Thursday September 22, 2016
Cannabis became legal for private consumption in Spain at the turn of the century when Barcelona’s Anti-Drug Office declared that private cannabis cultivation and consumption was not a crime. Since then, cannabis social clubs operating on a “member’s only” basis (thus making them private establishments) have popped up all over the country.
Spaniards love their cannabis, so much in fact that the number of consumers who start using cannabis in Spain now outnumbers those who start using tobacco. Spain, and specifically Barcelona, now have hundreds of cannabis social clubs in operation today with membership pretty easy to come by. You don’t need to be a Spanish citizen to join a cannabis club in Barcelona, although there are nuances that are important to understand before visiting a club.
Inside Cannabis Social Clubs in Barcelona
First and foremost, cannabis clubs in Spain are low key as it is illegal for them to advertise. Very few clubs have any type of signage or indications that a cannabis friendly establishment exists within the walls. Because of this, you need to do some research in regards to where the various clubs are located. For foreigners, the vast majority will be connected to a cannabis club through a local. The best way is to be social with some of the locals at the various bars and cafes, and see if they can provide you some direction. There are also plenty of 'runners' for cannabis clubs who seek out tourists wishing to consume, and who will lead you to a nearby club. Please be smart and proceed with caution. While most of these 'runners' are legit, there have been incidents of tourists being robbed or put in other unpleasant situations.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Cannabis Club
You'll need to purchase a membership
Annual membership fees are standard with cannabis clubs in Spain, and you'll be required to purchase one to gain access. Even if you are in town for just a few days, you'll still need an annual membership which generally costs between 20-30 euros.
Because of the differing products and environment between cannabis clubs in Spain, many residents purchase memberships to multiple clubs – often 5 or 6 memberships per year – and will frequent different locations depending on the environment they seek. For tourists, the cost of memberships can quickly add up, so most only join one or two clubs.
Not all clubs are created equal
Environment and product quality varies considerably between clubs. While some may offer large, multi-level, club-like environments, others may be no more than a dimly-lit basement room with a few old chairs and little ventilation. Before making a commitment, ask around for the best clubs for your ideal experience.
Members don't "buy" cannabis
It is illegal for any type of financial remuneration in Spain for a cannabis transaction. Because of this, you don't "buy" or "purchase" weed, instead you "get" or "acquire" it. While you do actually pay for cannabis at the clubs, technically the money goes toward keeping the club up and running, as well as funding the costs of growing the cannabis vs. buying the actual product. It sounds silly but that is how the law works here. Expect to pay between 10-20 euro/gram.
Once you’ve gained membership to a cannabis club in Spain, you’ll have the right to toke your own, member-sponsored cannabis inside of the establishment only. Public consumption is still prohibited as is the possession of an excessive amount of product as it could be considered an “intent to distribute”.
Because Spanish law prevents law enforcement officials from searching private areas of a person’s body, it is recommended that any cannabis being removed from a club be stored in undergarments and taken directly to a private location. It is still illegal to carry cannabis, and could result in fines of around 300 euros and the confiscation of the product.
Comparing Spain’s Cannabis Clubs to Amsterdam’s Coffee Shops
Amsterdam has long been known for its infamous “coffee shops” where tourists can simply walk in, request a joint of the finest sinsemilia, have a puff or two then be on their merry way. Spain’s cannabis clubs are not like this at all. To dispel any confusion between the two, we’ve developed this easy outline of the differences between Spain’s cannabis clubs and Amsterdam’s coffee shops.
It’s easier to find weed in Amsterdam
Coffee shops in Amsterdam are easy to find; just look for the green and white sticker in the window and walk right in. Though there won’t be a menu displayed, you can still ask to see a menu or ask for a recommendation. In Barcelona, you have to look harder for good weed. Not only do you need a referral for membership, but the weed you get is the weed that particular establishment has – no shopping around.
Spain is more affordable overall
Despite needing to pay for membership, the cost of a vacation in Spain is generally cheaper including lodging, food and weed. It’s important to note that the price of cannabis (or membership) largely correlates with quality of the product or service in both locations; the higher the price tag, the better the bud.
It’s easier to avoid trouble in Amsterdam
While Spanish law enforcement will look the other way when cannabis is consumed privately, they can still bust you if you’re caught consuming or transporting excessive amounts. In Amsterdam, law enforcement largely ignores the use of “soft drugs”.
There’s a lot to consider when planning an international cannabis vacation. While Amsterdam remains the popular choice, Barcelona is quickly gaining a reputation as the next best weed-cation destination. If you take weather into consideration, then Barcelona is a hands down winner over Amsterdam.