The current situation of quarantine in Spain due to the Coronavirus pandemic is pushing the limits of consumers, both recreational users and consumers of medicinal cannabis. The mandatory shutdown ruled by the authorities to stop the spread of the virus, the declaration of the state of alarm and the subsequent executive order to stop all non-essential activity have led to all kinds of consumers to ponder the need to regulate cannabis home growing as a solution to get marijuana without resorting to the illegal market.
We cannot forget that home growing is currently forbidden, and the fines go from €1000 to €30000 according to the set of rules popularly known as Ley Mordaza (Gag Law). However, growing cannabis does not constitute a criminal offence, except in cases of a “notoriously important amount” being found, term that has not been defined properly yet.
We speak to two representatives of cannabis organisations, the Confederation of Cannabis Associations (CONFAC) and the group of experts in the Spanish Observatory of Cultivation and Consumption of Cannabis (OECCC).
José Afuera is Federal Coordinator and spokesman of CONFAC, and an activist for 14 years. He explains that the associations affiliated to CONFAC closed their offices down the moment the Ministry of Health requested it. “There are some that continued the service to therapeutic users, but they are a minority. They are taking the risk out of solidarity”, says Afuera.
“Unfortunately, cannabis is not considered an essential product, like tobacco or alcohol”, compares the coordinator. He points at the shortage as a source of new problems that will push users towards the black market, with the subsequent risks: creation of harmful habits, risks for health and sanctions, consumption of other drugs… “It is a complex situation. We had never seen anything like this”.
“This situation shows that the fight for the rights of users is not consolidated and that the struggle must keep going. It also makes evident that there is a general self-deception, since there are people that think that cannabis is legal. We would like for marijuana to be treated as a first need substance if there is ever another scenario like the present one. There are medical users that demand this”, he claims.
Hugo Madera is part of the Technical Board and spokesman of OECCC. “We follow what the social clubs decide in democracy. The organisations we are in touch with, ASTURFAC and CATFAC, advise closing the shops down and go hand in hand with the administration to defend public health. We don’t intervene, we support them”, explains Madera.
“We believe that medicinal and therapeutic home growing is the only feasible solution to the current problems. Home growing is rising, we learn that through organisations we have collaboration agreements with. In this very moment there are requests for grow cabinets, lighting systems, soil, pots, and seeds. It is not only physically beneficial, gardening therapy exists. It is a relaxing and beautiful hobby, several scientific studies back this up”, says Madera.
The proximity of postures of both organisations reflect their commitment with the fight for cannabis rights: CONFAC, back in February, as well as OECCC the same month, had maintained rounds of consultation with different political groups in order to facilitate the communication between legislators and civil society; conversations broken by the news of the pandemic and confinement. “It would be hard for the government, during the state of alert, to carry out some ‘ad hoc’ regulation, but we will resume the conversations when the confinement is over”, claims José Afuera.
“Regulation of cannabis is more visible and just as important as it has always been. The users do not want to depend on the black market, financed by mafia. This legislation must recognise home growing and collective farming. It should improve the situation of the users and society in general, create laws that are not based on the neo-liberal market, but on people’s rights”, claimed the CONFAC spokesman.
For Hugo Madera, this context is akin to the 1929 stock market crash, since, “after that crisis, the alcohol prohibition disappeared. After this predicament, legalisation will come to be”. The spokesman for OECCC observes that a depressed economy will need stimulus, as well as the population, who will face new obstacles. “The government has other problems to solve rather than keep chasing after millions of Spanish home growers and users”.
“Home growing is of vital importance. The seeds are planted now and the cuttings in June. Now, more than ever, it is necessary that users value our excellent quality seed market. They should bear in mind the present reality, the extortionate prices and lack of safety in the black market. They should take in their hands the tools available and harness the fact that the specialised shops are still working online, also selling CBD flowers, to carry out home growing successfully”, proclaims José Afuera.
“This is the most effective instrument that activists possess. Since 1997, when the ‘Plant against prohibition’ campaign started, we have defended home growing as an essential subject: solves our present and also our future, since it is a weapon of social disobedience that can really knock prohibition down”, certifies on the other hand the spokesman of OECCC.