A riveting piece published on Wednesday by Reuters brought into focus the response from law enforcement to illicit cannabis production and trafficking in the Spanish region of Catalonia.
“Heavily-armed police officers arrived in a well-to-do Barcelona suburb before dawn to raid a two-storey house that turned out to be packed with 800 marijuana plants growing under powerful lamps,” Reuters journalists Horaci Garcia and Joan Faus wrote. “The recent raid, on which Reuters accompanied the officers as they arrested two Albanian nationals, is part of an almost daily police routine in the Spanish region of Catalonia as it cracks down on the booming illegal production of marijuana, often run by local and international drug gangs.”
Catalonia, home to the majestic city of Barcelona, has a fraught relationship with the Spanish government –– and the tension has extended to cannabis policy.
It is “now Spain’s top producing region, with most exports channelled by road to France,” according to Reuters, which noted that the region is “attractive because producers can use properties left empty after the bursting of Spain’s property bubble in 2008, the process to evict them is lengthy, theft of electricity does not carry a jail sentence, and marijuana-related crimes carry lighter sentences than in neighbouring countries.”
In 2017, Catalonia legalized cannabis clubs, but an abrupt court ruling in 2021 overturned that law.
The ruling put the cannabis clubs that had sprung up around Barcelona in legal limbo, but as Reuters noted in its story this week, the clubs now operate under “self-imposed rules,” under which they “grow their own marijuana, only let in adults who can buy up to 60 grams monthly and take 15 days to approve memberships to put off short-term tourists.”
“But many clubs, which are often barely recognisable from outside, do not stick to the rules because they are voluntary,” according to Reuters.
“We believe the lack of (legal) control is causing many problems,” Eric Asensio, head of the Catalan federation of cannabis clubs, told the news service.
Cultivating cannabis is against the law in Spain. Last year, Spanish lawmakers approved a measure that would authorize medical cannabis treatment in the country.
In November, the country’s “Guardia Civil,” a law enforcement agency in Spain, took down an organization with more than 32 tons of cannabis stored in various cities throughout the country. Police said that it was a record-setting bust.
“The Civil Guard has seized the largest cache of packaged marijuana found so far. The Jardines operation has concluded with the seizure of 32,370.2 kilograms of marijuana buds, the largest seizure of this substance, not only in Spain, but also internationally. Its equivalence in complete plants would be approximately 1,100,000 copies,” Spanish police said at the time.
“The twenty detainees – nine men and eleven women between the ages of 20 and 59 – were part of an organization with offices in Toledo, Ciudad Real, Valencia and Asturias, which controlled the entire drug production and distribution process,” the police continued in the announcement, detailing the arrest. “The investigation began with an inspection by the Civil Guard of several industrial hemp plantations in Villacañas (Toledo). The main [plantation] investigated owned a company with which they acquired the seeds. A second transported and planted them. Another company was in charge of the care, maintenance, collection and drying of the specimens.”
The police said that the detainees packaged the contraband in “different formats to send them both to places in Spanish territory and to European countries, mainly Switzerland, Holland, Germany and Belgium.”