For many years Amsterdam was the undisputed cannabis capital of Europe. But recently Barcelona has been challenging that title. Spanish tolerance towards cannabis, and their liberal cannabis laws are some of the most relaxed in Europe. How did that come about, and where are the Spanish cannabis laws heading in the future? Read on to find out.
In Spain cannabis is illegal for commercial purposes. But it is decriminalised for personal use and cultivation. There are some grey areas in Spanish law regarding the use of cannabis, this has allowed hundreds of cannabis social clubs (‘CSC’) to emerge. However, the CSC’s are not allowed to make profits and they must remain private members clubs selling only small amounts of cannabis to members.
One of the surprise success stories in Spain has been the remarkable success and popularity of the CSC’s. Many Spanish cannabis enthusiasts feel that the CSC’s has allowed cannabis to enter the mainstream market and pushed Spain to the forefront of European cannabis. The clubs are non-profit, they are allowed to supply cannabis to adult members only at cost price. The clubs are popular with Spanish residents and tourists. To become a member you have to usually pay a membership fee and register, sometimes 24 hours before you are allowed to buy any products.
Inside a CSC the atmosphere is similar to a comfortable Dutch coffee shop. You can expect a relaxed atmosphere, music, TV’s, video games etc. Of course there is always an excellent selection of cannabis, pre-rolled joints, hash, cannabis concentrates etc. In the clubs you can smoke joints, vaporize marijuana or dab concentrates. The clubs are all fitted with professional air extraction systems which clean the air to prevent smell complaints from neighbours. As a result the clubs have a fresh and clean feel inside, rather than a gloomy and smoky atmosphere.
Precise numbers of CSC’s is difficult to find. But many feel that there are around (or over) 500 clubs in Spain and around half of these are in Barcelona. One of the difficulties in quantifying the exact number is the number of ‘unofficial’ clubs which don’t always have full permission to operate.
Much debate has taken place about the best way to organise membership. Some clubs insist on personal recommendations from existing members. Other clubs ask you to apply and await a response. Some clubs create their own rules, and advertise their clubs on the streets to increase membership. Despite the success of the CSC model, some politicians would like to further restrict and regulate the clubs and numerous legal battles have taken place.
Many Spanish people grow a few plants at home. It’s cheaper than buying it from the CSC’s. The climate means that outdoor growing is very popular. In the south it is possible to get three successive outdoor crops using autoflowering seeds. In the north of Spain, in the Catalonia region, it is more realistic to get 2 successive crops from autoflowering seeds. Many growers also use feminized seeds for outdoor growing. In the south of Spain the weather remains good well into November. That’s suitable for growing Haze and sativa dominant cannabis seeds.
Poly tunnels have two main advantages to the Spanish cannabis farmers. Firstly, they extend the growing season by a few weeks at the beginning and end of the year.This enables plants to become larger due to an extended growing season and it improves the flowering conditions. This can allow larger plants and better bloom conditions better conditions for/during flowering. Yields are usually higher from cannabis seeds grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel. The plants are sheltered from the worst of the wind, rain and pests. The second benefit of poly tunnels is security.
In the heavily agriculturally developed Spanish regions, the fields and hillsides are covered with poly tunnels. The opaque plastic screen keeps the crop private and therefore safer. Without doubt the lowest cost method of growing cannabis is to grow it outdoors. The only real cost is the cannabis seeds, nutrients and perhaps compost. Indoor growers would admit they spend more to grow their cannabis, but they may also argue that they can achieve better quality levels with an optimized environment.
Spain has embraced cannabis culture , their social clubs are a sensible and controlled way to allow private members to enjoy cannabis. And the Spanish have seen their Spannabis annual cannabis expo grow and grow. Today Spannabis attracts most of the medium and large cannabis companies from around the world. Each year the show gets larger and more visitors attend. In 2019 the High Times organisation bought Spannabis. Many expect Spannabis to continue growing rapidly while being a part of High Times.
Many within the cannabis community are waiting for the first EU nation to legalize cannabis for recreational use, as the Canadians, Uruguay and some USA states have done. When that happens, there will be a huge opportunity to supply the rest of the EU with cannabis products for medical use. Many expect Spain will be the first country to do this. If they do, there will be a huge series of investments from European and international companies. The future of cannabis in Spain is bright. If Spain becomes the first EU nation to legalize the recreational use of cannabis it can expect a multi-billion economic boost.March 12th 2019