If you’re going to Barcelona as a tourist, you may be curious about Spain’s weed laws and cannabis culture. When people think about weed in Europe, Spain often isn’t the first place to come to mind. Amsterdam has been the undisputed cannabis capital of Europe since the 1970s. However, in recent years, Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia and Spain’s second-largest city, has been a strong contender for the top cannabis tourism spot.
Barcelona’s cannabis clubs
While Amsterdam has coffee shops that are open to the public, Barcelona has a more lowkey cannabis scene. In Spain, marijuana is decriminalized for personal use, but illegal for commercial purposes. So how can these cannabis social clubs exist?
Barcelona’s cannabis clubs exist through a few legal protections. Under the Spanish constitution, people have both the “right to personal and family privacy” and the “right of association.” These laws, which essentially allow residents to do what they like on private property, gave legal leeway for the first cannabis clubs to open in Spain in the early 1990s.
What happens inside Barcelona’s cannabis clubs?
Most cannabis clubs in Barcelona are not easily identifiable from the outside. Some have frosted glass doors marked with a logo, but others are unmarked doors with a simple doorbell outside. The best part of Barcelona’s cannabis clubs is waiting on the inside.
Like traditional trendy cocktail bars, many of these clubs offer free water and snacks. They usually serve a selection of soft drinks and a variety of alcohol, including beer, cocktails, and a sparkling Spanish wine called cava.
The main point of cannabis clubs though is, of course, the cannabis. Most good spots will have a selection of bongs and dab rigs for members to use. Other entertainment in these clubs may consist of live music, dancing, and DJs. Certain clubs even offer unique events and experiences, like members’ dinners, yoga classes, and free haircuts.
How do you pay for weed at a cannabis club?
How are you supposed to buy weed at these clubs when selling marijuana is illegal in Spain? To get around this law, these social clubs function as collectives. This means that members in a Barcelona cannabis club don’t actually “buy” cannabis; they “collect” their share of the club’s crop. The club is then supposed to grow as much marijuana as they need for their members.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that members don’t have pay for their weed— they do. When members first sign up for a club, they pay a membership fee, which is usually around $20 annually. When you visit the club, you charge up your membership account at the front desk. The money added to your account is spent on any cannabis you plan on “collecting” to use.
How do you join a cannabis club?
Barcelona’s 200+ cannabis clubs are members-only. Becoming a member can be a tricky process. Some strict clubs only allow applicants who can prove their residency in Spain. Typically, to join a club in Barcelona, you must be invited by an existing member. This may be easy for locals, but most tourists are unlikely to be friends with a member who can invite them.
So how can a tourist become a member? Some clubs are more exclusive than others, but tourists can still get memberships through street promotors or online. A handful of clubs are happy to accept walk-ins, although most clubs are more firm on the rules.
One common way to come across a cannabis club membership is through a street promoter. It’s impossible to walk along Barcelona’s most iconic street, La Rambla, without bumping into club promoters whispering “coffee shop” to anyone who looks like a potential smoker.
While street promoters are common, they’re best to be avoided. The clubs being promoted are often overpriced and 100% illegal. It’s not unusual to hear about unsuspecting tourists being robbed by thieves posing as club promoters.
Online cannabis club memberships
If you’re looking to smoke weed in Barcelona, the best way to join a cannabis club is online. Simply look up which clubs are near you, and visit their website. After getting in touch with someone one the site, you’ll be offered an appointment to show up to a specific club. Show up on time, bring your passport, pay the signup fee, and you’ll be smoking in no time.
How the law looks at cannabis clubs
When Spanish authorities first started recognizing the legitimacy of Barcelona’s cannabis clubs, they began imposing further regulations. Authorities were mainly concerned that the social clubs keep cannabis out of the hands of non-members. Additionally, they decided that cannabis clubs are required to be non-profit. This means that all proceeds are supposed to go back into running the club rather than into the owners’ pockets.
Another law stipulates that cannabis clubs must grow all of their marijuana on site. However, given the size of Barcelona commercial spaces, this is often impossible. Grow locations are commonly kept top secret, since clubs are forced to break the law to supply their members.
Barcelona police have a special task force assigned with visiting and inspecting the practices of the city’s cannabis social clubs. This includes inspecting the association’s bookkeeping, checking that all members have IDs and proof of membership, and making sure the space is up to code.
Barcelona’s Cannabis Festivals
Barcelona has an exciting cannabis scene even outside of the hundreds of cannabis clubs. The city is also home to Europe’s biggest cannabis convention, Spannabis. Every year, the biggest names in the worldwide marijuana industry meet in the Catalan capital to discuss cannabis developments. The event features music, an industry expo, plenty of opportunities for networking, freebies and, of course, a lot of smoking. This festive is a great opportunity to buy or sell the latest goods and rub shoulders with important members of the cannabis community.
Spannabis is a must-see festival for weed lovers and smokers. Every year, thousands of stoners make the pilgrimage across Europe to attend the event. Tons of tourists travel from the UK and Germany, and some dedicated smokers may come from even further.
For the Spanish cannabis community, Spannabis is truly the main event of the year. Spring and early summer, however, are dotted with other fun cannabis festivals. These events include several industry cups to determine the best Spanish cannabis in a variety of categories. These tournaments are usually held inside one of Barcelona’s cannabis social clubs.
The future of Barcelona’s cannabis clubs
In 2017, the Catalan government passed the Law of Associations of Cannabis Consumers, which aimed to properly legalize and regulate the clubs’ activities, including growing and transporting. Catalonia, the Spanish state of which Barcelona is the capital, has a reputation for making sensible laws. They saw that the clubs were going to be profitable and aimed to regulate the clubs like any other business. Unfortunately, the Spanish national government didn’t agree with these laws, and they were overturned by the constitutional court.
The state government, known as the Generalitat, is often at odds with the central government in Madrid. In 2017, they tried to hold a vote to form an independent nation, which resulted in a violent crackdown by national police. This divide of values is part of what allows cannabis clubs to thrive in Barcelona, while they are often raided and shut down in other parts of Spain.
Despite the existence of hundreds of clubs in Barcelona, Spain does not have a nationally regulated medical or recreational cannabis system. Spain seems unlikely to pass such a law ahead of other European countries who are rapidly working toward legalization. However, the precedent set by Barcelona’s clubs over the past decades will continue to allow the clubs to thrive unhindered. If Spain wants to stay ahead of the curve on cannabis, the national government would do well to follow Catalonia’s lead.