Saturday, 4 January 2014

The New Citizen’s Security Law proposes an increase in the administrative fines imposed for the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use up to 30,000 euros.

We cannot ask for help to change the situation, we can't protest somehow, because it is illegal now in Spain to protest or to have an opinion or to have even civil rights.

This worrying bill proposes an increase in the administrative fines imposed for the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use and growing of marijuana for personal use which was previously allowed up to 30,000 euros.

A step back in Spanish drug policies

A de facto criminalisation of cannabis use?

In the past few weeks, the attention of the international drug policy community has been focused on the cannabis regulation bill in Uruguay. The great significance of this momentum for the drug policy reform has been supported by various civil society organisations and public opinion leaders from all around the world. This contrasts with the steps back undertaken in Spain, where a new bill – the paradoxically so-called citizen security law– was approved last 29th November by the Council of Ministers.

This worrying bill proposes an increase in the administrative fines imposed for the possession of small quantities of cannabis for personal use up to 30,000 euros. This decision is part of a package of measures that also severelyrestricts the rights to strike, to demonstrate and of freedom ofexpression. According to the right hand Popular Party (Partido Popular),that has absolute majority in the Parliament -- and therefore has noobligation to negotiate the bill with other political parties -- the aimof the bill is to maintain “public order”. The tone is so harsh thatthe Ministry of Interior, Jorge Fernández Diaz, responded to the criticsof the European Commission accusing them of not having read theintegrity of the law.

The bill might be approved in the next weeks by the Spanish Parliament. In case this bill pass, cannabis possession will continue not to be a criminal offence, but in practice the huge fines associated with it could easily lead to de facto criminalisation.

This could cause not only a back on civil and drug users rights, but it also contradicts the ongoing processes and debates around the legal regulation of cannabis that are taking place in the Basque and Catalonian Parliament. As such, this decision also implies territorial controversies.

In this context, one of the cases that have shocked international public opinion is the prosecution by the Spanish justice of the cannabis social club Pannagh in the Basque Country. Two years after the precautionary closure of the cannabis consumers association Pannagh, the anti-drug prosecutor requested prison sentences totalling 22 years and fines of nearly 2.5 million euros for five members of the association.

The decision made by the Prosecutor contradicts the judgement made by the Spanish Supreme Court in October 2001 and July 2003 that established “that possession of cannabis, including large quantities, is not a crime if there is no clear intention of trafficking”. The decision also places other Spanish cannabis clubs in a juridical uncertainty, overshadowing the huge drug policy progress made previously in the country.

The approach adopted by Pannagh is paradigmatic. It is the oldest and largest cannabis club in Spain, including around 700 cannabis users. Martín Barriuso Alonso, President of the Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC), defines them in a TNI briefing as “non- commercial organisations of users who get together to cultivate and distribute enough cannabis to meet their personal needs, without having to turn to the black market”. According to the latest Transform publication, How to regulate cannabis: A practical guide, these clubs allow daily personal allowances of, on average, 3 grams per person.

This approach has even been replicated in Uruguay: cannabis clubs are one of the four ways in which cannabis can now be produced, traded, sold and used, as these clubs have been proven to be an effective model to reduce access to the black market and to provide better quality products, reducing the risks associated with consumption.

What, then, can be behind the Spanish government’s decision? Far from being spontaneous, the Prosecutor’s decision follows a conservative logic that does not only ignore the jurisprudence, but also the achievements made by decriminalisation models, the involvement of civil society in governance and community well-being, the debates that are taking place in regional parliaments and the consideration of therapeutic cannabis.

In August 2013, the State Prosecution published an instruction on issues related to associations promoting the growing of cannabis. This instruction echoes the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and a set of national laws dating from 1967 that consider illicit cannabis cultivation “without administrative permission”. Although the instruction recognises that the jurisprudence allows for the “shared consumption of drugs”, it promotes a criminal justice approach on drug use and considers cannabis production as a “public health offence”.

Spanish civil society has broadly contested the imposition of the “Citizen security law” (an Avaaz petition, for instance, has collected more than 250,000 signatures). A series of actions were undertaken by several civil society groups to raise awareness on the worrying implications of harsh drug laws and how they affect our human rights, especially in a context in which the UN drug conventions, the war on drugs and the prohibitionist models are being contested at different levels with the adoption of a broad range of new initiatives.

Here you can read about different fines for demonstration, football, marijuana, alcohol, masks, photography and more. Important! This list is not full.

Let’s start with the lower fines

Fines of between €1000 and €30,000 will be levied for anybody who:

Wears a mask or hood in a public place that makes their identification difficult.

Insults a policeman when they are doing their work even if that work is kicking you

The growing of marijuana for personal use which was previously allowed

Drinking alcohol in any public place which is not specifically licensed for it

Driving a drug addict to a place were they supposedly buy drugs

Placing any object in the road which would make it difficult for a person or car to pass

Climbing public buildings

Now let’s move on to what are considered very grave infractions where the fine is between 30,000 and €600,000

Photographing of videoing any member of the police or security forces (Even when they are kicking the crap out of you)

Public order offences in any religious public or sporting or entertainment event

Meetings that have not been communicated to the authorities

Protesting in an airport or a nuclear plantGoing near to public officials, for example politicians, and shouting at them or telling them they are corrupt. The police are allowed to establish a security zone around the individual which nobody can go inside

Blinding officials with lasers!!!

Now there are a whole heap of things that attract fines of up to €1000 among which is included the aforementioned playing football or any sport which may cause damage to other people or property (No more cricket under the Alameda bridge in Valencia using real cricket balls I’m afraid). I won’t repeat them on this blog though because this will make you extremely depressed.

What do you think of the new Citizens Security act? Is it really for the security of the people or is it just to protect corrupt politicians and officials?

By the way I left the best one until last there is now a fine of up to €30,000 for offending Spain. How do we know if the country has been offended?

Here is also a new article about Abortion, demonstrations and public safety in Spain

Here you can find the List of some Fines