I love Spain, but I feel sorry for anyone who tries to govern it. In addition to the usual Left/Right political divisions, several of Spain’s “autonomous” regions, most notably Catalonia (Barcelona), have strong independence movements that resent the Madrid government.
However, Spain has been hit very hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is more dependent on tourism than any other major European country. Consequently, it is going to need a major bailout from the European Central Bank, but that will not solve its terrible unemployment problem, especially for its younger citizens.
While Spain needs to diversify its economy, that will take time, and the problems in its devastated tourism sector have to be addressed now, because it is a major source of employment, especially for the young, and the pandemic is still keeping it closed.
Spain is also a major agricultural producer and is the vegetable garden of Europe. Southeastern Spain has vast areas under greenhouses, so it would be an ideal place to grow cannabis, if … .
Actually, there is already a major legal hemp industry, as well as a thriving illegal marijuana industry, especially in Catalonia. Barcelona has some amazing “Cannabis Social Clubs” that operate by stretching a loophole in Spanish laws, enforced in Madrid, but more or less ignored in much of the rest of the kingdom.
Recently, El País, (The Country), one of Spain’s leading newspapers, carried an article in its English edition, Could Catalonia’s growing marijuana market lead to a ‘narco-economy’?
But consider its source: “A regional police report is warning about the dangers behind a drug that is driving increased violence between growers and criminal groups.”
Somehow, I feel nostalgic. The leading newspapers in the U.S. used to carry “articles” like this all the time. Not so much anymore.
Ironically, it begins with a quote: “This will never be Mexico, concedes a Spanish police source, speaking about the violence linked to the drug trade. But this same officer warns about the dangers of widespread cannabis cultivation in Spain, particularly in Catalonia…”
And, of course, “Part of the problem is widespread social acceptance of marijuana, which is viewed as a soft drug.” Oh, stupid us! We think that marijuana isn’t heroin or meth.
“A 72-page report from the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, warns about the risks of the region developing an entrenched “narco-economy.”
The report also talks about “the creation of a cannabis culture and identity,” citing the Netherlands and Spain’s own southern Campo de Gibraltar area as examples….”
From “Prevalence of cannabis use in the last year in Europe as of 2018” by country.
In the Netherlands, 9.2 percent.
In Spain, 11 percent.
Spain should have such problems…
It also complains that taking control of the market “can only be achieved through violence, note police sources. This violence already exists. Last week, two people were murdered in Lloret de Mar (Girona) and Flix (Tarragona) over marijuana-related conflicts. There have been nine other homicides since 2016.”
“The report concludes that the marijuana trade will continue to grow in the coming years unless a disruptive element comes along to slow down the system’s inertia.”
I’m not sure what that means, but the obvious disruption should come from legalizing marijuana. Ironically, the precedent may come from Mexico, Spain’s former colony.
In part because of the violence which the Spanish police described, and the obvious move toward legalization in the U.S. and other countries, Mexico is expected to legalize both medical and recreational marijuana this year.
And Colombia is expected to follow soon, having already legalized medical marijuana and public consumption.
The medical, financial, and social impact of the pandemic is going to force the issue internationally, but there are few places that needs to end marijuana prohibition more than Spain. It would also lessen regional conflicts and reduce violence. It is also important to note that the pandemic severely damaged Spain’s medical system, and medical marijuana could reduce the cost of healthcare.
Richard Cowan is a former NORML National Director and author of I Heart CBD Oil.