Catalonia joins California in Federal Legal Limbo
In recent years Catalonians responded to strict anti-cannabis regulations by forming cannabis clubs, which eventually grew so popular that Catalan began to rival Amsterdam as a cannabis haven.
Despite federal government efforts at enforcement, a petition-drive gleaned 67,500 signatures and forced a government debate.
Just last week, 118 of Catalonia's 127 ministers voted in favor of regulating the clubs "... making the autonomous Spanish region the latest part of the world to loosen restrictions on use of [cannabis]", thereby legalizing its use within the club structure, according the the UK Independent.
That places Catalonia at odds with greater Spain, much like California and the other 4 American states that have legalized cannabis across the board (medical and recreational) though it is not legal at the federal level.
Spain is is now book-ended by states that have voted to legalize. Looking at the map above, one sees Catalonia at the east end of Spain, and the country of Portugal on its western border. Portugal legalized all drugs in 2001, and the result has been:
Drug-related HIV infections have plummeted by over 90% since 2001, according to the drug-policy think tank Transform.
Drug-related deaths in Portugal are the second-lowest in the European Union. Just three in a million people die of overdoses there, compared with the EU average of 17.3 per million.
The number of adults who have done drugs in the past year has decreased steadily since 2001.
Compared to rest of the EU, young people in Portugal now use the least amount of "legal high" drugs like synthetic marijuana, which are especially dangerous.
The percentage of drug-related offenders in Portuguese prisons fell from 44% in 1999 to 21% in 2012.
The number of people in drug-treatment increased 60% from 1998 to 2011 from 23,600 to 38,000.
But the issue of cannabis legalization is only one issue of many between Catalonia and Spain, include outright secession.
"Spain's federal government could look to challenge Catalonia's legalization.... In early June the Catalan government announced plans to hold an independence referendum on
1 October, reigniting an ongoing row with Madrid over its secession."