Wednesday, January 9, 2013

In France, Cannabis Social Club growers no longer want to hide

This is a translation of Les cultivateurs des "Cannabis Social Clubs" ne veulent plus se cacher, an article originally published by the French magazine Le Point on January 5, 2013. Credit goes to AFP.

“Cannabis Social Club” growers no longer want to hide

Some growers that get together to cultivate their plants since 2009 intend on declaring themselves in prefectures in February.

Since 2009, some growers have regrouped as part of “Cannabis social clubs,” of which there are between 150 and 200 in France, to grow and share their plants, with the intention of declaring themselves in prefectures in February, an “act of civil disobedience,” according to Dominique Broc, the national spokesperson for the project.

“It is an act of civil disobedience. We want to impose our activity,” Dominique Broc told AFP. Without hiding his face, he presents a “cultivation space” of about 100 square feet installed in his home. Energy-saving blue lamps, turned on 18 hours per day and help grow his hemp crops, while yellow sodium lamps, turned on twelve hours per day, heat the plants to allow for blooming. “We produce to protect our society from the perverse effects of mafias that are entering the territory to produce cannabis (often impure) on a large scale to sell them to our children,” explains this professional gardener.

Shared Costs

In this collective production, sixteen people share the costs in solidarity: the hemp, the compost, the fertilizer, and the electricity. “Each pays according to his need, in proportion to his or her personal consumption (from 500 grams to 3 kilograms), and at factory price,” says Dominique Broc, who compares this activity to that of food co-ops: “We do not wish to make a living from the final product. We all have day jobs. We are able to say exactly how much we are producing.”

According to him, the bonds of trust that unite the club, which is closed to minors, eliminates the risk of resale. “By sharing the costs, the final cost comes to 25 cents a gram, sometimes less, while the same product in the black market is of dubious quality and costs between 10 and 15 euros,” he claims. The club’s members include an electrical engineer, a physician, and a taxi driver who smoke for “a life of comfort” or for “therapeutic reasons.” He also mentions the example of a woman suffering from multiple sclerosis who “relieves her pain by smoking cannabis, with the approval of her doctor.”

The Cannabis Social Club, established in Touraine three years ago, harvests 23 kilograms of hemp flowers each year. According to him, the police is aware of that. He insists: “I imagine that the police is watching over us and therefore sees that we are not trafficking. Like the police, we are fighting drug trafficking, but in our own way, and without using taxpayer money.”

“Fighting against the plague of prohibition”

If these advocates that “favor the decriminalization of cannabis” share the costs of their production in solidarity, they also share the troubles that could arise from it. In France, article 222-35 of the penal code claims that the illegal production or manufacture of narcotics are punished by twenty years in prison and a €7,500,000 fine. If the activity is done collectively, the punishment is thirty years in prison and a €7,500,000 fine. To make their point heard, the “French Cannabis Social Clubs” intend on declaring themselves in prefectures in the upcoming month of February. Dominique Broc says he seeks to “fight against the plague of prohibition,” which he is familiar with: in 1990, he was convicted and served eighteen months in prison for possession of marijuana.

“Vandalized by little dealers”

“We would like for our actions to be recognized as a public service, let’s not beat around the bush,” says Farid Ghehioueche, another founder of the Cannabis Social Clubs, who is a member of the organization Cannabis sans frontières (lit. “Cannabis Without Borders”), and previously ran as a legislative candidate for the department of Essonne under the label “Cannabis, Health, Freedom, Justice.”
“We will begin the process of official declaration,” with a certain number of measures to promote the debate and “collectively demand an exit strategy” to cannabis prohibition, he adds. “We are not here to make money, but to live without the risks of buying black market products of questionable quality. And to be recognized by the State as full-fledged citizens,” he explains.

“We are waiting for a statement from the current government which has so far been an accomplice to the underground economy,” states Dominique Broc. “Our principal opponents are the dealers,” he explains, citing an incident that occurred a few years ago at Joué-lès-Tours: “We wanted to explain our endeavor to the population at a booth. We were vandalized by little neighborhood dealers, because we are beating them to the punch!”

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