A CITIZEN’S INITIATIVE FOR A LEGAL CANNABIS MARKET
Starting a Cannabis Social Club
One possibility for the legal cultivation of cannabis for personal use is the establishment of a Cannabis Social Club. These associations organize the closed cycle of production, distribution, and consumption of cannabis within a limited quantity for their members. Such clubs are already operating in countries such as Spain and Belgium and could also be established in other countries where cannabis consumption is decriminalized.
Although international drug conventions do not obligate the consumption and cultivation of cannabis for personal use, the establishment of Cannabis Social Clubs is not sufficient to meet the high demand and minimize health risks and the black market. Therefore, a more advanced system of production and distribution is necessary.
The establishment of Cannabis Social Clubs offers a rational solution for a legal, safe, and transparent access to cannabis for members. By collectively growing for personal use and implementing a model for a regulated market, the supply can always be adjusted to meet the demand and the production can be limited to a fixed amount that covers the members’ personal needs.
A guide in four steps for founding a legal Cannabis Social Club
If you want to start a Cannabis Social Club, it is important to avoid any connection to the illegal market. Your club should not only appear legal, but also be actually legal and be able to prove this in the event of a legal dispute. Therefore, careful and disciplined management and organization are required. Every club needs active members who are involved in various forms and with different responsibilities in the organizational process. The rules should be clear and simple, and democratically monitored. It is recommended to consult a lawyer who can advise you on the necessary steps and prepare your legal defense in the long term, if necessary.
Before starting the process of founding your club, you should check the legal framework for cannabis consumption in your country. If the consumption is not illegal and possession of small amounts for personal use is not prosecuted (see overview of legal limits in EU countries), it should be possible to organize a successful defense for a cannabis social club. Based on the right of individuals to consume cannabis, you should be allowed to cultivate for your own consumption. Here are the four steps you should follow when starting a legal cannabis social club:
1.Establish a nonprofit organization – Establishing a nonprofit organization is one of the most important requirements for a legal cannabis social club. The club should be organized as an association of people committed to the cultivation and consumption of cannabis for personal use. Each member should commit to following the rules of the club and actively participating in its organization.
Plan your production – Make sure to produce only a limited amount of cannabis for the personal use of your members. Overproduction can lead to legal consequences. Also consider how you can control and monitor your production to ensure that no illegal activities are taking place.
3.Register your club – Make sure your club is registered and has all the necessary permits and licenses to operate legally. Familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations and always adhere to them.
4.Establish a clear organizational structure – Set up a clear organizational structure and determine the responsibilities of members. Ensure that democratic control is guaranteed and that all members have equal rights. Adhere to your rules and make sure all members understand and follow them.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your cannabis social club is legal and safe.
FIRST STEP: PUBLIC PRESENTATION OF THE INITIATIVE
The first step in starting a cannabis social club is the public presentation of the initiative, either through a press conference or a public action. It is advisable to involve a well-known personality (such as a politician or artist) to achieve media coverage. During the presentation, you should take care to minimize the risk of prosecution by openly possessing only small amounts of seeds, plants, or cannabis.
It is important to make it clear during the presentation that the sole purpose of the club is to organize cultivation for personal use of adult members and provide them with a legal, safe, and transparent access to cannabis as an alternative to the illegal market.
If there are no indications that the authorities will take action against the initiative in the future, you can proceed with the second step.
Step Two: Establishment of the Club
The second step involves officially founding a cannabis social club that brings together cannabis consumers and producers to collectively grow the amount of cannabis necessary to meet personal demand. Establish an executive committee with a president, secretary, and treasurer and establish a transparent, democratic decision-making process to ensure all members are informed about major organizational steps and financial agreements.
In the statutes, you should establish the purpose of the club, which includes avoiding health risks associated with the illegal market (such as the adulteration of cannabis), researching the cannabis plant, and promoting a social debate on the legal status of cannabis and its consumers. The model statutes of existing clubs in Spain and Belgium, which are available through ENCOD, can serve as a template. The statutes must be registered and recognized by the relevant authorities.
Accept members, but make sure they are already cannabis consumers or have recognized health conditions where cannabis consumption does not harm and may even benefit them. Start growing and determine the amount needed to meet the personal demand of the members. Organize the collective production of this amount in a shared plantation and ensure that the cultivation is ecological and there is a good selection of available plants, so that members can choose from different strains to determine which is best for them.
Ensure that the individuals who work in the plantation or during the transportation of plants and/or cannabis always carry papers that explain the operation of the club and refer to the legal basis. These documents can be crucial in avoiding prosecution of the key members of the club, should the authorities decide to intervene.
Depending on the legal framework in your country, distribution, consumption, and harvesting can take place within the club.
Step Three: Professionalize the Club
Over time, the number of members will grow and require a more professional organization of production, transportation, financial transactions, etc. To maintain control over the plants, it is recommended to have several smaller cultivation areas.
Each club can establish its own rules for the use of the club space, membership fees, cultivation, community spirit, etc., according to its statutes. These rules can include behavioral principles for members, such as regarding the sale of club-produced cannabis to non-members, especially minors.
To avoid problems and misunderstandings, it may be in everyone’s best interest to inform the authorities that you are collectively cultivating cannabis. Some clubs have done this in a notice to regional authorities, the nearest police station, or local administration, while others have simply issued a press release.
The fact that you are a non-profit association does not mean that commercial transactions cannot take place. To produce quality cannabis in a safe and healthy way requires hard work, which should be compensated. To collaborate as a citizen association, expenses must be incurred, and those who lead the association should be compensated.
The price should be determined through a transparent and democratic process. It can include the following costs: rent, water, electricity, materials, salaries, office expenses, gasoline, and general association expenses. This amount is divided by the quantity of cannabis produced by the club, resulting in the price per gram. In Spain and Belgium, it has been possible to achieve a price between 3 and 4 euros per gram. Most clubs work with annual budgets, so the price can be adjusted every year. Otherwise, this can be done with each harvest (every 3-4 months).
If profits are generated, they are used for the benefit of the association. If more profits are made than necessary for the goals of the association, the first step could be to lower the annual membership fee.
Financial transactions should always be documented, for example, through invoices for expenses and receipts for payments received. This is important to be able to prove in a court proceeding, if necessary, that the club was not involved in any illegal activities. It also helps to ensure the financial transparency of the club.
It is a good idea to establish an external control mechanism for the organization, for example, through a non-member who is able to assess whether the methods used meet expected standards.
Step Four: Engage in Lobbying for Legal Regulation of Cannabis Social Clubs in Your Country.
Once a cannabis social club is successfully operating, the only thing left is to convince politicians and authorities to establish a regulatory framework for clubs, which includes licenses, taxes, and external controls.
In most cases, politicians, legal experts, judges, or police officers have no idea how to regulate a legal cannabis market. However, this can be helpful in the process: without bias, the models proposed by consumers themselves can be more easily accepted.