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

Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs) are associations of adult cannabis users, often registered in the relevant national registries, which seek to establish a closed system of cannabis supply for the personal use of their members – based on cooperative and non-profit principles. As such, CSCs can be understood as an alternative (and ‘middle ground’) model for the supply of cannabis. The first known CSC initiatives emerged in Spain during the 1990s, but CSCs can now be found in many other countries, even if not formally recognized by their respective public authorities (Uruguay is a noteworthy exception, having legalized and regulated the model since the passing of law 19,172).

The CSC label thus may cover 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’ operate as cannabis suppliers, and about 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 functioning of the CSCs;
  2. The socio-demographic characteristics and drug use patterns of the CSCs’ members;
  3. The cannabis produced by 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;
  • Review of internal documents of Belgian CSCs (e.g., bylaws, cultivation protocols, house-rules, etc.) as well as their websites (if available);
  • Content analysis of domestic media articles about the Belgian CSCs;
  • Qualitative interviews:
    • Interviews with Belgian CSCs’ directors (currently active and former CSCs);
    • Interviews with cannabis growers operating within Belgian CSCs;
    • Interviews with other relevant stakeholders.
  • Online web survey, distributed among Belgian CSCs’ members;
  • Toxicological analysis of cannabis samples produced by the Belgian CSCs (pending approval) – this analysis will be carried out by the laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology, KU Leuven (Prof. Dr. Jan Tytgat).

 

 

Valorisation

  • PARDAL, M. & TIEBERGHIEN, J. (2017). An analysis of media framing of and by Cannabis Social Clubs in Belgium: making the news? Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy (accepted),
  • PARDAL, M. (2017). “The difference is in the tomato at the end”: understanding the motivations and practices of cannabis growers operating within Belgian Cannabis Social Clubs. Paper presented at the 11th annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy, Aarhus (Denmark), 17-19 May 2017.
  • 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.