3. Legal or not: a comparative analysis of Belgian and Uruguayan CSC members’ profile and policy preferences
Cannabis Social Clubs (CSCs) can be found in several countries in Europe and Latin America. However, Uruguay is the only country that offers a legal framework for their functioning: CSCs are one of the three supply models allowed under that country’s cannabis regulation. Differently, in Belgium, CSCs have remained unregulated and subject to criminal prosecution. Our goals are to provide a comparative analysis of the sociodemographic profile and patterns of use of CSC members in the two countries, as well as of their views on cannabis policy.
This chapter draws on responses from two online surveys among CSC members in both Uruguay (2018-2019) and Belgium (2017).
We found similarities across the two groups in terms of CSC members’ sociodemographic profile (mainly male, middleclass, educated users), and patterns of use (near daily or daily users). The Belgian respondents had a more positive view of the CSC regulatory framework introduced in Uruguay than their Uruguayan counterparts. The legal limitation to the number of members enrolled per CSC and the mandatory registration in a national database were particularly contentious issues among Uruguayan CSC members.
There seems to still be room for improvement in terms of the way CSCs embrace a harm reduction role. In addition, the fact that most CSC members reported that they no longer acquired cannabis through dealers or other illicit suppliers represents an important positive contribution of the model. In a more obvious way in the case of Uruguay, as it implies a competition between the new licit market and the illicit market, and the gradual achievement of one of the main goals of the legal reform in that country. For jurisdictions that have not yet legalized cannabis, including Belgium, this information suggests that CSCs might help reduce contact between cannabis users and the illicit market - at least among this particular type of cannabis users.