People around the world have come to think of Barcelona as something like a weed mecca, like the new Amsterdam. But the stark truth is that the Catalonian cannabis model is confusing to say the least, and it might not be as liberal or relaxed as a tourist might think. Barcelona is a place that just about anyone can go and enjoy a joint or a bong. But anybody who’s thinking about it should familiarize themselves with this confusing model to avoid an unnecessary arrest or tiff with the law.
Essentially, it’s actually illegal to buy cannabis in Barcelona. So why are there weed social clubs all over the city operating in exactly that? Well, because it’s complicated. And just because there are social clubs around, doesn’t mean that Barcelona is like Colorado or San Francisco.
Buying Weed Is Technically Illegal In Barcelona
In 2015, marijuana for personal use was decriminalized in Barcelona. That meant that possession and use of cannabis was not considered to be a criminal act. In fact, the change in law even allowed citizens to grow up to two plants for personal use. Anything that is considered to be commercial cultivation or sale of cannabis is trafficking, and this remains illegal in Spain.
As the law stands, it is illegal to purchase marijuana in Barcelona. The sale of cannabis is deemed to be commercial, and as a result, it is considered to be trafficking. Unfortunately, selling weed doesn’t fall under the umbrella of “personal use” for obvious reasons. And by effect, it also means that buying it puts you in direct contact with illegal behaviour.
This doesn’t all seem coherent when you think about the fact that marijuana has been decriminalized. Under the penal code (Article 268 for those who want to do some additional reading), encouraging or facilitating the illegal trafficking of cannabis is a criminal offence. Technically, buying it plays a role in the facilitation of illegal trafficking.
With all of that being said, we need to remember that Barcelona is part of Spain’s autonomous region, Catalonia. The autonomy held by this region of Spain basically means that they make their own laws – in case things weren’t already complicated enough. In mid 2017, the Catalonian government legalized marijuana, making it legal to consume and distribute marijuana within the confines of social clubs. As we’re going to discover, this came after a well endured legal limbo with previous Spanish law.
Read More: How To Get Weed As A Tourist In Barcelona
So What’s The Deal With Social Clubs?
Let’s go back to the beginning – that is, before the loosening of laws by Catalonia. Barcelona was subject to the same rules as the rest of Spain until this event. When, in 2015, marijuana was decriminalized, a surge of social clubs opened up across the country. It was almost as if the founders of the social clubs were waiting, loopholes ready in hand to get started. And that’s exactly how they did it. Using loopholes in the decriminalization law, many people opened up private social clubs where cannabis could be supplied and used.
Read More: 5 Best Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona
Essentially, members paid a fee to join the private club. Once inside, they were provided with marijuana which could only be consumed on the site. This bypassed the “illegal sale” law in two ways: firstly, marijuana was not sold, but rather a membership fee was paid for people to enter the club. Secondly, the club grew only what was required for the personal use of their members, allowing them to cultivate a certain amount of marijuana and provide it to the members. Finally, there was a law stipulating that no cannabis should be removed from the site. It should be consumed in the club itself. This mitigated the issue of possession and use of cannabis in public places. And just like that, hundreds of social clubs opened up around Spain.
The advent of Catalonian law loosened things a little bit more. It allowed for the free cultivation and distribution of cannabis within the confines of the private club. This meant that social clubs in Barcelona were granted some extra liberties while the social clubs around the rest of Spain were left to deal with Spanish law.
Things To Know About Sale, Purchase And Use Of Cannabis In Barcelona
The fact that it is legal to purchase cannabis and consume it in social clubs doesn’t mean that Barcelona is a completely free society with respect to weed. There are still some things that you have to know, especially if you’re a tourist in the city. Firstly, using weed in a social club is completely fine. But buying it on the street is not. In fact, if you purchase weed and use it in a public place, you can be in for a pretty hefty fine.
Secondly, you’re not allowed to take your weed from the social club to your home – technically. It isn’t supposed to be removed from the social club itself. It’s even more of a problem if you use said weed in a public place. Cannabis must always be consumed in a private place.
Thirdly, it’s illegal for a social club to advertise their services. If you’ve ever been to Barcelona, you’ve probably seen people on the street promoting “coffee shops”. The majority of clubs don’t work this way, and be careful of those who do. Quite often, the clubs are selling low quality at a premium price, or worse… just luring tourists to take advantage of them.
Buying off a dealer is a big no-no in Barcelona and the rest of Spain. As we talked about, this is an association with the commercial sale of cannabis, and it is illegal on both the part of the dealer and the buyer. Administrative fines are a penalty, and depending on the nature of the crime, there could be jail time to face.
Barcelona, Spain And The Future Of Cannabis
As a tourist, it can look like Barcelona is one of the most weed-friendly places in the world. But upon closer inspection, it’s obvious that it has been a very bumpy ride for the world of cannabis. Firstly, social clubs opened up on what was essentially a loophole that the government could not protect themselves from. And secondly, things are changing so rapidly in Spain that there has been much uncertainty about how cannabis laws are going to proceed in the future.
Podemos is Spain’s far left, anti-austerity political party. They are currently fighting for the legalization of cannabis all around Spain (rather than the decriminalization). Basically, Podemos is fighting for Spain to follow in the footsteps of Uruguay and the many US states which have fully recreationally legalized weed. The proposed method works by licenses, where the government issues licenses to eligible farmers to grow the crops and eligible businesses to sell the product.
Spain’s president is less than impressed, to say the least. He has downright refused to enter into the debate which Podemos has started. Other senators, such as Jesus Ramon Aguirre, still consider marijuana to be the same as every other drug, devoid of therapeutic effects and harmful to the health of the nation.
It’s hard to say what happens moving forward. At the moment, Catalonia is the most forward-thinking of all the regions of Spain with respect to marijuana. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that things are going to stay that way. Politically, things are uncertain between Catalonia and the rest of Spain and what will happen between this autonomous region and the rest of the country. And given how much has changed in cannabis law as well as the president’s personal opinion on the matter, it’s optimistic to think that any huge jumps will happen any time soon.
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