Cannabis Social Clubs in Belgium: a study of the organization of collective cannabis cultivation for personal use and characteristics of club members

Research Period

1 March 2015 – 31 December 2018

Financing

FWO

Researcher

Mafalda PARDAL

Key Words

Cannabis policy, Cannabis Social Clubs, collective cultivation, drugs

Abstract

Context and key goals of the study

Within its prohibitive parameters, parties to the UN 1961, 1971 and 1988 drug control conventions are afforded a certain degree of flexibility in the formulation of national policies. Such flexibility in interpretation has led to a variety of cannabis policy practices and reforms deviating from a repressive approach: informal non-enforcement of drug laws, schemes of non-enforcement by written guidelines for the police, the prosecution or the judiciary, decriminalization, scheduling cannabis as a less harmful drugs, etc. It has also led to the development of ‘cannabis social clubs’ (CSCs) cultivating cannabis for personal use on a collective basis.

CSCs can be found in many countries, but the label often covers very different empirical realities. Although the model has become a frequent subject in the international debate about drug policy reform, detailed empirical data on how CSCs are organized and structured, on how CSCs function on a daily basis, and characteristics of their members remains scarce in the international academic literature.

This study aims to analyze CSCs in Belgium, focusing on three dimensions:

  1. The organization, structure and daily functioning of the CSCs;
  2. The socio-demographic characteristics and drug use profile of the CSCs’ members;
  3. The cannabis produced in the CSCs.

Methodological approach

This study is the first in-depth and empirical analysis of how the CSC model functions in practice. In order to achieve the research goals outlined above, the research team will undertake the following methodological steps:

  • Review of international literature on CSCs in European countries;
  • Qualitative interviews:
    • Interviews with international academic experts;
    • Interviews with all board staff members of Belgian CSCs;
  • Review of internal documents of Belgian CSCs;
  • Content analysis of Belgian CSCs’ websites, media articles and other documentation about the CSCs;
  • Survey questionnaire, distributed to all CSCs’ members;
  • Toxicological analysis of cannabis plants – this analysis will be carried out by the laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology, KU Leuven (Prof. Dr. Jan Tytgat).

Valorisation

  • PARDAL, M. (2017). Understanding Cannabis Social Clubs: a mixed methods approach. Poster presented at the 1st European Congress of Qualitative Inquiry, Leuven (Belgium), 7-9 February 2017.
  • DECORTE, T., PARDAL, M., QUEIROLO, R., BOIDI, M. F., SANCHEZ, C., PARES, O. (2017). Regulating Cannabis Social Clubs: a comparative analysis of legal and self-regulatory practices in Spain, Belgium and Uruguay. International Journal of Drug Policy, 43(1), 44-56.
  • PARDAL, M. & TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2016). A decade of Cannabis Social Clubs in Belgium: hitting the headlines? Paper presented at the 27th annual conference of the European Society for Social Drug research, Frankfurt (Germany), 22-24 September 2016.
  • DECORTE, T., PARDAL, M., QUEIROLO, R., BOIDI, M.F., SANCHEZ, C. & PARES, O. (2016) How to regulate Cannabis Social Clubs: analyzing the experiences in Spain, Belgium and Uruguay. Paper presented at the 27th annual conference of the European Society for Social Drug research, Frankfurt (Germany), 22-24 September 2016.

  • DECORTE, T. & PARDAL, M. (2016). Cannabis Social Clubs in Europe: Prospects and Limits. In: Colson, R., Bergeron, H., European Drug Policies: the ways of reform. Oxford: Routledge.
  • PARDAL, M. (2016). Cannabis social clubs in Belgium: growing in a legal haze?. In: Maillard, J. et al., (eds.), Crime and order, criminal justice experiences and desistance: today’s security issues (Vol. 4). Antwerpen: Maklu.
  • PARDAL, M. (2016). Problemen vermijden: hoe onderzoek te doen in een 'mijnenveld'. In: Decorte, T. and Zaitch, D. (eds.), Kwalitatieve methoden en technieken in de criminologie (pp.582-583). Leuven: Acco.
  • PARDAL, M. (2016) Cannabis Social Clubs through the lens of the drug user movement. Tijdschrift over Cultuur & Criminaliteit, (6),2, 47-58.
  • PARDAL, M. (2016). Introduction to CSC's. Invited speaker at the 59th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (Vienna), 17 March 2016.
  • PARDAL, M. (2015). Cannabis Social Clubs in Belgium: a study of the organization of collective cannabis cultivation for personal use and characteristics of Club members. Paper presented at the 4th GERN Doctoral Summer School on Crime, Deviance and Criminal Justice, Paris (France), 7-9 September 2015.
  • PARDAL, M. & DECORTE, T. (2015). Cannabis Social Clubs in Europe. Paper presented at the 26th annual conference of the European Society for Social Drug research, Glasgow (Scotland), 3-5 September 2015.