This article originally appeared on VICE Spain.
In Málaga, Fernanda de la Figuera is known as the "weed granny" for her commitment to fighting for cannabis legalisation. But the 76-year-old, who was the first woman to legally cultivate the plant in Spain, now faces up to four years in prison for allegedly distributing cannabis.
Spanish police recently seized 10kg of weed from Fernanda's home. She claims the supply was to be shared with the hundred-odd people in her "Marias x Maria" weed association – a group that was formed, she says, to help women who need cannabis for medical treatment and are unable to get it on the black market.
Weed is illegal in Spain, but there are a few exceptions where individuals are allowed to have small quantities of marijuana for personal use. Under those laws, people often form cannabis associations, in which a group of people make a collective agreement to grow their personal amount of cannabis together and restrict distribution to other members of the group only. Fernanda says that the weed police found belonged to her entire association, not just her.
Now, Infocannabis – a group supporting Fernanda throughout the legal process – is organising demonstrations to protest what they see as an injustice, and to reopen the debate about cannabis legalisation. I got in touch with Fernanda to talk about her situation and the support she's received from various cannabis organisations and users.
VICE: Hi, Fernanda. Can you tell me what you are being accused of and how many times this has happened?
Fernanda: I've been accused of cultivating and distributing cannabis to my friends in the Marias x Maria association, who use it for medical purposes. This is the third time I've been tried for growing marijuana, but I didn’t think it would happen again, because the last two times I was acquitted. I hope this is the last time.
What does it mean for you to be accused and face four years in jail?
It makes me upset and worried – it's not something I would have ever imagined to be going through at my age. I can’t sleep at night. I've been acquitted on two other occasions, so I was convinced I was allowed to do what I was doing, especially because I did it to help other women going through tough times.
You are one of the best-known cannabis activists in Spain. How did you gain that respect within the community?
I think they probably respect me because my intention was only to share a joint with my girlfriends. I've never been involved in any business or profitable activity. I just love cannabis. There’s a Chinese saying: "If you want to be happy, grow flowers."
How did you become the first legal cannabis grower in Spain?
I had a wonderful lawyer who proved that my personal and professional life was perfectly normal and my plants were only for medical use.
When and why did you decide to create the Maria x Marias association?
In 2012, when I was given an award from the Cannabis Museum in Barcelona. The next two years, we did all the legal paperwork to form an association and eventually it came to life. Its sole purpose was to make weed accessible to women who needed cannabis for medical purposes.
What was your first experience and why did you start using weed?
I don’t remember exactly, but I do remember the glorious 70s, when sharing a joint was like having a drink.
Where's the line between distribution and personal use?
According to [Catalonian] law, there's not a specific quantity that determines whether it’s for selling or personal use. Quantity is important but not the only factor. It also depends on circumstances, on whether the grower consumes it, and on criminal records. For a pothead, smoking ten joints per day isn’t unusual, and that's almost four kilograms a year. Some judges allow almost an ounce a day for personal use, which adds up to ten kilograms a year.
Which laws do you think should be changed?
Many, but they should more widely legalise personal use and growing so that people don’t need to get it from the black market [Catalonia legalised cannabis cultivation and use for private clubs in 2017].
What would your life be without weed?
I probably would've lost my sense of humour. I’ve been through bad times, and I'd definitely be dependent on whatever opioid my doctor prescribed to deal with the pain because they are extremely addictive. Cannabis, on the other hand, is not so addictive.
Is the cannabis world sexist?
Yes, because we live in a sexist society. There are many articles on the matter, and even I’ve experienced it. The truth is, most of the best farmers ever were women – the pot growers' mothers – who took care of the plants much better than their sons, despite not selling it.
Have you felt supported by the community?
I’ve received messages from people everywhere, not only from Spain, but also England, the Netherlands and the US – I feel thankful and supported.
If you want to help Fernanda and Marias x Maria you can do so here