Is Cannabis Legal in Spain?
Yes and No…
However, since Spanish drug laws cannot reach into homes and other privately-owned spaces, the reach of the state’s drug policy is limited to public space.
“The beauty of growing one’s own stash at home is that it completely eliminates the need to incur the infraction of buying and carrying it out in the street, where they can bust you. By virtue of this, there is no law being broken, since what one does at home is not the state’s concern”
However, it must be noted that a ‘bad neighbour’ can still report you and if busted then it is up to you to prove that it is for personal use only. That is a risky business so utmost discretion is still the sensible option. Medical Cannabis Spain recommend never growing more than a few plants for personal consumption and advise never selling it, not even to close friends.
1). Consumption and Possession
Use of drugs in a private place is allowed. Possession or use of drugs in a public place (in the street, on a bus, in your own car if it is in the street, in a bar, etc. is not a crime, but it a law against the public: Expect a fine of 300 Euros +
Growing cannabis for your own use, be it for recreational or medicinal purposes is allowed. BUT if the judge thinks that this cultivation is not just for personal use, it will be a crime! Expect a sentence of from 1 to 3 years.
Selling drugs is a real crime. For cannabis, the conviction starts from about 1 year till 3 years of jail and a fine. Much higher for very lareg quantities and/or previous convictions.
4). Provision of seeds, equipment, paraphernalia
It is legal to sell or to buy seeds and other hemp products.
Cannabis clubs are associations that distribute and stock up on cannabis among their members, all of them of legal age. They function in the private sphere, thus reducing the risks associated with the black market and indiscriminate growing.
These not-for-profit associations have arisen in countries where marijuana use has been decriminalized – as in the case of Spain – to cover the needs of users who may have the right to consume, but not the right to grow or have restricted rights to do so.
Find here below different requirements to start a cannabis club in Spain and succeed in the attempt:
1). Creation and registration
The first step is holding a Constituent Assembly, for which you need at least three founding board members: a president, a secretary and a treasurer. The articles of association, previously drawn up, and the foundation charter, must be approved, signed and ratified by all members. You must also indicate the legal or registered name therein. Most cannabis clubs in Spain follow the articles of association of the pioneering club Pannagh. Once the assembly has been held, documentation must be presented in the registry of your autonomous community to formalize the association. It is recommended that you join the Federation of Cannabis Associations (FAC) to legitimize operations and contribute to the development of the association movement nationwide.
2). Membership registration and consumption estimate
To join, members must fill out a registration request, pay a fee and provide an ID to prove they are not minors. They must also acknowledge regular use of cannabis, the desire to belong to the association and a criminal record devoid of crimes against public health. The most important part of the registration is the statement of consumption estimate. Here, the members must indicate an approximation of the amount of marijuana they will consume monthly. The sum of the members’ consumption estimates is what entitles the association to supply marijuana to its members.
Ideally, to stay off the black market, the association would grow its own cannabis for its members to consume. In this case, the production must be adjusted to the total consumption estimated. However, many associations do not have the means to produce their own marijuana so they turn to a joint purchase, where the Board acquires cannabis from a third party on behalf of its members.
The joint purchase must be, just as in the case of production, the total consumption estimate. The maximum consumption estimate is limited to 60 grams per member per month. Whether the marijuana comes from their own supply or from the black market, members must be notified of the production or acquisition costs with complete transparency. Furthermore, the final product price must be properly justified and broken down.
The association will not encourage or promote cannabis consumption to non-members. Likewise, it must guarantee a democratic organizational scheme in which – although authority may be delegated to speed up decision-making – the mechanisms needed for members to participate in decisions are guaranteed.
As it usually happens in any association, some members are more involved than others, but everyone must be about assemblies and changes. As the association grows, positions will have to be assigned to the people in charge of performing the activities needed for the right functioning of the association, like production, administration, accounting, management, etc.
Members working in the association must have a contract, a stipulated salary, etc., just like anywhere else. This is one of the most common neglects in associations just starting out: not regulating the jobs and the resulting salaries for employed members. Watch out for these labor and regulatory matters, as they can disrupt all the previous work needed to create a cannabis club.
Marijuana Clubs Rise Out of Decades-Old Spanish Laws
BARCELONA, Spain — On a recent evening, two vacationing German college students, armed with addresses they had gotten off the Internet, were trying to get into one of Barcelona’s new marijuana clubs.
They were not members. But no matter. They quickly found a club near the city’s central boulevard, La Rambla, that was willing to ignore the rules, helping them choose from a dozen strains of marijuana for sale in plastic bins before letting them settle into the cushy lounge area to light up.
Forty-five minutes later, they were back on the street, smiling. “It was very nice,” said one of the students, who had researched cannabis clubs before choosing Barcelona as a holiday destination. “We will go back tomorrow.”
The number of cannabis clubs that have opened in Barcelona recently has some experts saying this city will soon challenge Amsterdam as the go-to destination for vacationers who want to get high in peace.
Even as Amsterdam has wrestled with drug tourism in recent years, reducing the number of coffee shops where it is legal to buy and smoke marijuana and hashish, about 300 new cannabis clubs have opened in Barcelona and the surrounding Catalan region, a result, at least in part, of enterprising Spaniards looking for new ways to earn a living, experts say.
It is not that Barcelona officials have given their blessing to this new phenomenon. The clubs are operating under decades-old Spanish laws that allow anyone to grow and smoke marijuana in private or to band together with others to form a cannabis club, as long as it is a nonprofit organization for members only, something like a chess or a cooking club.
But in the last three years, new clubs have opened, particularly in tourist areas like La Rambla, in many cases circumventing the spirit, if not the letter, of the law. While some clubs refuse walk-in customers like the German college students, many of them offer membership (about 20 euros, or about $27) over the Internet or by phone.
The clubs vary enormously, from basement rooms equipped with foosball tables and huge television sets, to more elegant settings with designer chandeliers and fresh fruit drink bars. Some give marijuana away to those who use it for medical purposes and see a business in this area. Others cater only to recreational users. Few of the clubs are noticeable from the street.
The Rambla Dragon Club, for instance, which opened last year, is on the ground floor of an apartment building. Only a small sign over the doorbell (as well as the constant presence of young people squinting to read it) indicates its presence. It has the feel of a Starbucks without windows, its high ceilings and a mighty ventilation system keeping the air fresh. Some of the smokers sit at tables with their laptops open. Others sit in on sofas, watching movies on a giant screen.
Some cannabis advocates say the clubs are a bright spot in the economy. Though they are nonprofits, advocates say the clubs are generating thousands of jobs and tax revenues for the state. In addition to selling a wide array of cannabis products and hashish, many of the clubs also sell food and drinks and offer extras to their members, like live music nights and Pilates classes.
Albert Tió, the president of Fedcac, an association of cannabis clubs in the region of Catalonia that includes Barcelona, said the clubs now had 165,000 members, up from virtually none five years ago. His association was formed in 2011, with only a handful of clubs in existence, he said.
One reason for the growth, he said, was that young people saw the clubs as a way to make a living. Another factor, he said, was Barcelona’s new antismoking laws, which went into effect in bars and restaurants in January 2011 and sent cannabis smokers, who are often also tobacco smokers, looking for new places to congregate.
“The reality is this,” Mr. Tió said. “Consumers think this is better than buying drugs on the street.”
Regional officials say that many of the clubs do cater mostly to Spaniards, including one club in which all the members are women in their 80s. But Barcelona officials are so concerned about the rapid increase in such establishments and this city’s growing reputation as a place to get a legal high that they decided in June to put a one-year moratorium on new licenses while they consider issues such as proximity to schools.
“Yes, it’s a problem,” said Joan Delort, the head of prevention, security and mobility for Barcelona. “In a very few years, you have a huge registration of cannabis users. It is very hard to determine what is really going on. But in 18 months, you have clubs that are in a very small location, that have registered 4,000 members. It’s just impossible that they could have that many.”
Some of the biggest names in the marijuana world are here. The Strain Hunters, for instance, a Dutch group that makes documentaries about the hunt for native strains of marijuana around the world, opened a club here in March, on a charming side street not far from La Rambla.
With one-way windows that give the space an open and airy feel, but prevents passers-by from looking in, it has the look and the feel of an upscale bar. For those who want to get an early start, coffee and fresh croissants are available for breakfast, and members can opt for rarer cannabis products, such as pure cannabis resin in the shape of a butterfly.
Websites that review the clubs, such as MarijuanaGames.org and WeBeHigh.org, are giving Barcelona clubs high marks for both the quality and the variety of cannabis products they sell, as well as for offering a far more pleasant atmosphere than most Amsterdam coffee shops, which they say usually offer stale marijuana.
On a recent morning, Olivier Vervaet, a 21-year-old nightclub worker, was at the Strain Hunters Club looking over the cannabis menu while having a coffee. “I joined because this was just a great place to relax,” he said. “I can sit down, and someone will bring me a drink and a joint, and I don’t have to worry about the police.”
A few times a month, the police have stepped in, taking action against clubs caught leafleting on the street, for instance. But Edward Sallent, the inspector general of community policing for the Catalan regional police, said it was difficult to move against the clubs. “It’s a complex situation because a lot of the acts and behaviors are not forbidden,” he said. “Selling and trafficking are illegal, but consumption, no.”
Many advocates say they believe the clubs are cutting down on street sales. But Mr. Sallent says he doubts that. He says the clubs are too new to know exactly what impact they will have. “There may be all kinds of costs,” he said. “Maybe it will affect the value of property. Who knows?”
Some of those involved in managing the clubs in Barcelona hope that Spain will go further in legalizing marijuana soon. Though the clubs are run as nonprofit entities, some clearly represent big investments. One such club, RMD, has set up an area for members who use marijuana to soothe the effects of chemotherapy or for other medical purposes.
It even hired a doctor to discuss their marijuana use and to help them with any issues that might arise. Tony Levi, who coordinates this aspect of the club, said he became interested in the medical benefits of cannabis when his father had cancer.
He says he believes that eventually Spain will recognize cannabis for medical use and that the services the club is providing will be covered by insurance. “I do see a business model here,” he said.
Barcelona's booming cannabis clubs turn Spain into 'Holland of the South'
Catalonia health agency's move to tighten rules follows freeze on licences as clubs' membership in region soars to 165,000
Catalonia's public health agency has proposed strict new measures to regulate cannabis clubs in the region, amid claims that Barcelona is on its way to rivalling Amsterdam as a smoker's haven.
Amsterdam has tightened restrictions on cannabis sales just as the number of clubs in Spain has proliferated from some 40 in 2010 to more than 700 today, say smokers' groups. The Catalan capital is home to more than half of these clubs.
From swanky clubs that span three floors to others with a small room and a few plastic chairs, the clubs take advantage of a provision in Spain's drug laws that allow marijuana to be grown and consumed for private use.
The clause has turned Spain – and especially Barcelona – into what Spanish media call the "Holland of the South". But unlike Amsterdam's coffee shops, which are open to the public, Spain's clubs are for members only.
Skirting the membership policy is fairly easy; while many clubs stick to a policy of requiring new members to be sponsored by existing ones, a number of clubs allow prospective members to register online or via telephone. Some clubs have employees who hand out promotional flyers in the street, promising to ease the registration process.
The past two years have seen hundreds of these cannabis clubs spring up in Barcelona, creating a thriving industry as other sectors suffered the economic crisis. Catalonia's cannabis clubs now count some 165,000 members, who rack up an estimated €5m (£4m) in sales each month, according to El País newspaper.
Local officials in Barcelona have been watching closely. In June, the city imposed a one-year moratorium on new licences for cannabis clubs. Calling it a "preventative" measure, deputy mayor Joaquim Forn said it would give the city some breathing space to regulate the industry and "avoid it becoming a serious problem".
A first draft of the regulations, drawn up by the public health agency of Catalonia and obtained by El País, sets out strict regulations on the cultivation and transport of the drug and clubs' membership in an effort to chip away at the legal grey zone in which the clubs currently operate.
Memberships will be limited to Spanish residents, taking aim at the region's growing reputation for cannabis tourism. Members will have to be 21 years of age or older and belong to the club for at least 15 days before being given access to marijuana.
Other measures include forcing clubs to register their plants and undergo an annual inspection, in an attempt to give regional authorities a more complete idea of the product on offer in the region.
The maximum quantity that members will be allowed to access each month has yet to be determined, said the proposal, but is expected to be somewhere between 60 to 100 grams a month (2-3.5 ounces). With some clubs currently with as many as 5,000 users, the draft noted that a maximum number of members must also be determined.
The proposed regulations were welcomed by the Catalonia Federation of Cannabis Associations, one of many associations that has been pushing the government to better regulate the sector.
While the association took issue with the draft regulations' proposal of a fixed schedule that would force the clubs to close for a three-hour lunch each day and close by 8pm most days, the regulations were "positive in general", a spokesman, Jaume Xaus (pictured above), told El País. Many of the clubs, he noted, already follow similar regulations.
One notable omission, he said, was to set a criteria for municipal licences. Without this, he worried, the granting of permits would be left to individual mayors, allowing for discrepancies to arise.
Cannabis clubs have also become popular in the Basque country in recent years, registering more than 10,000 members and leading the regional government to begin drawing up regulations for the clubs earlier this year.
Legislation Passed to Formally License Catalonia's Cannabis Clubs For First Time
The Catalonian government in Spain has passed a new set of guidelines to formally license cannabis social clubs (CSCs) for the first time in the autonomous region.
Under the new guidelines, published by the Catalonian Department of Health on January 29 in the Official Journal of the Catalonian Government (DOGC) and formally approved the same day by the legislature, cannabis clubs will have 17 points to follow in order to be officially licensed by local town councils. Among these are:
- Members must be over 18 years of age.
- Members must not belong to another cannabis clubs and must be "habitual" cannabis users.
- In order to become a member, you must be recommended by an existing member.
- Clubs can only operate for eight hours per day, closing no later than 10 p.m. from Sunday-Thursday and 12 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Clubs cannot sell other drugs or alcohol.
According to 20 minutos, clubs must register with the municipal authorities under the new guidelines, with 200 already doing so. A further 150 clubs have applied to register.
The Federation of Catalonian Cannabis Associations (CatFAC) welcomed the move for the legal clarifications it will now provide clubs, and praised the adaptability of the local government and its willingness to listen to social movements. However, CatFAC noted that this is just one step, adding that more can be done in terms of regulating cultivation and sale in order to better protect clubs and the health of users, reported Europa Press.
Oriol Casals of the Observatorio Civil de Drogas similarly praised the move, though criticized the government for not doing more, saying:
Parliament's resolution was for its regional government to regulate cannabis associations in order to provide the hundreds of [clubs] with some legal security. It is a shame that the government has instead chosen to pass the buck to the town councils with a series of recommendations for the licensing of cannabis clubs -- some of which appear to have very little to do with public health and others of which strike us as disproportionate and encroaching on the fundamental freedom of association. The recommendations that a citizen should only be allowed to join one cannabis association and that they must be a resident of Spain in order to do so both interfere with the constitutionally protected right to freedom of association.
There are currently around 400 cannabis clubs in Spain, the majority of which are in the northern Basque Country and Catalonia.
The first CSC opened in Barcelona in 2001 and clubs have since had to rely on a model of self regulation due to certain legal ambiguities surrounding their existence.
Last year, Barcelona ordered the closure of a third of the city's cannabis clubs and forbid the opening of new ones over fears that the city was becoming a tourist destination for marijuana users and that not enough was being done to monitor the age of people using clubs.
The new guidelines should ease tensions between local authorities and clubs in Catalonia and hopefully pave the way toward further progress on the issue.