Legalization of marijuana: Spain’s Socialist Party votes against legalization of recreational cannabis | Spain
The issue of legalizing marijuana has exposed divisions within the Spanish government, led by a center-left coalition of the Socialist Party (PSOE) and its junior partner Unidas Podemos. The PSOE on Tuesday voted against a proposal to legalize recreational cannabis, even if that involved aligning itself with the conservative People’s Party (PP) and far-right Vox, who also opposed the measure. Thanks to the unlikely agreement between these groups, the proposal was rejected by an overwhelming majority, with 75 votes in favor, 263 against and nine abstentions.
The PSOE is only willing to consider legalizing medical marijuana, an issue that should be considered by a newly formed subcommittee of the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies. When it comes to decriminalizing recreational cannabis, the PSOE’s objection on Tuesday was almost as categorical as that of the Right. “This is not a question of the right or the left, it is a question of public health,” PSOE lawmaker Daniel Vicente told Congress, adding: “We are a government party.”
The proposal to legalize recreational marijuana was brought forward by the leftist group Más País, led by Íñigo Errejón. “It is about regulating what is already normal on the street,” Errejón told Congress. “I don’t know what country you live in, but I do know the country I live in, and in this one, anyone who wants to use marijuana does, even though it is prohibited.”
The Más País leader argued that banning marijuana only leads to “more consumption, more crime and more damage to health”, while legalizing the drug would take the business “out of business. hands of the mafias ”. By making it legal, he argued, the sale of marijuana would be subject to health controls and Spain would foster very lucrative legal economic activity in countries like Canada, where it has been legal since 2018. The measure, he cited a report from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, which estimated that the legalization of marijuana could create up to 100,000 jobs for a business volume of 3.3 billion euros. The leader of Más País accused opponents of the initiative, in particular the PSOE, of “hypocrisy”.
The proposal was supported on Tuesday by left and regional groups, including Unidas Podemos, the Basque party EH Bildu, the Canarian Coalition (CC), the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG) and pro-Catalan independence parties the Catalan Republican Left ( ERC), Junts per Catalunya (Ensemble for Catalonia) and the Candidacy for Popular Unity (CUP). Unidas Podemos and the ERC have also announced similar proposals to legalize marijuana that will be presented to Congress. Center-right Ciudadanos (Citizens), who voted in favor of the initiative, accused left-wing parties of “racing” to be the first to advance the idea, a criticism which was echoed by the Nationalist Party Basque (PNV), who abstained.
The PSOE’s decision to vote against legalizing marijuana has not only put it at odds with its coalition partner, but also with its allies in parliament. As the head of a minority government, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE needs the support of other parties to pass key laws, such as the budget. ERC votes, for example, were key to approving the 2020 budget, as well as Sánchez’s swearing-in as prime minister.
Despite this, the PSOE has been adamant in its rejection of the proposal, with socialist lawmaker Vicente blaming Errejón for wanting to legalize a drug with potentially harmful psychological effects, while demanding better public policies to protect mental health. Right-wing parties in Congress have also criticized the measure. “Drug use is neither a fundamental right nor a freedom,” said PP lawmaker Elvira Velasco, while Vox MP Juan Luis Steegmann, a doctor by profession, described the negative effects of cannabis use about health. “Instead of Más País, you should be called Más Hachís [more hashish], he joked.
Divisions within the coalition government were evident on Tuesday, but both parties avoided open attacks. Unidas Podemos lawmaker Lucía Muñoz simply told the PSOE that it could not escape a debate on the issue – two more proposals on legalizing marijuana are expected to go to Congress.