The Spanish Cannabis Social Club
By New Frontier Data Europe
In Spain, the cannabis social club (CSC) model for cannabis distribution is becoming a well-established if furtively reported system capable of annually drawing consumers equivalent to 9%-27% of its 46.4 million residents. In practical terms, the system accommodates more than 4 million Spanish citizens, while enabling a canna-tourism market of another 6.6 to 12.4 million consumers each year.
Cannabis possession or consumption is illegal under the government of Socialist Party (PSOE) Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, and between 2015 to 2018 both Spain's Supreme Court and Constitutional Court passed laws intending to stamp out cannabis-consumer associations. Yet, the economic dynamics persist because — while Spanish law expressly limits the size of CSC memberships — such limitations are commonly flouted among the country's thousands of clubs.
Though no definitive numbers are maintained or verified, estimates gathered from interested but unattributable sources describe CSCs ranging between smaller clubs (with fewer than 3,000 members) to the largest (including up to 50,000 registered if not active members). Across that range, about 2/3 of clubs reportedly maintain rolls of between 3,000-10,000 consumers.
The private CSCs operate in a grey legal area, hinging on the basis that if cultivation for an adult's personal use has been decriminalized, they likewise are ostensibly free to collectively cultivate and distribute it through a private club. The unofficial policy intentions in allowing CSCs were to create a closed loop of cultivation, processing, distribution, and consumption while tacitly encouraging members to avoid the illicit market. Clubs typically distribute dried cannabis flowers, hash, and other concentrates, but rarely offer edibles.
CSCs do not operate like a typical public bar or lounge. Instead, each member purchases a pre-charged card for credit to facilitate transactions (including ordering drinks or alcoholic beverages) before the club "shares" its cannabis with them.
To obtain cannabis via a club, one must become a referred member. For established, higher-quality clubs, memberships cost approximately €30, with each requiring endorsement from an active member. However, in cities commonly attracting tourists, a second tier of clubs has emerged, featuring street scouts who tout membership for tourists: Those clubs commonly charge twice as much (i.e., €20 rather than €10-12 per gram) while providing a lower-quality product, and such often result with a crackdown by authorities closing them down.
Limits vary regarding how much cannabis a member can take per day, but a standard amount is between 5-6 grams. Clubs may also offer storage lockers, with signage encouraging members to keep their supply on the premises (and thus not possess or consume it illegally elsewhere).
Members typically complete a form stating how much they consume per week. The documentation provides the quantity allowed to supply its members. However, given that most CSCs also supply unofficial members, additional cannabis is regularly obtained from the illicit market to respectively meet each membership's demand.
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