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Could Malta’s Cannabis Club Licensing Model Benefit Spain?

By Johnny Green

As I often point out, Spain is home to one of the most amazing cannabis communities on earth, particularly Barcelona where we co-host the world’s largest cannabis superconference every year with Spannabis. Whereas cannabis communities are just starting to take off in many parts of the world, Spain’s community was thriving decades ago, and that continues to this day.

The backbone of Spain’s cannabis community is, of course, cannabis clubs. It is no secret that hundreds of cannabis clubs exist throughout Spain, with Barcelona being a particularly popular destination for clubgoers. Clubs are a great way to obtain cannabis and to socialize with like-minded people.

Cannabis clubs are unregulated in Spain, which can be confusing for many people being that there are so many of them. Cannabis clubs are tolerated to a large degree in Spain, however, that doesn’t mean that they are legal. It creates a catch-22 of sorts for cannabis reform advocates, in that the same thing that makes Spain so special (access to lots of clubs) is also the same thing that makes it hard to move the needle.

I have worked as a cannabis activist for a long time and so much of the enthusiasm behind cannabis reform efforts I helped with was predicated on boosting personal freedom. In Spain there seems to be an understandable enthusiasm gap, in that people already experience a great amount of freedom. That, combined with world class cannabis, makes it difficult to get people fired up.

With that being said, cannabis reform still needs to occur in Spain so that selective enforcement is eliminated and that the domestic industry can reach its full potential. Cannabis club operators should be able to get licenses like any other business, albeit with industry specific regulations. Eliminating the uncertainty by regulating clubs would help the situation in many ways.

So what is going to move the needle in Spain? One thing that may yield some movement is legalization elsewhere, such as in Germany. However, Germany’s legalization model doesn’t appear to include clubs, at least not at this time, so it may not be enough of an ‘apples to apples’ situation to raise enough eyebrows in political circles in Spain.

One thing that I am very interested to see unfold, and whether it has any policy butterfly effect on Spain, is the rise of cannabis clubs in Malta. Malta passed a national adult-use legalization measure late last year, making it the first country in Europe to do so.

The measure was largely built on the premise of consumers obtaining their cannabis from non-profit cannabis clubs. The only other way for adults to obtain cannabis is to cultivate it themselves or be gifted it. As we previously reported, Malta is expected to start accepting applications for non-profit cannabis clubs in February, which is obviously not too far away.

It is unclear right now how long it will be after applications are initially collected before the first regulated club is opened, however, things do seem to be moving along. Once Malta officially rolls out its cannabis club licenses, and sets up all of the processes and regulations pertaining to it, it will have created a blueprint for other countries to mimic, including and especially Spain.

I don’t necessarily expect lawmakers in Spain to see it as Malta potentially stealing cannabis tourism away from Spain, but rather, that they will hopefully see that regulating clubs can be done and that Spain could potentially do it in a more economically stimulating way. Only time will tell if that proves to be the case or not.

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