The City Council of Barcelona, under the leadership of Jaume Collboni, is intensifying its efforts to close down cannabis social clubs, signalling a shift in its stance towards these establishments. The Council, which has tolerated the existence of these clubs for the past decade, is now actively seeking legal means to shut them down, citing a desire to eradicate a model deemed undesirable for the city.
Increased inspections in Barcelona
As part of its new approach, the City Council, in collaboration with the Guàrdia Urbana, has launched a fresh campaign of inspections, targeting at least twenty cannabis clubs in the city. Previous inspections primarily focused on technical aspects. However, the current efforts aim to check if cannabis consumption is facilitated within these spaces. This signals a departure from the Council’s previous approval and indicates a growing intolerance towards the existence of cannabis clubs.
The change in the Council’s attitude was made evident during the last session of the year on December 22nd. Albert Batlle, the third deputy mayor and security councillor, declared the administration’s intention to “put an end” to cannabis associations, labelling the model as unwanted in the city. Responding to a request from Vox to close all cannabis clubs and shops, Batlle emphasised the need to execute the closures with legal precision and without hasty decisions.
The legal landscape for cannabis clubs in Barcelona became more precarious in 2021. That was the time when the Supreme Court upheld a ruling by the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia (TSJC) that overturned the regulatory framework established by the City Council in 2016. The invalidated regulations had set criteria for the operation of approximately 250 such establishments. Criteria included proximity to schools and other facilities, as well as ventilation requirements.
In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the City Council reminded these clubs that, post-ruling, they were limited to providing information, conducting studies, expressing opinions, and organising meetings related to cannabis. However, many clubs continued operating without specific licences, taking precautions to stay within legal bounds.
The recent wave of inspections has left activists. They have advocated for a long time for the cannabis club model. Activists advocated it as a solution to minimise street consumption and reduce risks associated with cannabis use. They lament the Council’s lumping together of responsible clubs with those serving as fronts for illicit activities, attributing the latter to the lack of proper regulation.
International inspiration and opposition
While Barcelona is clamping down on cannabis clubs, several countries are in the process of regulating cannabis. Germany is going cato introduce similar establishments in April 2024. Switzerland is conducting a pilot program with cannabis clubs since March 2023. Moreover, countries like Czech Republic, Mexico, and Colombia are considering comparable models.
The current offensive against cannabis clubs in Barcelona marks a significant policy shift. The global landscape on cannabis regulation evolves. So, Barcelona’s approach contrasts with the international interest in its unique cannabis club model. The outcome of this crackdown will not only shape the city’s attitude towards cannabis but may also impact the broader global discourse on responsible cannabis consumption.