Spain’s anti-austerity Podemos party is piling pressure on the government to follow in Canada’s footsteps by rolling out a regulated cannabis industry.
Podemos is a left-wing populist party that rose to prominence in 2014 as widespread protests about economic malaise sparked by the European debt crisis. It is now Spain’s second largest political party, with half a million members, and it holds 69 out of 350 seats in the Spanish parliament after successfully breaking up the country’s two-party system.
Leader Pablo Iglesias is a passionate advocate of a fully legalized cannabis industry, and he wants to change current drug laws to allow the state to hand out licenses to plant, harvest, and sell marijuana. “It’s absurd that you can buy tequila or gin from a supermarket but marijuana is illegal,” said Iglesias.
Cannabis is decriminalized for personal use and cultivation in Spain, but it remains a huge legal grey area. It is illegal for commercial purposes, and users have to go to cannabis clubs to obtain it. Cannabis cannot be smoked for medicinal purposes, but doctors in Catalonia can prescribe derivatives that do not contain THC.
Podemos wants to overhaul the legislation to usher in a new era that eradicates the black market and boosts Spain’s economy. It hopes to reduce drug trafficking, better protect youngsters, and help patients treat a range of conditions from which they are suffering. Its plan includes strict punishments for anyone found breaking the laws it aims to set out for a regulated marijuana trade.
The Spanish Medical Agency is already set up to grant licenses for authorization for cannabis products for the local market, but only in Canada, Uruguay, and Colombia and not domestically. Podemos believes the country could quickly become a regional leader in a fast-growing international industry. Iglesias said that a state-controlled industry could generate “enormous revenue” and it said that cash should be reinvested in public healthcare.
However, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party has been reluctant to dive into this debate, claiming he has enough on his plate as it is. Yet the clamour is growing among the opposition, and Podemos has a lot of sway in Spain, so he may find he is unable to ignore calls for a legal cannabis industry for much longer.