Spanish authorities just raided what they claim was Europe's biggest cannabis plantation, arresting 3 farmers and destroying over 400,000 plants valued at over $108 million.
Raids like this are sadly still a common practice in countries where weed is still completely illegal. But in this case, the farmers weren't growing dank bud for the black market: They were growing non-psychoactive hemp plants to make CBD medicines. And although hemp is technically legal in Spain, the farmers were apparently violating the country’s very specific rules and regulations regarding its cultivation and use.
The Spanish Guardia Civil began planning the raid last year after a tip-off from local cops who discovered the farm. Drone surveillance revealed that the plantation spread out across 11 different fields in the rural northern region of Navarre, comprising around 166 acres of healthy hemp plants. Cops eventually raided the farm last week, seizing and destroying around 415,000 live plants and 50 tons of dried hemp that had reportedly been set aside for CBD extraction.
The plantation's owner initially told the Guardia Civil that the farm was exclusively producing industrial hemp, which is legal in Spain. But according to Reuters, police believe that the farmers were actually planning to export their dried plants to Italy and Switzerland, where companies would extract CBD from the raw hemp. And although CBD oils, foods, and drinks are just as popular in Spain as they are in the rest of the world, the production of cannabis for commercial use remains strictly prohibited.
Spanish law allows the cultivation of hemp plants containing up to 0.2% THC content for industrial use only. Individual farmers are also allowed to grow hemp, or even marijuana, for their own personal use. Growing cannabis for commercial purposes, though, remains illegal, unless it falls under the limited guidelines of industrial use. Government agencies have authorized a few individual companies to grow hemp for research, medical, and scientific purposes, but the plantation that just got busted did not have one of these licenses.
Back in 2017, a Spanish court ruled that citizens have the constitutional right to use cannabis as part of their fundamental rights to personal development and freedom. This ruling effectively decriminalized the personal possession and use of pot, but allowed existing laws against cannabis sales to stand. Hundreds of gray-market private cannabis clubs sprang up to meet the demand for weed, but cops have recently started shutting them all down.
As usual, conservative politicians' prohibition policies have proved to be far out of step with public opinion. According to a recent poll, 56% of Spanish voters support legal, government-regulated cannabis sales for adults over the age of 18.