. In addition, as indicated by the study carried out by the European Observatory for the Cultivation and Consumption of Cannabis, a regulation like the one we present could contribute to the fulfillment of up to 15 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals indicated by the UN in the 2030 Agenda.
And why now?
Because it is the moment. Obviously, the comprehensive regulation of cannabis is not a magical device that achieves peace in the world, but it can contribute to making our country a little better. At a time of crisis, such as the one we are going through after the pandemic generated by COVID-19, the State must strengthen itself both to assist those hardest hit by the consequences of the pandemic and to equip itself for future unwanted situations. Our proposal would generate hundreds of millions of euros in taxes, of which at least 60% should be allocated to Health items. The possibility of re-boosting our Public Health system should be an incentive even for the most reluctant. But it is not only about taxes, but also about the thousands of contributions and highs in social security that would be derived from taking out of obscurity and marginality to a sector that, in fact, already exists. The Autonomous University of Barcelona published a study in 2018 in which the creation of some 92,000 jobs and 3,300 million euros in public revenue was calculated as a result of a regulation such as the one we present. This figure has surely become obsolete, and after recent movements in the international arena, it could increase.
But not everything is money. There are well-known cases, such as that of the activist Carola Pérez or that of Juan Manuel Rodríguez Gante, people who need to consume cannabis in order to resist the pain caused by their pathologies. If it is not done for the reasons stated above, unless it is for a matter of humanity. There are lives that cannot wait any longer.
And it is that there is already a broad social consensus around the regulation of cannabis. The latest data from the Center for Sociological Research indicates that 49.7% of the Spanish population is in favor of a comprehensive regulation of cannabis, compared to 40.9% who are against it. Support for this measure rose to 90.1% when asked about a regulation of therapeutic cannabis. Our will is nothing but that what is already a reality in the street, becomes Law.
Other regulatory proposals have been submitted previously. What is special about yours?
It is true that after the registration of our proposal, Esquerra Republicana did the same with its proposed regulation. Also that Unidos Podemos, as it had done on other occasions, announced that it would present its law during the month of October, although the ends of its text are not yet known. Others had previously been rejected, such as the one presented by Geroa Bai in the Senate, not being admitted for processing with the votes against the PP, PSOE and Vox, which currently make up the prohibitionist bloc.
But our bill is perhaps the most comprehensive, and surely the most ambitious. Some of the main characteristics of our proposal are the following:
- It is a comprehensive law, which covers both recreational and medicinal use. And this is so because we consider that betting on an intermediate point, proposing an exclusively medicinal regulation, would not solve some of the major underlying problems, such as drug trafficking or the consumption of minors. A double path would be created in which many people would use therapeutic cannabis for recreational use, alleging false ailments and devaluing the true medicinal purpose, as has already happened in other countries, while a good part of consumers would continue to opt for the illicit market .
- Self-cultivation is legalized, presuming this with the limit of 1200 watts in indoor crops and 12 plants in outdoor crops. Exceeding these limits means the consideration of professional cultivation, which is subject to a regime of licenses and authorizations that are dispensed with in self-cultivation for private use.
- Acts of cultivation and possession by minors are specifically prohibited. Something that may seem obvious, but it is a fact that allows the absence of regulation. Is there a dealer that asks their clients for their ID to check if they are over 18 years old? Well that.
- The sanctions related to driving are modified, going from being sanctioned the mere presence in the body to sanctioning the affectation. This comes to correct an absurd situation, but one that occurs more often than people may think. A driver can test positive for cannabis at a roadblock and be penalized for the simple fact of having been in a closed environment where marijuana has been used, or after having used cannabis a week before. The sanctions in our legal system must be limited to punishing the sanctions that suppose or may entail damage to protected legal assets, not to punish individual behaviors that do not entail a risk to people or property.
- We have shown our environmental concern in this law, establishing the obligation to eliminate crop residues and the packaging of phytosanitary products, ensuring the protection of the environment. It is also required that, in indoor professional crops, at least 60% of the electricity used comes from renewable sources. With this, what we want is to reduce the carbon footprint of this type of facility and, at the same time, promote the production of this substance in the open air, taking advantage of the ideal climatic conditions that our country offers.
I am sure that our Comprehensive Cannabis Law can be improved, and we are open to the Government, other political forces or civil society sending us proposals to this effect, but I am just as convinced that this proposal will opens a path of no return, that we are starting one of those debates, such as the reduction of working times or mental health problems, which are assumed by the Spanish men and women with the maturity of a people that demands to be treated as an adult. The question is no longer whether cannabis will be regulated or not, the question is how and when.