When politicians do not live up to their responsibility to solve a significant problem for society, citizens must act to show them the way. Since the mid-nineties citizens in several countries in Europe have established a model for production, distribution and consumption of cannabis that diminishes problems and reduces police costs, encourages responsible production and use of cannabis and enables authorities to monitor the entire process from cultivation to consumption.
Welcome to the Cannabis Social Club.
Cannabis Social Clubs (CSC) are non-profit associations that organise the production of a limited amount of cannabis for the personal use of their members, as an alternative to the illegal market. They can be set up in any country where the possession of cannabis for personal use is depenalised. Where possession of cannabis for personal use is not prosecuted, it is obvious that growing the amounts that are needed for this use should be tolerated as well.
According to the European Convention on Human Rights, European citizens have the right to form an association for the protection of their interests. When their activities pose no threat to public health or public order, authorities have no right to interfere.
In a Cannabis Social Club, cultivation of cannabis takes place according to health and safety standards. This means no use of chemicals, no electricity theft and reduced fire-risks.
Distribution takes place according to a guiding policy of promoting safe and responsible use. The whole process is transparent for CSC members and if necessary, for authorities as well.
The concept of Cannabis Social Clubs is designed to protect and empower consumers - to give them the opportunity to control the production of what they consume, to stop being victims of manipulation. A CSC is not a private company or a state agency. The internal democracy inside a CSC allows for any member to have insight in the administration and participate in the main decision-making processes.
How do Cannabis Social Clubs work?
A Cannabis Social Club operates along the following principles :
1. Supply follows demand, not vice versa
The production capacity of a CSC is based on the expected level of consumption of its members. In the start of every year, the supply is organised in order to meet the demand of the members. If more members arrive during the year, they are placed on a waiting list until the production capacity has been increased. A CSC does not actively look for new members, neither does it advertise. It grows slowly, but solidly. In places where local authorities are collaborating with the concept (Spain), CSCs grow in one central place, preferibly a green house. In other places (such as Belgium) the cultivation is divided among various growrooms placed in the private houses of members. Growers operate as autonomous collaborators of the CSC, and are regularly followed up by experts who estimate the amount of cannabis being produced.
A Cannabis Social Club does not buy and sell cannabis, it provides a service to its members. The price they pay for the cannabis they receive is based on a realistical estimate of this service : technical, personnel and administrative costs. A profit margin can be calculated in these costs, as long as this margin is used to invest in the improvement of the organisation’s services. The purpose of the club is, among others, to promote the expertise on the cultivation of cannabis among its members, so the practice of ‘homegrowing’ is expanded. The price that members pay should be seen as membership fees, and therefore, the exact amounts should be approved by the General Assembly of Members, that is held at least once a year.
Cannabis Social Clubs are legally registered associations. They are obliged to inform yearly about their activities to the tax authorities. Their internal organisation is democratic and participative. The decision-making body is the Annual General Assembly, to which all members are invited and where everyone has one vote. On the GA, a narrative and financial report of the activities of the association in the preceding year is presented and approved, as well as a plan for the following year. On this Assembly, all members can see what happens with the incomes and why the expenses are as they are. If a group of members considers it necessary to question a certain modus operandi they can propose to discuss the issue. The Management Board members are elected for a limited period, during which they can be challenged and forced to resign if enough members approve the request.
4. Public Health
Throughout the process from seed to bud, Cannabis Social Clubs strive to ensure that the cultivated cannabis meets the standards of organic agriculture. The use of chemical products to feed or protect the plant or to increase its yield is completely outlawed. The methods of harvesting, treatment and storage live up to the standard that may be expected when producing a natural medecine. With the cannabis they distribute, clubs provide information with evidence based data on the potency of the product, the expected effects and if possible a complete review on the presence of active ingredients like THC, CBD and others.
People can not just inscribe in a Cannabis Social Club and start to consume. The admission process includes a conversation in which the history of cannabis consumption of the new member is discussed, and his/her awareness about the risks related to cannabis is tested. Members are continuously informed about ways to diminish these risks, for instance by promoting the use of vaporisers to replace the habit of mixing cannabis with tobacco, or converting their plant material in edibles like cookies.
Thanks to the peer to peer relationships that are characteristic for a Cannabis Social Club, information on the effect of the different strains can quickly be shared. Often, new members who have been buying cannabis on the street market for years are not even aware of the two main categories of cannabis, sativa and indica. After some years in the CSC they will be be able to distinguish the effects of tens of different strains, in which they can find those that fit best to their needs. Often, their consumption thus becomes more efficient ; for many, their membership of a CSC leads effectively to a reduction of their consumption.
Cannabis Social Clubs provide in some kind of privileged treatment for people who consume cannabis for medicinal reasons. This can be a preferential treatment in the case of waiting lists, a reduced price or the safeguarded production of strains with specific medicinal value, like plants with high percentages of CBD. They are also an important source of information for health professionals who wish to investigate the medicinal potential of cannabis or to provide their patients with a safe option for obtaining the medicine that works for them.
5. Open the dialogue with authorities
Cannabis Social Clubs are willing to enter into any form of dialogue with the authorities, seeking the common goal: to reduce the street market for drugs where people are bothered by agressive buyers or pushers, where young people quickly become victims of dealers, where theft and deception occur. If the authorities are open to collaboration with the concept, certain rules about production, transport, storage and distribution can be agreed. The persons working with the Cannabis Social Clubs can be identified, in order to prevent confusion.
6. Support to activism (inter-) national
Cannabis Social Clubs are created by activists, and support to activism remains important to ensure their future. The final goal of the CSC’s is a definitive regulation of the cannabis market that guarantees the rights of all consumers and producers. Therefore each CSC should be affiliated with platforms of cannabis activists both nationally and internationally, that serve as a reference point for members and the general public. The platforms can likewise serve as ombudsman, in case a conflict occurs with members or with another CSC and mediation is necessary.
Encod has created a platform of European Cannabis Social Clubs: http://cannabis-social-clubs.eu/csc-directory. Even those groups that are not a club still can accede here to a network of self-support that could help them make the first steps.
Lets create thousands of CSCs across Europe. Long live the green revolution!
By Joep Oomen