Cannabis: a new regulation model
The evident changes that are taking place in different countries and cultures in regards to policies and strategies for cannabis control are based on the following points:
- The obvious failure, seeing the declared goals, of prohibitionist policies. The argument that without them the situation would be worse, that they should be reinforced, is a sophism and an unparalleled simple statement.
- The perverse effects that all prohibitionist policies are responsible for: from the marginalization of cannabis and the concealment of problems to situations of violence, economic dysfunction, corruption, etc. Clearly, a new regulation won’t solve all drug-related issues, even though it can be a stimulus for overcoming many of the secondary effects caused by the current prohibitionist policy.
- The logical tendency of open societies based on democracy and rights to move forward towards a horizon of self-reliance to balance health and security and rights and freedoms.
This tendency to change policies is not alien to Spain. In our milieu, the voices calling for change are more numerous and better founded. Besides, this possibility of change is determined by concrete circumstances:
- The already long coexistence of Spanish society with cannabis has allowed an objective assessment of its risks and advantages.
The subsequent change in social representation has influenced a normalization process in the public’s perception of cannabis, its use and its risks.
- The long-dated presence of a powerful association movement has, with its lights and shadows, contributed in a clear manner to the process of normalization and objectification.
- The fact that, for all the above reasons, social demand for political and strategic changes regarding cannabis are currently favoured by the majority of people. The voices that undervalue this position claiming that it is the product of “marketing” manipulation, forget that in reality the opposite may very well be the case, and, above all, scorn the capacity of a society to determine its thoughts and opinions concerning their own experience of reality.
These are the reasons that have led the Cannabis Policy Study Group (abbreviated to GEPCA in Spanish) to propose a concrete model for production and consumption regulation of this product. GEPCA, a multidimensional group, institutionally independent, composed of members with very different backgrounds and sensibilities, proposes a regulation model based on the afore-mentioned circumstances and from different principles:
- If the cannabis market can and must be regulated it is not due to a lack of risks, but on the contrary, because they exist.
Faced with the tendency to radically prohibit and criminalize cannabis, there are varied and gradual measures in the regulation: education, deterrence, social and ritual control, fiscal control, control and coercion of an administrative nature; even criminal sanctions for certain conducts.
- In this regulation it is necessary to conciliate the defense of the rights and freedoms of potential cannabis users with collective safety, especially of the most vulnerable groups.
- The model cannot start from “historical emptiness”. We proceed from a context that has conditioned and influenced opinions, attitudes, subjects, social fears and demands. This cannot be taken into account; a normative regulation cannot ignore that reality. Even though the status of cannabis is intended to be similar to that of tobacco and alcohol, the regulation of the cannabis market cannot be identical because their historical trajectories, and consequently the way the products are perceived, are very different.
Based on the following basic principles, the model presented by GEPCA proposes a complete regulation of the cannabis cycle, from its cultivation and production, all the way to the final consumer:
1. Access to cannabis, through any means, is limited to persons of legal age with full legal capacity.
2. Three complementary means of access to cannabis are proposed:
- Through a regulated market.
- Through associations and different types of users.
- Through personal cultivation.
3. These different means of access are based on different sociohistorical experiences and are proposed for populations of very different backgrounds and sizes.
- The regulated market is conceived for the majority of potential users, habituated to free consumption in a society where we do not sow what we consume. The illegal marked is suggested as an alternative, and because of its own features and size, it is considered to be heavily bureaucratized, audited and subject to strict norms of operation and control.
- Users’ associations, which are an undeniable reality, pursue the association of people (500 maximum), through different organizational strategies, to attain objective assurance or quality improvement, cost reduction, relate consumption to other social and cultural ends, etc. As shown, it can be said that they may serve as counterpoint and reserve in case of possible deviations and vices of the free market such as monopolies or abuses, for example.
- Needless to say, they must fulfill certain operational and organizational conditions in order to avoid vicious deviations, and they must be under administrative control and regulation.
One of their functions is to supply their members, without allowing redistribution or sales to third parties.
- The possibility of growing cannabis for personal use is a response to a current reality, which logically, can only be regulated by limiting the number of plants that can be cultivated and the number of members of each group: a minimum limit, beyond which, if production is desired, there would be need to associate and be subject to strict administrative controls. In personal growing the sale or any interested derivation of what is produced is prohibited.
4. As shown, operation and control requirements are at their maximum for the regulated market, very high for associations of up to 500 members, high for associations of up to 50 members, and only of limitation for personal cultivation.
- The commercial circuit will be subject to a complete cycle regulation, from its cultivation and production all the way to the final consumer, and it is based on a system of specific and exclusive licenses. Cannabis growing and processing for commercial purposes will require prior acquisition of specific licenses, incompatible with seed sales and distribution. Cannabis sales will take place through stores specifically established for that purpose through prior license acquisition issued solely for sales purposes and not for activities related to seed sales, growing and processing.
Beyond operating licenses, these entities will be objects of continuous administrative supervision and should keep different book-registries. For production: of seeds, cultivation, and agricultural, processing, packing and destination inspection. For administration: of purchases, sales and stock.
- Cannabis users may join associations in order to replenish their own supplies in a self-regulated fashion, improve product quality, decrease costs or additional social objectives.
These associations should operate through a license concession system or specific authorizations based on their particular features and benefits, in addition to being registered as non-lucrative associations.
A specific law should regulate cannabis associations. There will be two types of laws with different levels of criteria, based on the number of members: 50 members or less and 50 to 500 members.
Associations will be allowed to produce the seeds needed to support their own consumption, but commercialization of seeds will be strictly forbidden.
Associations will be able to produce the amount of cannabis needed to cover the forecasted annual consumption of their members, provided thorough justification is given. They will be able to carry out the transformation and processing of cannabis derivatives, as long as the regulation or regulations (of health, industry, safety, etc.) are followed.
All associations will have to keep book-registries: of members, cultivation-harvest and administration. Likewise, they will need to keep a book-registry for accounting, income and expenses. Associations between 50 and 500 people will need to keep other book-registries in addition to regular ones: of agricultural inspection, processing, labeling, administration and stock.
- The right of individuals or small groups to grow cannabis for their personal use will be honoured, without any form of communication or registration. A maximum of five people living in the same dwelling will be allowed for personal growing, with a limit of no more than six female plants per person and with storing licensing for the year of harvest.
5. Each phase of the production process/commercialization will be regulated and controlled:
- Isolation, monitoring, production control, and storage
- Guarantee of production security, for both processing and product
- Quality control, class, and psychoactivity level of the product
- Complete product labeling
- Regulated and controlled supply rooms, with monitored stock
- Information on risks and responsible use.
- Maximum transaction limit (25 grams)
- Psychoactivity limit (60% THC)
- Authorized production limit for associations, based on the number of members (4 grams /day/ person)
- Under 50: A maximum of 75 kg of dried buds per year
- Up to 500: 150 kg of cannabis per year
6. For reasons of collective security, there will be certain limits to personal consumption
- Personal supply up to 300 grams (10 gr/day/30 days).
- Authorized possession for a 10-day period (10 by 10 gr): 100 gr.
- For personal cultivation: 6 female plants per person, up to a maximum of 5 people, with storing licensing for the year of harvest.
- Public consumption will be regulated by local and regional laws, taking as reference what has been established for tobacco use.
7. All the different production and consumption circuits will be subject to precautionary regulations
- Advertisement of brands, types, etc., is forbidden.
- Consumption advertisement is forbidden.
- On-line sales are forbidden; home sales too, save for some special cases, with authorization.
- Importation and exportation to countries without cannabis regulation laws, and without a special permit, is forbidden.
8. Consumption in circumstances of risk will be forbidden. This is the case of driving, or the execution of certain working tasks such surveillance, etc. In these cases, limitation, control laws and sanctions will be clearly determined by a conciliation between individual rights and collective security.
9. The model proposes a whole ensemble of precautions of educational, preventive, of-risks-and-damage-reduction character, as well as of a protective and assistance nature. The regulating laws should foresee the financing of these aspects, so that they can be more than a formal proposal.
10. Every production and commercialization circuit will be subject to a tax regime that aims at attaining balance in the prices (between the dissuasion and the need to eliminate the illegal market) and that provides an income to finance the administrative and control apparatus and the preventive strategies, in addition to other public interests.
11. The offenses in the field of everything that is regulated, as it corresponds to the things that relate to a legal product, will be of an administrative character (fines, suspensions, permit withdrawals, etc.); will be adjusted and gradual, and will be clearly defined.
Certain conducts, especially serious ones, such as selling or distributing to minors under 16 years of age, or individuals without full legal powers, or to minors under 18 years of age in aggravating circumstances, will be considered crimes.
12. The regulation and control of such a complex model demands the existence of a specific law, changes to the legal system, and an administrative organization composed of state, regional and local powers.