Bilbao, 30 March 2015
The Provincial Court of Vizcaya acquits the 5 people accused in the “Pannagh case”
It considers that the activities of the association respect the limits of the concept of “collective consumption”.
In a sentence that has been published today, the Section 6 of the Provincial Court of Vizcaya has decided to acquit of all charges the five members of Pannagh who had recently been accused of drug trafficking. In addition, three members of the board faced a charge of “criminal organisation”.
In the sentence, the Chamber considers proven that the members of the association Pannagh that was legally constituted in 2003, “under Article 2 of the Law on Associations and in order to avoid the risks of the illegal market established a system that would allow access of members to guaranteed quality cannabis without violating the legal provisions applicable to the case. The members thus accepted to organise a growing operation for private consumption”, for which a number of conditions and limits was established, among others “to exclude any other possibility than private consumption”, i.e., to avoid “the possible transfer of the substance to third parties.”
The Court also considers proven that “the amounts of drugs that were confiscated were originating from the shared cultivation plots that had been organised according to the forecasts of the cannabis consumers, who had been properly identified, and were intended for the consumption of these members in accordance with the objectives, rules and agreements of the members of the Association.” In addition, to enter Pannagh a member had to sign a written request supported by another member and had to take place on a waiting list so members were admitted “when the cultivation of the substance could meet their consumption forecasts”.
The sentence states that, contrary to the claims made in court by the prosecution, “it has not been proven that the defendants had constituted an association under a legal and formal coverage of a registered non-profit organization, to grow cannabis, prepare and distribute narcotic substances obtained from cannabis to third parties in exchange for money, nor to cover the delivery of the substances to these persons under the hand out of a membership card at the time of delivery of the substance. ” It also considers that it is not proven that cannabis flowers or hashish had been given to anyone who previously had not been a member, or that the money raised should be earmarked for anything that was not related to the “own expenses of the association and those related to cultivation, harvesting and conservation of the substance for delivery to the members for their own consumption as previously agreed “.
As stated in the judgment, among the documents that were confiscated there were well maintained records of administration, applications for admission to Pannagh signed by the members and people who endorsed them, medical reports, contracts and rent, tax returns, payments to Social Security, etc. In this sense, the Court concludes that the modus operandi of Pannagh was far from “any hint of secrecy”. But in addition, a detailed written record was found about the distribution of cannabis with accurate information on who and how much was receive, to ensure that “each participating member withdrew the amount that had been forecasted, which requires effective control, (…), totally unnecessary control in the hypothesis that a collective consumption was not the intention (…) and the substance would be distributed to third parties, non members, a hypothesis in which it would be in the interest of both those who recieve the substance and those who deliver it to leave no written record of the transaction. ”
Moreover, in response to claims of prosecutors that the defense of the normalization of cannabis would have the hidden intent to promote trafficking, the Court considers that normalisation “should absolutely not be considered as a coverage for trafficking. It is irrational to categorise any collective initiative that merely seeks to overcome the disadvantages of the black market. (…) To judge illegal any attempt to ensure consumer safety conditions, denying the consumer any alternatives outside the illicit market would somehow expose the users to criminals.” Thus, the Court assumes something whih has long been claimed by the anti-prohibitionist movement and supported by prestigious jurists: If you can legally consume, you should be able to obtain the substance also in a legal way.
The Court of Vizcaya, in its sentence, also reflects on the peculiar character of associations as Pannagh. “The constitution of an association and the large amount of members “does not constitute an obstacle to the absence of crime, since the participating members are people who are properly identified, are consumers of cannabis and there are control measures from cultivation to distribution of the drugs to ensure the consumption of the members, control and safety measures that have been accepted by the members to achieve quality and reliable cannabis for personal consumption.” As for the amount of cannabis seized, it is considered “compatible” with the forecast of consumption of the members, about 300 at the time of the intervention. Together with the unanimous testimony of the members who acted as witnesses, in the sense that cannabis was collectively owned and no one outside the association had access to it, leads the Court to conclude that, despite its large volume, it was the product of a collective cultivation, structured by a legally constituted association.
It is also considered irrelevant that the members were allowed to take their cannabis home. The Court understands that it is not only reasonable that the members declare that “they liked or preferred using the substance at home and could not visit the Association every day”, but also that “collecting the substance for private consumption is not punishable” apart from the fact that members are “interested in accomplishing the conditions so that the crops that would be supplied to them would not fail, that the amounts that were distributed would be so small that “no one would ever qualify it to be sufficient to prepare possession for trafficking” and that “none of these people has been the subject of criminal proceedings on possession charges.”
Therefore, and considering that there is no “vocation of trafficking or intention of the accused to promote, encourage or facilitate illegal drug use nor distribution of drugs to third persons,” the Court decides the acquittal of all charges and declares them exempt of legal costs. The prosecution office can present appeal against the judgment, which is not fina, within five days.
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