By Dan Davis
Ahh…sunny Spain! Best known for its world-class cuisine, hospitable people, gorgeous weather, football (the one with your feet), and until recently…really good weed. With Morocco right across the Strait of Gibraltar, it’s no wonder that weed be a well known gem in the Iberian peninsula. If this is the case, then why hasn’t Spain gone ‘loco’ trying to develop a cannabis industry? The truth is: they have been, but underground. Thanks to the discovery of a legal loophole (which some outright say is not even a loophole), Spain has another reason to attract even more tourists. Step aside, Amsterdam!
It was 1993 in Barcelona when a group of pensive individuals decided to send a letter to the authorities inquiring as to the legality of growing some weed for a group of adults in a private club. Their aims were to dispel the doubts they had about growing at home, and to find a way to legally get their hands on some weed. The authorities wrote back with some good news: there was nothing wrong with their inquiry. Soon after, ARSEC (Associación Ramón Santos sobre Estudios del Cannabis) became Spain’s first private cannabis club. They went on to grow enough weed for their 100 members, only to get their crop confiscated by the authorities. The founders were absolved of any responsibility, great. What happened to the weed, though? Am I the only one wondering who smoked the crop?
In 1997, Kalamudia Club in Bilbao almost found themselves asking the same question. They planted 600 plants for 200 members, they had backing from local politicians from different parties…and they were forced to close. These two cases opened a legislative can of worms, and they served as the catalyst for what we now have today (which I’ll get to in a bit). Fast forward to 2001, when the Club de Catadores de Cannabis de Barcelona (CCCB) opened shop. This was the cherry on top of the cake that the Spanish cannabis community had anxiously been waiting to dig into. If you want to know more historical details, you can do your own research. Sorry if you were left hanging, but I didn’t mean for this to be a textbook entry (but it was probably vague enough to meet the standards for one).
Spain presently boasts upwards of 500 cannabis clubs, 50 to 60 of which being in Madrid alone. It’s no secret that loads of people openly smoke on the city streets, but at their own discretion, since smoking in public remains illegal and being caught could land you a 500-euro fine. You can play it safe and stick to the law, which permits up to two plants per person at home. The actual quantity of smokeable material permitted to have at home varies per province, however. Grow shops are ubiquitous, and the general populace isn’t the reefer madness type. As long as you don’t bother anybody or do anything stupid, you should be fine. Cannabis clubs in Spain are private associations that must exist as non-profit organizations and must operate with the intention of administrating supply for their members. In order to be a part of a club, an existing member must sponsor you. Consumption in a private setting (i.e. Home or a cannabis club) is constitutionally protected.
While legalization remains a hot topic within the cannabis sphere, most people do not see it happening anytime soon. Political party Ciudadanos has recently proposed a medical marijuana plan to congress, but nothing has been made public regarding how this proposal was received. Medical programs and legalization have both been discussed in the Catalonian and Basque parliaments, with similar apathy displayed by the local media. Hemp cultivation is ever increasing, but it remains regulated. Spain hosts a multitude of hemp and cannabis expos and events, the largest annual expo being Spannabis. For as green as Spain’s future may seem, most people think that the government will only lighten regulations more and more, but will never deregulate. Trust me: we all hope we’re wrong.
Vision for the future
As of May 31st of last year, cannabis consumption in Spain has been ranked fourth in Europe by the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA). Spain placed fourth behind France, Denmark, and Italy, at 30.4% of national residents aged 15-64 claiming to have ever used the plant. Let’s put it this way: out of an estimated 42,000,000 inhabitants, 12,768,000 claim they’ve used cannabis at least once. The market potential, Spain’s ever-increasing tourism industry, and Colorado’s recent boast (opiate medications and traffic accidents have decreased since legalization has occurred), all indicate that legalization would bring a lot more good than harm. Changing attitudes (for the better) amongst the elderly and general populace also show some signs of hope for Spain’s canna-future. For now, we can’t help but be happy with what we already have. Let’s face it: the situation is much more grim in most countries. Fully legalized or not, the panorama is teeming with optimism, and it isn’t farfetched to think that legalization is a real possibility within the near future.
Coming to Madrid?
If you’re coming to Madrid and would like to become a member at a club, go ahead and write to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.