March 9th, 2012

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.