News24

Spain hamlet going to pot

2012-04-10 21:45

Rasquera - What about growing marijuana to pay off municipal debt? One Spanish village is putting the idea to a vote.

The referendum on Tuesday in Rasquera, population 960, in the northeastern Catalonia region is a quirky, legally touchy illustration of Spain's deep financial woes.

The seven-member town council first approved the idea in March, but it ignited such controversy that the mayor agreed to put it to a referendum in the hamlet of mostly retirees.

At least 75% must be in favour for the plan to go ahead. If that happens, a plot of land will be leased to an association of marijuana buffs in Barcelona who would grow the plants and pay Rasquera €1.3m. Some 40 jobs - growing, harvesting and packaging the pot - would allegedly be created.

The payment by the pot-smoking group ABCDA is about equal to the debt owed by this picturesque hamlet that sits at the foot of a mountain range and has a castle that dates back to the 12th century.

If the plan does not get enough votes, Mayor Bernat Pallisa says he will resign.

Rasquera is not alone with its debt problems. Spain's economy crashed after a real estate bubble and many cities and towns are desperately trying to cope by cutting spending for health care, education and jobs. Spain has the highest unemployment in the 17-nation eurozone at nearly 23% - nearly 50% for young workers - and it's about to enter another recession.

Pallisa could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. But Jose Maria Insausti, an adviser to the town council, said the mayor feels "this can be a good solution for the local economy and if somebody else has better idea, let them come forward".

Under Spanish law, consumption in private of cannabis in small amounts is allowed. Growing it for sale, or advertising it or selling it are illegal.

Officials with the government's National Drug Plan have said growing marijuana in large amounts as planned in Rasquera would be against the law, and have vowed to block any attempts.

Rasquera believes the initiative is legal, however, because ABCDA has pledged that the marijuana grown there will be for its members only - thus, for private consumption, albeit by a group with 5 000 members.

"That is the key," said Insausti.

Results were expected late on Tuesday.

Comments
  • arne.verhoef - 2012-04-10 22:12

    This is a great plan!

  • Cassandra Olivier - 2012-04-10 22:48

    It does well in Holland

  • Alfred - 2012-04-11 06:48

    The american empire with its anti-drug hysteria will never allow it.

  • Ian - 2012-04-11 07:31

    Only a matter of time now before the world wakes up to this cash crop. Enough of the propaganda and misinformation and enough of peoples own ignorance. Time to fix the problems of this world, and marijuana can get us there.

  • Lauden Kirk - 2012-04-13 06:00

    What famous president sold dope to pay for his education in transkie???

      Fidel - 2012-04-13 16:57

      Mathanzima?

  • Madamm - 2012-04-13 16:43

    The idea of waging a war on drugs, against a relatively benign plant like marijuana, is one thing. But when it ravages so viciously that completely innocent people are destroyed, to hide corruption amongst government officials, it becomes a plague. What am I talking about? This film: http://www.expendable.tv So deep is the corruption, that the Australian media won't report it... won't report cables which prove criminal acts by their own ministers in office (see them for yourelf, in the reports). Granted, the media there has a closed remit and non-plural ownership, but this speaks for itself. A wall of absolute silence. The victim is now seriously ill, whilst they basically point the other way. Whilst they smear her deceased father because dead men can't sue. Whilst they cover the truth, and lead a gullible Australian public by the nose. This must be the clearest example in the world of a 'war' taking a life of its own, with innocent human beings who fall under the wheel, being disregarded by the powerful self-interest forces of government. It sickens me.

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