“Biggest Cannabis Bust Ever” in Spain Was Actually a Legit Hemp Operation!
This report was first published by BusinessCann on 18 November 2022.
Between telephone calls, Francisco Carbó continues finalising contracts for E-Canna, the hemp processing company he owns based in Valencia, Spain. On 21 October, the company was the target of an operation by the Spanish Civil Guard, announced by the police as being the biggest marijuana seizure of all time.
In addition to spending three days in jail, Carbó has seen his name published by hundreds of newspapers around the world referring to him and his employees as a ‘gang’, and suggesting that they are a group of thugs, and not an authorised and registered legal activity since the founding of the company in October 2021.
“There is national persecution regarding the criminalisation and stigmatisation of cannabis. For them, anything to do with hemp is an offence and this is not the case; the authorities are committing abuses. What is happening here is prevarication,” the businessman said.
We contacted the Spanish Civil Guard for comment, but they informed us they are not authorised to provide any information about this case.
My meeting with Carbó took place in Barcelona, where he was visiting for negotiations on the production of CBD cigarettes. According to him, the demand for E-Canna’s flower and hemp processing biomass products and its technical advisory and legal consulting services has grown by 300% in recent weeks. In fact, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
“Customers saw that I had been released and that the company was continuing to operate, and they understood that we were doing the right thing,” he says, while showing us a series of documents that were, according to him, proof that his company processes hemp only, and not marijuana, which the police were accusing him of.
On 5 November, the Civil Guard issued a note stating that Operation Jardines had seized 32 tons of marijuana, but according to Soraya Calvo, the company’s administrative director, who accompanied Carbó to Barcelona, the information was false. Starting with the quantity, which was 25 and not 32 tons, and then, for classifying the raw material as a ‘drug’ even before it went through the proper analysis.
“They came in wearing hoods and with weapons in their hands, forcing everyone to lie on the ground, as if we were drug dealers. There was no need for that. Our doors are always open and we account for absolutely everything that comes in and out of E-Canna,” she says.
On Tuesday (15th), Carbó appeared for the first part of the trial, where he left a pile of documents in the care of the judge, who determined that the flowers remain tied up – but not destroyed – and that E-Canna can continue with its normal activities while he studied the evidence provided by the defence.
Expectations are that the ruling will be announced within a month, and despite the damage incurred by the accumulation of his product in storage, Carbó maintains the tranquillity of someone who is sure that the sentence will be favourable.
“If they are drugs, and I’m a criminal, arrest me tomorrow. But if they’re not drugs, release the flowers tomorrow.”
Legally supported by two lawyers since the beginning of E-Canna’s operations, Carbó opted for preventive law. On a weekly basis, he informs the Civil Guard of all the company’s movements.
“Before even being investigated by state forces, I went to the courts and said: ‘Gentlemen, this is my activity. Here are my documents. If this is a crime, put me in jail.'”
He said that he had asked for guardianship from the judicial system, so that the company’s operation is supervised and protected. The request is still awaiting a response.
Over the past year, he had been accumulating evidence about his company’s activity, aware that sooner or later he would receive a surprise visit by the police.
“I expected a frontal attack, with normal inspections. I never imagined that this attack would come from behind, with an accusation that came out of nowhere and does not hold up in any way.”
Among the documents that supported the judge’s preliminary decision in his favour were proof of customs, tax agency, compliance to the jurisprudence on which the activity is based, and samples taken from each hemp lot.
Soon, the judge will receive the analysis regarding the tests of samples of the flowers seized by the police, which were sent to a laboratory and will determine the percentage of cannabinoids present, to define whether the material is psychoactive or not. Cases like this are not unusual in Spain, and judges have always tended to interpret European Union laws, which are more permissive in relation to hemp, over Spanish law itself.
Keep on the Track
With 15 employees divided between the office and the company’s two warehouses, E-Canna serves more than 40 farmers from all over Spain. They are obliged to have a contract with a processing company to guarantee the traceability of the crop, in addition to using certified seeds and being registered in the agrarian registry of their autonomous community.
“We also advise farmers to report the activity to the Civil Guard. If they don’t have these papers, they don’t work with me, because I have to guarantee the legitimacy of each product.”
E-Canna is today the main link between the hemp produced in Spain and its distribution to other countries in Europe. Switzerland, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have already purchased hemp flowers processed by the company. According to Carbó, in a few weeks the press will publish details of a million-euro contract that he has just signed with a French distributor.
Players in the cannabis industry in Spain, who asked not to be identified, agree that E-Canna’s role in the industry has contributed to it becoming the target of this type of operation. Farmers and cannabis companies in the country have suffered from government and police persecution for years, and several of them have closed down their activities in Spain and reopened in neighbouring countries, which offer them greater legal protection.
Carbó, however, is determined to resist the raids he is facing and is aware that he may face similar raids in the future.
“I am not going to abandon an industry that is growing and has significant economic potential, which is about to be professionalised, because if we, who are professionals, run away, it will remain stigmatised forever.”
The entrepreneur intends to continue, full of new business ideas in his head – one of them, the development of hemp milk, and another, on the distribution of CBD flowers in 1,400 tobacco shops in Catalonia starting next month.
Anita Krepp, BusinessCann