Breaking news: marijuana and sugar-beet scandal in Tarragona!

Reuters, 7 March:

A small town in northeastern Spain believes it has found a novel way to pay of its debt: cultivating cannabis.

Tucked in the hills of one of Spain’s most picturesque regions, the Catalonian village of Rasquera has agreed to rent out land to grow marijuana, an enterprise the local authorities say will allow them to pay off their 1.3 million euro debt in two years.

Local authorities are keeping the location of the site top secret while Spain’s attorney general investigates the legality of the project. The Catalan regional government has also asked the village for further information about the plan.

The scheme is the brainchild of a 5,000-strong Barcelona marijuana users’ associatiom, ABCDA. More on their site here and here in Spanish. ABCDA would run its farm as a nonprofit cooperative.

The new PP government in Madrid is bound hand and foot by Brussels and Berlin to a destructive austerity economic policy and is anxious to score culture-war points with its base as a distraction. So prospects for ABCDA’s bright idea don’t look good in the short run, in spite of the endorsement of the principle by eminent American scholars and divines.

However, ABCDA have made a very clever strategic move by buying the support of a debt-burdened Catalan municipality for an apparently solid and workable project. What is the national government’s plan B for Rasquera’s public finances (see Berlin supra)? Why shouldn’t Catalonia have the right to run a prudent, regulated experiment on drugs policy? What concrete harm would the project do? There are no good BAU answers to these questions.

The possible scandal IMHO is that ABCDA plan to rotate marijuana “ecologically” with grain and beet (remolacha). It’s not clear whether this would be red salad beetroot, cattle food or – my worry – sugar beet. The last would be (a) adding to the over-production of a dangerous addictive drug; (b) exploiting an appalling protectionist Common Agricultural Policy boondoggle that destroys the livelihoods of poor Caribbean sugar-cane growers. (I know that US sugar protectionism is just as bad, only smaller).

The RBC demands answers, or at least a sweetener.


  1. John G says

    One hopes that ABCDA’s or the municipalities’ projected revenue figures are not as inflated as those that have been used in California. And I suppose one argument for not allowing the local experiment is that it won’t remain local (and I don’t suppose they hope it will remain local): people from all over Spain and southwest France could come to buy. So the harm, if any, risks spreading.

    That said, I’d like to see it go ahead, even though I won’t be traveling to Spain to take advantage of it (I expect I can find local supply more cheaply in Toronto.)

    What’s a ‘BAU answer’?

  2. says

    On spread: if ABCDA are serious about the cooperative nature of the project, supplies could be provided by subscription to members only. There need not be any store in Rasquera, and ABCDA could offer tight monitoring if there’s a deal going with the authorities. You can’t make such a scheme leak-proof at the street level, but you don’t have to: why travel to Barcelona to buy an ounce off an ABCDA member? Remember that you would also be substantially reducing the overall size of the Barcelona street market, and making quality and strength of the product more predictable and I assume safer.