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Cannabis Bust In Spain Highlights Need For Legalizing Cannabis, Not Continued Prohibition

By Johnny Green

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If you are like me, then you read headlines over the weekend regarding a large cannabis operation bust in Spain. The bust was touted in mainstream media coverage all over the globe as being ‘the largest in Spain’s history.’ According to media coverage, the bust involved roughly 32 tons of cannabis (roughly 64,000 pounds). Or as the BBC put it, “equivalent to more than five adult African elephants.”

To be fair, the bust did involve substantial quantities of cannabis, however, there’s a lot of context that was left out of mainstream media coverage. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but most of the mainstream media coverage that I read regarding the bust seemed to be straight out of a reefer madness communications guide, which is why I assume that cannabis prohibitionists around the world are pointing to coverage of the bust as some kind of ‘justification’ for continuing prohibition.

The fact of the matter is that this latest bust in Spain will do nothing to curtail the unregulated cannabis market in Spain or Europe in the grand scheme of things. Thirty two tons of cannabis may sound like a lot, but it is hardly enough to supply ‘all of Europe’ as some media coverage seems to imply. The total population of adults in Europe is measured in hundreds of millions, whereas the total reported amount of grams involved in this bust in Spain is measured in the tens of millions, meaning that if the cannabis involved in the bust was provided evenly to adults throughout Europe every adult would get a tiny fraction of one gram. From that perspective, the unregulated market share of this operation is being greatly overexaggerated.

Furthermore, the cannabis involved in this bust may not even all be usable cannabis. How much of the overall weight being reported involved cannabis stems and water leaves? All of the cannabis at the site of the bust may have been technically illegal, however, that is not the same as saying that all of the cannabis involved was truly going to make it to consumers. This bust was significant in size, however, when put into proper context, it’s likely not as big of a deal as some may think.

Cannabis prohibition does not work, which is why the void created by this bust will be quickly filled by other people. The only way to properly mitigate the unregulated market in Spain, Europe, and the rest of the world is to end cannabis prohibition and work to transition cannabis sales into a regulated market. Thankfully, we now know that the concept works being that it’s successfully occurring in more and more jurisdictions around the world, and on a much larger scale compared to what was involved in this latest bust in Spain.

Using the State of Oregon as an example (it is where I live), in just the month of October 2021 alone over 5.5 million pounds (or roughly 2,750 tons) of regulated cannabis was harvested according to the agency that regulates the industry here. That is one state, in one month, and for those that are unaware Oregon is one of the less-populated legal markets in the United States. All of that cannabis is in a regulated system that prevents diversion to the unregulated market, and speaking as a consumer here, I have had no need to search out unregulated sources for several years now because going the regulated route is so much better from a convenience and selection standpoint.

Make no mistake – the cannabis industry is going to exist in Spain and other countries in Europe whether cannabis is legal or not, it’s merely a matter of if that industry will be run by organized crime or government regulators. Lawmakers in Spain are currently making a conscience decision to let cannabis consumer and patient dollars go to organized crime instead of to regulated businesses and the funding of things that everyone in society benefits from, such as public works. Lawmakers in Spain are currently making a conscience decision to let organized crime decide the working conditions of cannabis industry employees instead of workplace safety regulators.

And just as that is true in Spain, it is also true wherever else cannabis prohibition still exists both within the European continent and everywhere else around the world. The bust in Spain is a reminder that cannabis prohibition does not work, and that there is a better way to handle cannabis policy. Spain’s cannabis is world-class, and it’s beyond overdue that the nation adopt a public policy and regulatory framework that embraces the nation’s favorite plant instead of criminalizing it.

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