What are cannabis social clubs and how do they operate?
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More Cannabis Social Clubs are being established all across Europe, so what are these clubs and how do they operate?
The idea of establishing Cannabis Social Clubs had been conceived by ENCOD, which is a non-profit organisation that works toward drug policy reforms throughout Europe.
According to ENCOD’s own definition, “Cannabis Social Clubs are set up to protect the rights of cannabis consumers and producers and help establish cannabis policies that benefit society as a whole.”
THE PURPOSE OF CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS
Differently spoken, cannabis social clubs are associations of cannabis consumers that help them with safe cultivation and the consumption of cannabis for their personal use. The growing of high quality cannabis and then the distribution to the club members is managed and overseen by the club.
It is important to understand that cannabis social clubs are only growing for their members and that you cannot simply obtain cannabis from a cannabis club as non-member. One could say that these social clubs are really closed private circles in the way how they are run.
The clubs not being open to everyone and more or less working in the background, without any advertising is normally also a requirement for the clubs in these countries where they exist.
The semi-private way to cultivate and to distribute cannabis within a club environment is also safer and a lot more transparent than if one had to obtain cannabis on the black market.
HOW DO CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS WORK?
Cannabis Social Clubs can offer maximum transparency since the entire process, literally from planting the seeds to the finished product is taken care of and can be supervised. These clubs are non-profit organizations and are funded by their membership fees. The fees for the membership are normally determined by how much cannabis the particular members need, be it for medicinal use or for recreation.
Most of the time, the members of cannabis social clubs are not just mere cannabis consumers. Many of them are getting actively involved with the club where they participate with growing and/or distributing.
- In Cannabis Social Clubs, Supply Follows Demand
A Cannabis Social Club is unlikely ever growing more cannabis than its members require. Supply follows demand and not vice versa. This on the other hand should never be an issue because the demand for cannabis for each of the club members is known. This allows the club to produce the expected levels for all the members.
- Cannabis Social Clubs Are Non-Profit Associations
Cannabis Social Clubs are non-profit associations and if there is any financial benefit at some point this is used to promote the goals of the association only. Together with the main goal which is to safely cultivate and to distribute, the clubs are often also aiming to generate employment opportunities or to produce related goods and services. These activities are always legal within the law.
- Cannabis Social Clubs Offer Transparency
Even while Cannabis Social Clubs may at times have a rather private character due to their nature, they are still legally registered associations. They will have their own internal organisation with the decision-making body for all the clubs being the Annual General Assembly where each member of a Cannabis Social Club has one vote.
As with other official and legal clubs, the Cannabis Social Clubs are asked to provide reports at the Annual General Assembly about their activities and spending. This means that the clubs are maintaining a record of their activities which can also be seen-in by their members, other clubs or the authorities. As a member, you don’t need to worry about your privacy since registration data and registration of production is always anonymized.
- Cannabis Social Clubs Are Health Oriented
For Cannabis Social Clubs, the health of their members and that of the general public always plays a big role. For cannabis cultivation, they will want to grow organically without the use of potentially harmful pesticides and chemicals. In a similar way, the clubs are aiming to educate about problematic use of cannabis. The safe and responsible consumption is one of Cannabis Social Clubs’ highest priorities.
- Cannabis Social Clubs Don’t Shy The Open Dialogue with Authorities
Quite in contrast to as what is normally transpiring on the black market, Cannabis Social Clubs are always willing to engage in dialogue with authorities. Constructive dialogue with authorities is welcomed and actively encouraged.
HISTORY OF CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS
The first modern Cannabis Social Clubs had been opened in Spain in 2005 as a concept of the non-government organization ENCOD. ENCOD sees the clubs as a way for legal production and distribution of cannabis. Among the principles of these clubs is that they are strictly non-profit and that the production of cannabis by these clubs can only cover the personal needs of their members.
IN WHICH COUNTRIES DO CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS EXIST?
Most Cannabis Social Clubs today are in Spain and in France with the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and New Zealand having several as well. Pilots for the establishing of cannabis social clubs are currently underway in Switzerland and the UK.
WHO GROWS THE WEED IN CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUBS?
The weed in cannabis clubs is grown collectively. Normally, the club will elect a group of members that will cultivate the plants. Those members who will be handling the growing for the club will normally be those who have already some experience with indoor and outdoors grows. At harvest time, other members of the club can also step-in to help with picking or packing.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUB?
Cannabis Social Clubs have many advantages but the biggest is that they provide safety since they do away with the need to obtain cannabis on the black market. As a result of the entire process from seed to harvest under the eyes of the club, this means also there is no low quality, stretched or laced products and no high prices. Many of the clubs also provide jobs along with a variety of goods or services, all of course entirely legal.
The beneficial social aspect of these clubs cannot be understated as well. The clubs educate and advise members and the public on safe cannabis use.
CAN ANYONE BECOME A MEMBER?
The requirements for becoming a member in a cannabis social club can sometimes vary but we can give you a typical example for what you need for the clubs in Barcelona, Spain.
Sometimes, you cannot simply sign-up and request a membership at a club since another member will need to endorse you. While this is normally the best way to go about it to become a member, not all is lost should you not have a friend in a club in your area.
Some cannabis clubs can have websites with information about their specific requirements if you want to join, with many of them providing an online application. It can be a good idea if you check out the club(s) in your area on the internet first. Many clubs today have facebook pages where you can request an invitation when you send them a message.
Most cannabis social clubs have a strict “no guests” policy that means if you plan to go there you shouldn’t bring anyone with you, unless the one is a member already or is going to become one.
The fee for the club can also vary, depending on the quality of the club. Average fees in Barcelona are between €20-€50 per year.
Know that you should absolutely and at all times carry an ID with you when you visit a cannabis social club.
ARE THEY LEGAL?
As is so often the case when it comes to the law in regards to cannabis, the answers here are often floating in a grey zone and anything but conclusive.
For example, there are more than 500 clubs in Spain today and while various courts have testified to the legality of these clubs, the chairman of one very old club is now persecuted and accused of drug trafficking. If the Spanish courts are trying to form a precedent in this one case, it sure would spell bad news for many other clubs in the nation.
Likewise, the laws in particular when it comes to cannabis can be changing at a fast pace so that what had been legal (or illegal) yesterday isn’t necessarily so next month.
In other countries, the situation is not better but also not that much worse. For example, those interested in establishing cannabis clubs in the United Kingdom find themselves in a somewhat bizarre situation seeing that forming such a club would be entirely legal but growing cannabis and distributing it isn’t.
This of course poses a variety of problems. On the other hand, there are currently many efforts in the UK to get many cannabis social clubs established with many of them already operating but of course they are closely monitored.
HOW TO START A CANNABIS SOCIAL CLUB
Starting a cannabis social club isn’t much different to as if you wanted to found any other official type of club. There are guidelines and recommendations that one should follow so you can get everything right to form the club from the start.
The ENCOD, the overseeing organization for the Cannabis Social Clubs in Europe has outlined the process of starting a cannabis club to help you. Let’s take a look at their guidelines for how to start a cannabis social club.
- Public awareness of Intention
As a first step you need to create public awareness about your planned club and make it known that you want to create one. You cannot just do this by putting up some flyers. What you need is a professional public presentation about your intent to make a club with local media, news etc. present.
At this initial presentation before the press you will have to outline your mission statement, what the club aims for such as that you want to create a safe, responsible environment for adults so they can consume cannabis without the risks and dangers of needing to turn to the criminal black market. In other words, what you’ll be doing by founding the club shall come across as the good thing it really is and you really need to make this a point.
To increase your chances to get heard and then your club being accepted later, it can be a good idea to get a prominent public figure that can endorse the idea as well! This has at least two benefits: More media coverage for your upcoming cannabis club and less risk of prosecution.
After this appearance before your local media, it is smart when you’re patient for a bit and just wait for a while. If everything is in the clear (means: no one is trying to prosecute your initiative for the club!) you can continue with the next step: Creating your cannabis social club!
- Creating the Cannabis Social Club
After your presentation and having made your intent known comes the fun part. You are now officially forming your legal cannabis social club! To do this you will create an executive committee that will run the club. As is the case with any other type of club, this means you will need a president, a secretary and a treasurer.
When this is done, next on the list will be your club statutes. Your club statutes need to include the purpose of the club and shouldn’t really leave much open so that no-one could misread it as that cannabis is illegally produced or distributed. Don’t hesitate to also engage with your club for cannabis research, for example how to grow it organically and in the best way. If you need help with that, you can get good club statutes templates from ENCOD that had already been successfully used to form some clubs.
Have your cannabis club statutes registered and approved with your local authority because this will add greatly to your club’s transparency.
Now with all these prerequisites taken care of, you can finally start to accept members! Here, you would however be advised to be careful. Only accept members who are familiar with and currently consuming cannabis. Experienced medicinal cannabis users are always a good bet but you need to make sure that these members don’t have conditions that are made worse from consuming cannabis.
While it’s understandable that you possibly would like to accept everyone, think about that a club that would run into legal troubles and then would have to shut down would be the least thing that you and the members want!
With a number of members comes the demand and this means that it’s now time to start with growing! If possible, choose a privately owned land as your plantation and if you can select a remote area for this out of the public eye.
Not only will your club grow weed for a whole bunch of members, you obviously want to do it right and in the best way possible. Grow organically and have quality always on your mind. You will likely also want to plant a good variety of strains depending on the needs of your members.
One thing that is important and surprisingly often overlooked: At all times and during all club activities carry documents about your legal membership to the club. You never know who and at what time somebody could possibly be arrested and this is where you always want to have these documents ready. This is especially important for everyone who’s actively involved in growing, harvesting and distributing! Needless to say, distribution and consumption of cannabis should only take place at the club.
- Professional Club Organization
In the beginning of your club you may likely not have too many members and things may possibly go ok and not cause too many hassles. But in time, your membership will grow and sometimes substantially once the word got out! More members will normally mean more work and more logistical issues.
It is then where you should consider to “professionalize” your club. Such a professionalization can be done in various ways. For instance, at some point your club may well grow a considerate amount of cannabis so that one single plantation might just not cut it any longer.
At some point you could probably also consider to establish some guidelines for your members especially when it comes to distribution of your club’s “product” to non-members but there sure can be many other things that such guidelines can cover.
Should your club ever make profit, reinvest this profit smartly into the club. You could use the money to improve your facilities or take your profit as an opportunity to provide discounts with reduced membership fees.
Always keep records about your activities and your cannabis social club’s spending. Having documents and paperwork for everything that your club does is the best way so you can prove your good intentions and can come across as the professional and transparent cannabis social club that you’re the proud founder of!