On Friday 29 July 2022, Spanish customs officers intercepted a drug trafficking boat after it crashed on the coast of southern Spain. While they raided the beach and proceeded with the investigation, they were suddenly forced to fend off locals trying to get their hands on the precious cannabis cargo.
In several pieces of footage from the incident which has since gone viral, police were first seen securing the beach when they were swamped by dozens of looters looking to steal the stash. While some officers tried to snatch the cargo back from their hands, others were seen chasing after the locals and trying to detain them.
Heck, the officials were even forced to fly a customs helicopter close to the ground in a final attempt to fend off the swarm of people stealing from the drug bust. Even then, some still took a chance and sprinted under the helicopter to fill their bags with the loot.
The bizarre raid was reportedly filmed from a nearby rooftop in Sanlucar de Barrameda, Cadiz province—while other videos were recorded by beachgoers.
According to reports, as noted by the Daily Mail, the Spanish Customs Office requested the help of the Civil Guard and the National Police to contain the scene when its force was overwhelmed by the looters who “pounced” on the leftover drugs.
The Customs Surveillance team later took to Twitter to thank their workers. “Congratulations to our colleagues, who after an anti-drug operation in Sanlucar and their decisive action, managed to intercept a cache of hashish after the boat carrying the drug ran aground on the beach,” the tweet read.
UNILAD went on to note how cannabis is covered by a “cloudy patch of Spanish law” at the moment. According to the publication, the drug in question is currently decriminalised for personal use in a private place, given that the user only has 100g or less.
“This means that cannabis clubs, where those looking to get a little high can bring their own (short) supply, are popular in Spain’s capital cities,” UNILAD mentioned. “However, trafficking the drug remains a serious criminal offence, for which you could face [a fine of] up to €30,000 (£25,550).”
Those charged with trafficking could also face between three and six years in prison.
On May 31, the U.S.’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held a public hearing to obtain scientific data and information about the safety, manufacturing, product quality, marketing, labelling, and sale of products containing cannabis or cannabis-derived products. At this point, there’s almost no need to ask why. In the U.S., as well as in the U.K. and many other countries, cannabis-related products have flooded the market, making health claims about pain relief, immune function, anxiety, and depression. But it turns out there is little known about how effective these are.
My aim here is not to demonise cannabis Nixon-style but to underline the uncertainty that surrounds it. Understandably, it is difficult to push people to study a substance that until very recently has been almost globally illegal. Even the few studies we’ve had on the topic are outdated, with all the recent developments made in plant-breeding and the changes made in THC concentrations (from the low single digits to more than twenty percent).
From my personal experience, cannabis products seem to work for pain relief and treating anxiety. But I’m not a doctor, and everyone reacts differently to different things. Although it was very necessary, the FDA’s public hearing delivered close to no results and one clear answer: we don’t have enough scientific research to prove the medical benefits of cannabis, and we need to get on it ASAP. What do we have? Testimonies from recreational smokers, cancer patients and new products showing up everywhere—new types of weed, CBD oils, vapes, edibles, creams and more.
When discussing cannabis on a political level, the argument of it being a ‘gateway’ drug is always raised by more conservative voices. And in response to this, there are often two rigid answers: the first one would be that weed has a negative neurological effect on us and pushes people to behave in certain ways, leading them to more serious addictions. The second answer is that, on the contrary, marijuana offers people a safer alternative to other ‘stronger’ drugs, keeping them away from opioids and stimulants. And here again, both answers sound too short-sighted, and I can’t help but feel like we’re missing years of research on a variety of participants to really assert anything.
During the FDA’s hearing, acting commissioner and director of the National Cancer Institute Dr. Ned Sharpless said, “When hemp was removed as a controlled substance, this lack of research, and therefore evidence, to support CBD’s broader use in FDA-regulated products, including in foods and dietary supplements, has resulted in unique complexities for its regulation, including many unanswered questions related to its safety”. And this raises another issue—how exactly are we going to regulate something that has recently become legal in some countries when we don’t even know its long-term effects?
For now, all these questions are left with no answers. We’re only a bit over a decade into the widespread recreational use of marijuana, meaning the data we actually have are pretty messy and vague. The same issue will probably show up in a few years, this time concerning e-cigarettes and vapes. The only certainty I have to offer is that, yes, we need more scientific research on cannabis-derived products. Until then, nothing can be said for sure, not that it matters most of the time. What’s important to remember is how many deaths marijuana has caused: zero, nada, unlike many other drugs, and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t like to spark up after a long day? Junk food clogs your arteries and yet you’ll see me eating chicken nuggets like they’re going out of fashion. I’ll leave you with my hypocritical advice: consume everything in moderation—chicken nuggets and weed included.