GEPCA: In Spain, experts are presenting their proposal for regulating cannabis

Cannabis has clearly emerged as a political issue in Spain and will remain as such
Martín Barriuso
Wednesday, July 26, 2017

In Spain, a group of drugs experts have established the GEPCA, a body which seeks to set up a comprehensive regulation for cannabis. This model already has the support of much of Spain’s cannabis movement and is set to make history. Find out more about this proposal. The GEPCA is a group of experts set up in 2014 and tasked with devising a proposal for regulating cannabis in Spain. On 20 June they presented their model, which seeks to bring together the rights of individual users and non-users, and protect the most vulnerable groups. It also aims to reduce risks linked with consumption. In this article, we will discuss who they are and what they are offering in this historic proposal.

The GEPCA (Task Force on Cannabis Policies), arose from the Informal Dialogue on Cannabis Policies, a meeting of experts and civil society organised in 2014 by the Dutch think-thank Transnational Institute (TNI) and the FAC (Federation of Cannabis Associations). One of the conclusions of the meeting was that in order to end the deadlock in the debate over cannabis regulation, it would help to have a technical, multidisciplinary and independent document used as a basis for the process of regulating cannabis, thus ensuring its success.

Seventeen renowned experts, who are specialists in drugs policies, accepted this challenge. Twelve of them forged ahead with their work (without receiving a single euro) for two and half years, until they produced a book which will undoubtedly make history: Its title is “Cannabis, from the margins to normalisation.” In this book, specialists from various fields analyse the history of cannabis control in Spain, its impact on public health, justice and crime, its social perception, as well as other countries’ models of regulation, amongst other things. Following this unprecedented level of analysis, the members of the GEPCA are proposing a comprehensive regulatory model specifically designed for present-day Spain. The book sets out plans for “monitoring the production, sale and consumption of cannabis by educating the public and setting up mechanisms for social, administrative and fiscal monitoring.”

The proposal can be downloaded in full online (currently only available in Spanish): An executive summary will shortly be available in English. The manifesto is available (and can be signed) to show support for the proposal. Various key figures and Spanish civil society and drug awareness groups have already signed up to it.

The reasons behind the GEPCA’s proposal

The GEPCA puts forward three reasons for coming up with this proposal:

  • The obvious failure of prohibitionist policies.
  • The harmful effects of prohibitionist policies: marginalisation of individual users, problems swept under the carpet, violence, economic problems, corruption, and so on.
  • The tendency of open and democratic societies to reach a state of equilibrium between health and safety, and between rights and freedoms, through gradual self-empowerment.

The circumstances covered by the proposal

The GEPCA members are determined that the regulatory models do not emerge from a historical vacuum, but should instead be based on the cultural and political context of the country or region where they will be implemented. To this end, they believe the following points should be considered when regulating cannabis in Spain:

  • The lengthy experience of cannabis in Spain, which has provided a wealth of objective knowledge on its risks and features.
  • The change in cannabis’s image, which has led to its normalisation in the eyes of the general public.
  • The presence over the last few years of an influential social movement, which has decisively contributed to the visibility and normalisation of cannabis.
  • The fact that at present, most people are in favour of a political and strategic change on cannabis policy.

Details of the regulatory proposal

The GEPCA’s proposed model aims to combine safeguarding the rights and freedoms of potential individual consumers with protecting public safety and, above all, the most vulnerable groups. To achieve this, it is proposing three complimentary ways of obtaining cannabis, which would be restricted to adults with full legal rights: A regulated market, associations of users, and home growing.

The regulated market’s purpose is to be the general public’s supplier of cannabis. Based on a licensing system preventing participants from being both producers and sellers, a mechanism for strict checks will be set up. Advertising outside the sales outlets will be banned, and there will be guarantees on providing information, labelling and so on.

The second method of obtaining cannabis are associations. They have been around in Spain for years and have proven to be effective in reducing consumption-related risks. Two types of associations are envisaged for this: ones with between 3 and 50 members, with a lesser degree of control, and others of between 50 and 500 members, with a greater degree of scrutiny owing to their size.

As for home growing, no licensing or registration will be required for a maximum of five people living at the same address. Each individual may grow up to six female plants outdoors and two square metres indoors.

The GEPCA wants the limit for storage and possession to be the equivalent of ten grams of consumption a day. Beyond this, the maximum possession in public places will be 100 grams. Up to 300 grams may be stored at home, except for home growers, who are entitled to a year’s worth of storage. Likewise, the maximum amount per transaction will be set at 25 grams and the maximum THC level will be 60%.

In addition to the above, the GEPCA proposes a series of measures for consumption at the workplace, whilst driving, taxation, education and so on. A list of laws has also been put forward that have to be amended in order to make regulation possible. The need for a permanent evaluation of the effects of regulation was also discussed. There are annexes at the end discussing the technical aspects of growing, synthetic cannabinoids, extraction using gas, and so on. In other words, the model does not just provide an outline, but is rather a comprehensive model that, in effect, makes it the most detailed regulatory proposal to have been drafted to date in Spain.

A historic proposal

This proposal will undoubtedly be a turning point in Spanish cannabis policies. On the one hand, this is the most serious and wide-ranging proposal to date, it being based on series of studies on the effects of prohibition, which no one in Spain had bothered to undertake before. On the other hand, there is no doubt the immense professional and scientific prestige of the GEPCA members will enable the proposal to have a major impact. Let us not forget that together with the history of the struggle against prohibition, we have figures such as Eusebio Megías or Teresa Laespada who, despite their Establishment backgrounds, have in light of the evidence come to recognise that the best thing for everyone is a clear and strict regulatory system. The support of some the main Spanish drug awareness NGOs have also been crucial.

In the next few months, the GEPCA will continue its efforts to publicise its proposal, which will be presented to all the political parties in parliament. Some politicians have already said they are open to discussing it, and even lending their direct support to it. Cannabis has clearly emerged as a political issue in Spain and will remain as such.

Key extracts from the proposal include

“The aim of regulating cannabis is not to prevent access to it, but rather to come up with ways of monitoring it minimising potential harm.”

“Far from regulation increasing risks, the greatest threat comes from the unregulated market, in particular the illegal market.”

“There has never been a society completely free of drugs, and we cannot reasonably say that one will exist in the future.” Drugs do have some benefits to those who use them and there will always be demand for them, even if in certain circumstances consuming them may carry health risks for individuals and have a negative impact on society.”

“Although a mature society should aim for self-empowerment, maturity does not mean there should be no limits to self-empowerment. For this reason, we cannot do away entirely with systems and mechanisms for protection, as long as these are based on ethical principles and human rights, are fair and reasonable, and commensurate with the level of danger and risk, and the public good to be defended.”

“As an alternative to extreme prohibition and criminalisation, there are a variety of measures with varying levels of control: education, dissuasion, monitoring of groups and practices, administrative control and coercion, including criminal sanctions for certain behaviours.”

Download here.

GEPCA members

  • Xabier Arana Berastegi PhD in Law, Master in Criminology and Sociology of Law. A leading authority on the social dimension of drugs.
  • José Carlos Bouso. Psychologist, with a PhD in Pharmacology. Director of Scientific Projects at the ICEERS Foundation. Member of the Spanish Observatory of Medicinal Cannabis.
  • Domingo Comas Arnau. PhD in Political Science and Sociology. President of the Atenea Foundation. A veteran professional in the support and therapy side of drugs policies, and the evaluation of plans and their implementation.
  • Patricia Faraldo Cabana. Professor of Criminal Law, with a degree in Criminology. Adjunct Professor at the Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. Member of the Task Force on Criminal Policy.
  • María Teresa Laespada Martínez. PhD in Political Science and Sociology. She presided over the Deusto Institute for Drug Addiction and holds a masters degree in drug and other addictions.
  • Carmen Martínez Perza. Judge. Within the Andalusian ENLACE Federation, she led the Andalusian Regional Government’s Legal Advisory Programme for Drug Addicts under Treatment. UNAD member, deputy vice-president of the “Commission on Addictions and Criminal Justice.”
  • Eusebio Megías Valenzuela. Psychiatrist. Mr Valenzuela has been working in drug-related fields since 1971. He was the General Director of the National Drugs Plan; Consultant at the European Commission for the identification and evaluation of drug-related issues in Latin America; teaches postgraduate and masters courses in more than ten universities in Spain and Latin America.
  • Gabriel Miró Miquel. Lawyer. Specialist in criminal law. Professor of Criminology at the University of Barcelona. Investigator at the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights, University of Barcelona.
  • Juan Muñoz Sánchez. Professor of Criminal Law and Investigator at the Institute of Criminology at the University of Malaga. Principal investigator of various research projects and contracts on drug policies.
  • Òscar Parés Franquero. Holds a degree in Philosophy and Anthropology. Masters degree in Drug Addiction. Consultant in the regulatory process for Catalonia’s Cannabis Social Clubs. Director of Scientific Projects at the ICEERS Foundation.
  • Oriol Romaní. Emeritus professor of Social Anthropology. He was President of the GRUP IGIA, a multi-disciplinary group which pioneered the advocacy of alternative drugs policies. European Union Consultant for Latin America. Authored publications on the anthropology of drugs, which have become standard works in the field.
  • Josep Rovira. Social worker and mediator. Leads the Drugs Zone of the Association for Wellbeing and Development (ABD). Led and coordinated the preventive programme, Energy Control. He is currently coordinating various preventive and support services for the ABD.

This column was published previously at Sensi Seeds