Martín Barriuso




The wave of political conservatism and alignment with the United States in which Spain is today immersed encompassed drug policies a long time ago. The National Drug Plan substantiates Spain's adhesion to the principles stipulated in U.N. conventions and its adoption of the drug-free-world goal and support of the most repressive strategies.


At a practical level, however, the government is having a difficult time sticking to a hard-line.  During the past few years, what has been happening in Spain hardly fits in with what is to be expected in a country whose leaders wholeheartedly embrace the idea of zero tolerance towards illicit drugs. On the one hand, risk and harm reduction programs are being widely implemented:  methadone, and shortly, heroine-supply programs; needle exchange programs; hygienic-consumption rooms; substance analysis; and other such initiatives. On the other hand, illicit drugs have been progressively normalized at a cultural and social level, particularly cannabis; there is a growing debate regarding legalization −which has been greatly influenced by the emergence of thousands of cannabis and anti- prohibitionist associations− plus several specialized journals which circulate widely; and hundreds of shops dedicated to selling all sorts of the paraphernalia related to drugs.


Nonetheless, what is most interesting about these changes is that they have come about at a period when Spain is in full retrocession; a decade in which the government has passed from socialism to conservativism and from there, to ultraconservativism.  Although the few legislative changes passed are geared at strengthening an already hard-line, what is apparent is that the situation has improved noticeably. What's happening is Spain goes to show how administrative decentralization (with regional governments very actively defending normalization of all drugs), mass culture, new forms of activism, Internet and new trends carry more weight than the will of political institutions.  That, together with a diffuse but imaginative strategy −reflected in the metaphor "mosquitoes attacking the dinosaurs"− which has used peculiar forms of disobedience and imaginative campaigns to, slowly but surely, make a dent in the prohibitionists wall. This is a lesson which might serve the movement for new drug policies well for the future.



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