Adult use cannabis legalization in Spain could be back on track, following a series of setbacks. To move things forward, Congress recently approved the creation of a subcommittee within the Committee on Health and Consumer Affairs. This subcommittee will analyze the experiences of regulating cannabis for medicinal use.
Cannabis legalization in Spain: “To raise to political reality, what at street level is simply normal”
We don’t know what Spanish president Adolfo Suarez had in mind when giving the famous speech quoted just above, but one thing is certain: there has never been more consensus about one topic in Spain than legalization of cannabis for recreational use. Nonetheless, no real progress on a legislative level has been made so far.
Another example of political short-sightedness is the recent rejection by majority of the Spanish Congress of a draft bill aimed at the legalization of cannabis for recreational use. This bill was registered by left wing parliamentary party Mas Madrid and debated in Congress plenary session number 125 on October 19, 2021. The final outcome of the vote presented as follows: 75 Yes (22% of the total votes); 263 No (76% of the total votes); and 9 abstentions (3% of the total votes).
Oddly enough, the proposal was not only strictly opposed by Spanish traditional center right wing party, but also by the main actors of the governing leftist coalition. This joint opposition crushed any short-term hope for recreational cannabis legalization in Spain.
Since that point, several similar draft bills have been registered by other parliamentary groups. Based on experience, we can expect these proposals to fail.
Creation of the subcommittee
Nevertheless, there is some hope for Spain’s legal cannabis landscape. Some real progress was made with the creation of the subcommittee to analyze experiences of regulating cannabis for medicinal use.
The subcommittee has initiated its work already. Its main tasks are:
- To analyze the experiences promoted by different governments that have programs for the medical use of cannabis in place and to listen to as many actors and experts in the fields as it deems appropriate.
- To draw up a report with an international comparative perspective on the existing scientific evidence, weaknesses, threats, strengths, opportunities, and results of the experiences analyzed.
The report will be submitted up to vote no later than May 20, 2022 in the Committee of Health and Consumer Affairs. Once approved by the Committee, it will be submitted to Congress for debate and final approval. The Committee of Health and Consumer Affairs constitutes one of the permanent legislative committees and therefore its decisions and reports are binding and mandatory.
Given the nature of the report, its content is most likely to mold the future regulation of cannabis for medical use in Spain. This presents a unique opportunity to provide patients in Spain with the same access that thousands of cannabis patients already enjoy in neighboring countries.
Possible scenarios of the outcome of the report
Taking account similar reports drafted by the Committee on Health and Consumer Affairs, there are several possible scenarios for the outcome of this report. Below are three.
In a first scenario, the subcommittee completes its mandate without stipulating a clear decision, awaiting further analysis. This would be a poor outcome, although better than a definitive conclusion stating that insufficient evidence exists to support medical cannabis programs. A definitive, anti-medical cannabis program conclusion would bolster opposition shown by the Spanish Government towards previous draft legalization bills.
A second, more realistic scenario would be a subcommittee recommendation to limit the application of medicinal cannabis to CBD and CBD derived products. This conclusion would follow the recent European Court of Justice ruling on the non-classification of CBD as a narcotic drug. (See also: CBD Food Product Approval in the EU). This conclusion would also serve as a Solomonic decision, pending further comparative advances in cannabis legalization– especially in other Member States.
Finally, a third scenario would lead to a complete legalization of cannabis, including THC, for medicinal use. Considering the unstable situation current cannabis club owners face, this would be a wonderful development. But it seems very unlikely given the current political climate.
Analysis of possible treatments and cures through cannabis use
On another note, the mandate set out for the creation of the Subcommittee stipulates that the report must also determine which diseases can be treated with cannabis. As previously stated, input from all stakeholders will be key to determine the access for patients to cannabis.
In conclusion, the approval of this subcommittee may be a small but important step toward complete cannabis legalization in Spain. Stay tuned. We will continue to update on all things Spain and cannabis here on the Canna Law Blog.