Spain village fails to back growing cannabis to pay debts

Man lights up joint
Image caption It is legal in Spain to grow cannabis for personal and shared use

A village in Spain has failed to back a plan to grow marijuana to pay off debts created during the financial crisis.

A majority of 56% supported the project, falling short of the 75% needed to get it introduced.

The plan divided the 960 inhabitants of Rasquera, south of Barcelona, after the council approved the plan in March.

The marijuana was to be sold to an association of drug users in Barcelona. In Spain it is legal to grow small amounts for personal or shared use.

The village council proposed leasing a seven hectare plot of land to ABCDA, an association of drug users in Barcelona.

Until now, Rasquera has concentrated on cultivating grapes and olives. But like many councils it has run up debts in the financial crisis.

The village leaders believed that despite the relatively large amounts of marijuana involved, the proposal to supply it to a users' group meant the plan would comply with the country's laws.

Legal challenge

The project would have generated around 1.3m euros ($1.7m; £1.07m), roughly the size of the Rasquera's debts.

But the country's National Drug Plan had said growing marijuana in large amounts would be against the law, and it would challenge the project if it was approved.

While some residents thought the plan a good idea, others were concerned about its legality. One farmer who voted against the cannabis proposal said he did not want the village to have to face a hefty legal bill if the government declared it illegal.

The mayor of Rasquera, Bernat Pellisa, had earlier said he would resign if the project was rejected.

But after the vote he told the national and international television companies who had flocked to his village that he would think again, after winning majority support.

The project would also have created around 40 jobs, in a country where unemployment is at record levels after a financial crisis caused by the crash of the housing market in 2008.

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