Spain, like many European countries, has liberal laws on marijuana use, compared to many other nations such as the U.S. Spanish laws focus on restricting sale and transport of the drug. Individual possession and use in private are legal. Spain generally treats drug abuse as a health issue rather than a legal issue. Drug abusers are more likely to face court-appointed treatment programs than incarceration. (see Reference 1)
Possession and Use
Spain has decriminalised the possession of marijuana plants and individual consumption of the drug in private. However, public marijuana use is punishable with a fine, as is public alcohol consumption. The effect of these laws is to encourage recreational drug users to stay off the streets and out of public areas. Local marijuana proponents are lobbying for the legalisation of "cannabis clubs," private clubs for marijuana users, similar to those in the Netherlands.
Sale and Transport
Selling marijuana is illegal in Spain. In addition, Spain has severe penalties for trafficking in the drug, including fines and three to six years in prison. While personal possession is legal for residents, the burden is on the individual to prove the drug is for personal use and not for profit. Foreign visitors to Spain with an eye to marijuana use should remember that it is illegal to purchase the drug. If caught possessing marijuana, they risk being prosecuted on trafficking charges as well.
In July 2010, Spain legalised Sativex, a cannabis-derived drug for pain management. Medical marijuana proponents, however, point out that Sativex is more expensive than marijuana, and medical authorities have limited access to the drug. Spain's individual states, called "autonomous communities," are able to maintain their own laws without national regulation. The northern region of Catalonia legalised medical marijuana in the early 2000s. This allows patients with a doctor's prescription to legally purchase marijuana from licensed dealers or pharmacies, rather than growing their own.
Spain has joined European agreements designed to standardise drug laws throughout the continent. These accords emphasised harsh penalties for trafficking in drugs, while allowing countries to make their own laws on individual use. Spain, like the Netherlands, opted to decriminalise such use, focusing law enforcement resources elsewhere.
It is important to remember that marijuana laws, like any laws, are complex and can change at any time. Anyone needing advice on specific cases should seek a legal expert or attorney familiar with Spanish law.