The conservative Popular Party of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar went down in a startling defeat Sunday because of its support for the US invasion of Iraq and its efforts to avoid acknowledging Al Qaeda as the probable author of the bombings that killed more than 200 Madrid train commuters three days earlier. But the Aznar government was rightist in more than just its foreign policy, and its defeat spells good news for Spain's burgeoning cannabis culture.
As DRCNet reported in January (http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/318/spain.shtml), the Aznar government had been moving for months toward drafting a plan to shut down pro-cannabis publications such as Canamo and Yerba as "apologists" for teen age pot-smoking and to move against the cannabis seed and grow shops sprouting up around the country. That effort is now as dead as the political career of its main patron in the Aznar government, Justice Minister Angel Acebes, now infamous as the man who tried to convince Spanish voters it was Basque nationalism and not his government's support of the war in Iraq that led to last week's attacks.
"Now, without the Popular Party in the government, it is almost certain that the commission of experts appointed by Acebes and their National Drug Plan will remain without effect and forgotten," Canamo editor Gaspar Fraga told DRCNet. "It is dead, as you say."
The Popular Party will be replaced by the Socialists (PSOE) led by prime minister-in-waiting Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The party fell short of an absolute majority in parliament, so Zapatero must build a coalition with either smaller regional or other ideologically compatible parties of the left and center.
The Socialists criticized Acebes' attack on cannabis culture as "scandalous" back in January, saying anti-drug efforts should be concentrated on big hard-drug trafficking organizations, and their posture toward cannabis is a definite improvement over that of Aznar and company, but there is still room for improvement, said Fraga. While cannabis use or possession is not a criminal offense in Spain, users can still be fined and its sale remains illegal.
"Our mission now is to initiate conversations with the PSOE in order to achieve the legalization of cannabis and its production and sale," said Fraga. "At the least, we must get the Socialists to repeal Law 1/92, known as the "Corcuera law," which they themselves promulgated, and which imposes a minimum fine of 300 Euros ($368 US) on whoever has more than a small quantity of the drug for his own use and consumption."
Still, the battles for drug reform in Spain will now be fought on friendlier terrain.