Leaders of this northeastern town have given the green light to the establishment of a cannabis plantation to boost municipal revenues and create jobs as Spain faces economic crisis.
The Rasquera city council voted in favour of leasing land to the Barcelona-based ABCDA group to plant marijuana, a project that will create 40 jobs and is projected to generate 1.33 million euros ($1.78 million) over the next two years.
The private consumption and cultivation of pot is legal in Spain, and although its use to alleviate the symptoms of different diseases – such as cancer – is very controversial, some patients with chronic pain resort to marijuana to mitigate their suffering.
After the vote Tuesday evening, Rasquera Mayor Bernat Pallisa said that the project is supported by a majority of the townspeople, adding that he felt like a ‘pioneer on the European level’.
He also said he was ‘surprised’ by the response to the project in Germany, Italy, Argentina and the US, from where the city government has received requests for more information, and a company has gotten in contact with him expressing interest in establishing a cottage in the town to house cancer, fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis patients.
He announced that next week an assembly will be held in Rasquera where scientists, attorneys and physicians will explain the aspects of the project to the locals.
However, those opposed to the measure say that it ‘brushes the limit of illicit activities’, and so they voted against the plantation and demanded ‘a binding referendum’ on the matter.
Rasquera, a farming community governed by the leftist Catalan nationalist party ERC, has a population of about 900 and debt of 1.3 million euros.
The pot plantation project, which was suggested seven months ago by ABCDA, is seen by authorities as an opportunity to revitalize the battered local economy.
According to the contract between Rasquera and ABCDA, the association will contribute 30,000 euros upon the signing of the contract, 6,000 euros more within the next month and 650,000 euros per year for two years to be able to use the land that will be allocated to it.
That will enable the municipality to retire its debt in two years.
Spain finished out 2011 with a deficit equal to 8.51 percent of gross domestic product and an unemployment rate of 23.49 percent, which translates to more than 5.2 million people out of work.