Pubdate: Wed, 11 Jun 2014
Source: El Pais (Spain)
Contact:   (Spanish language LTEs only)
Authors: Jordi Mumbru Escofet & Rebeca Carranco


Authorities are keeping a closer eye on member-only associations that
claim to be not-for-profit

Growing numbers of visitors are purchasing a few grams of marijuana
while on holiday in Barcelona, a city that is already being described
as the "Holland of the South."

All one needs to do is become a member of a cannabis club, many of
which advertise on the internet, and place an order by phone or
online, as this newspaper has confirmed.

Club employees can also be found handing out flyers in the streets and
leading interested passersby to club premises to help with the
registration process. Membership fees are around =C2=8020.

But for the first time in the Catalan capital, a judge has ordered a
club closure on the grounds that it was engaging in drug trafficking.
The club, located in the district of Raval, had a price list for
various marijuana products, besides selling drinks and snacks. Police
observed an individual leading people off the street and into the club
to get them registered on the spot and start selling them the drug.

"This way the tourists could consume and purchase marijuana without
limits throughout their holiday," said the Catalan police, the Mossos
d'Esquadra, in a press release.

Catalonia has around 400 cannabis clubs that are officially registered
as associations, half of them in the city of Barcelona. Just two years
ago, there were only 40 such clubs in the entire Catalan region. Many
of these member-only, not-for-profit associations claim to use
marijuana for therapeutic uses.

Yet their rapid growth and targeting of tourists has triggered greater
oversight by authorities.

For years, the Federation of Self-Regulated Cannabis Associations of
Catalonia (Fedcac) has been asking the regional government for some
kind of regulation and insisting on the importance of distinguishing
lawful clubs from the unlawful ones. This group has even drafted a
code of good practices that all federation members must observe.

The Fedcac has an easy solution to end the cannabis tourism: "Just
wait a week before the registration of a new member takes effect,"
explains federation spokesman Albert Tio.

While the sector awaits legislation that has yet to see the light, the
Fedcac figures there might be more than 165,000 club members
altogether, of whom 60,000 are regular consumers who spend between =C2=80
and =C2=80100 a month. In other words, these not-for-profits make around 
million a month collectively.
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