Manifesto of support to the Pannagh Association
Concerning Judgment nr. 788/2015 of the 2nd Chamber of the Spanish Supreme Court, in which four members of the Association of Cannabis Consumers Pannagh (Bilbao) are condemned to imprisonment and heavy fines for an alleged crime against public health, the signing individuals and organizations express the following:
• During the trial in the Provincial Court of Biscay it was proven, as stated in the acquittal, that Pannagh is a “legally constituted association“, whose members are all adult people who are properly identified and “all consumers of cannabis.” In accordance with its statutes and with the aim of facilitating “access to cannabis with quality guarantees without violating the legal provisions that might be applicable to the case“, “Pannagh established a growing activity with the permission of the members, meant for their private consumption.” This included “control measures to prevent the spread of the substance to non-members” something which has never been reported. The members paid a “proportionate share to cover the costs of the cultivation and related expenses“, without any indication of diversion of money to other purposes, of enrichment, or of the possibility that Pannagh could have served “as a formal façade” for the sale of cannabis to others. It has also been proven that the confiscated cannabis was intended exclusively for the consumption of the members of the association themselves.
• However, the judgment of the Supreme Court altered the account of the proven facts in order to conclude the existence of criminal offenses. Its main argument is that although cannabis produced by Pannagh was never handed over to non-members, there was a potential risk of leakages to people outside the association by the members. Thus, the four members of Pannagh are sentenced to prison for acts that might have happened -which is not proven-, allegedly committed by others without their knowledge or consent, which is clearly unfair. In addition, the president and the secretary are imposed fines of 250.000 euros each, a disproportionate amount considering the fact that no attempt to enrich themselves has been proven.
• The 2nd Chamber of the Supreme Court acknowledges the existence of a “pardonable offense of prohibition“, i.e. reduces the penalties by one degree considering that the condemned could have reasons to believe that their actions did not constitute a crime, but at the same time refuses to absolve them claiming they did not do enough to prevent this error. The sentence states that “they had the burden of verifying the legality of the activity they carried out, checking whether their conduct was in accordance with the law” and behaved with recklessness “encouraged by the unfounded hope that their performance deserved to be tolerated. ” The Chamber considers that the accused “did nothing to overcome that error“, “avoided mechanisms that would have succeeded to clarify doubts“, “took care in hiding the production and distribution of cannabis to their members” and adds that “a lot of data tend to suggest their approach was very close to relative indifference“.
However, the truth is that the activities of Pannagh have been repeatedly subject to court decisions that have affirmed their legality, highlighting Judgment nr. 218/2006 of the Provincial Court of Biscay and nr. 377/2012 of the Court of Alava, which in both cases ended with the return of the seized cannabis to Pannagh. These resolutions have been widely disseminated through the media and are therefore well known, just as the activities of Pannagh, which have clearly been allowed for years by various public institutions. Therefore, in stead of “unfounded hope”, they were rather driven by an informed conviction, apparently shared by several courts of justice.
It is also known that among the activities carried out by Pannagh there were initiatives to promote the request for support to various institutions such as the Ararteko (Ombudsman of the Basque Country) and the Basque Parliament, due to the legal uncertainty in which the association and similar entities find themselves. These initiatives, developed together with other associations, led to the organization of a Forum by the Ararteko in 2011, and an intervention in the Basque Parliament in 2012. One can hardly speak of “indifference”, as if the defendants or the other members of Pannagh did nothing to avoid their error.
Moreover, it is not credible that Pannagh was trying to hide its growing activities
when its president, Martin Barriuso, has presented the model of the association also called Cannabis Social Clubs in many different forums, institutions and media in various countries, having been invited to do so, among other institutions, by the Joint Commission on Drugs of the Spanish Parliament, the President of the Republic of Uruguay, the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal and the European Commission.
Therefore, the signing individuals and organizations publicly claim that the injustice committed by this judgment of the 2nd Chamber of the Supreme Court is repaired as soon as possible.