The legal status of marijuana in Barcelona

I suppose that most of the people visiting Barcelona or those who are just planning to visit, have a rather vague idea about the legal status of cannabis here and asking themselves a question, – are there any coffeeshops in Barcelona legal? Yet this is not surprising, because when you try to glance through the Internet pages about the weed legalization in Spain, you often do not find a clear answer. The more sources you study, the more contradictions you find and the more questions arise. The reason for that is not so much due to the incompetence of the authors, but per se, owing to a multi-layered situation of legalising and regulating marijuana in Spain. I certainly do not claim to be absolutely objective, but I will try very hard to make sure that after reading this article you have a more or less complete picture.

Is marijuana legal in Spain? Briefly

Even though, as I said, it will not be possible to answer briefly and clearly the question, – Is marijuana legal in Spain in 2020? Nonetheless, something can still be emphasized.

Long story short, according to the Spanish legislation:

  1. you cannot sell or buy marijuana, hashish, etc.;
  2. you cannot store marijuana;
  3. you cannot consume marijuana in public places.

These are the main things that you need to know.

Nevertheless:

  • you can become a member of a cannabis club (it’s not exactly the same thing as a coffeeshop) and you can use cannabis within its walls;
  • can you grow legally weed in Spain? Yes, you can grow two plants and consume cannabis on your private space in a way so that strangers cannot see it.

Moreover, the legalization of weed in Spain is expressed by the availability of seeds for this plant on sale. As of 2020, there are more than a thousand shops open throughout the country with accessories, souvenirs, smoking devices and various equipment for home growing.

Despite the fact that there is practically a decriminalization of cannabis in Spain, there are no programs related to legalising medicinal cannabis or its use. In addition, coffeeshops do not operate in its pure form.

Is weed legal in Spain? Сurrent legal status

I should like to apologize in advance for the dry legal wording. I do not like it myself neither, so I will try to keep it to a minimum.

So, what does the Spanish legislation tell us? Is cannabis legal in Spain?

  • Selling and importing any quantity of cannabis is illegal and it is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment.
  • Acquiring, storing, using marijuana in Spain, as well as hashish and the like in public places is also an offense, but a minor one. In this case, the penalty will be a fine and confiscation of the substance.

In spite of that, it is not as complicated as it may seem: there are options where you can legally consume cannabis. Spain has long had a rather loyal attitude towards drugs. It is hard to say exactly what year Spain made cannabis legalized, but after a series of Supreme Court regulations in the 1970s, it was no longer a criminal offense to keep a small amount of illicit substances.

As other benefits of cannabis legalization, Spain has essentially made the marijuana cultivation legal. Globally, the legislation in Spain allows private individuals who consume cannabis to grow the plant for their own personal use. This decree, altogether with the law that allowed ‘co-consumption’, were used by the cannabis enthusiasts to develop a model of social clubs in which marijuana is ‘collectively’ produced and distributed to the members of cannabis associations for their personal use.

Legal basis of cannabis social clubs

The first cannabis club was founded in 2001. Legal experts have defined several criteria that the marijuana clubs must meet in order to remain in a fairly narrow legal field of and not to fall under the laws relating to the drug trafficking. These are the strict regulations involved for cannabis clubs:

  • The cannabis clubs must be registered at the regional list of associations. The term “association” is not used here by chance: it is specifically defined in the Spanish legislation. It goes something like this: it is “a group of people who make an agreement to achieve a common goal for non-commercial reasons”. The right of Spanish citizens to set up various interest-based associations is an important part of the legal foundation on which the marijuana club model rests. In legal terms, cannabis clubs (including those in Barcelona) are the same kind of associations as the Chess or Hook Knitting Associations. However, these are by no means coffeeshops.
  • Marijuana clubs should strive to reduce the harm associated with the supply and consumption of cannabis. For example, they should encourage responsible consumption. Although I think, most adequate people can do it on their own.
  • Cannabis clubs and their premises should be closed to the general public and the membership is only granted with an invitation provided by an existing association member who can guarantee that the person wishing to join is already a marijuana user. This, in particular, is an important distinction between the cannabis clubs and public coffeeshops.
  • Limitations on the amount of cannabis consumed must be observed. The clubs keep records of the amount of marijuana received by each member (usually marked on a special individual card) and they set daily or monthly limits.
  • The cannabis supplied by an association must be consumed immediately. I think it is clear that this is not a question of puffing everything off in one sitting right at the cash register. It is clear that the cannabis obtained at the club has to be used only within its walls and must not be taken outside.
  • Marijuana clubs must operate on a non-profit basis. Cannabis club members pay their dues covering the costs of production and administration of the club, but all the income generated is reinvested. In addition, the clubs, like any other organization, pay rent, taxes, employee social security contributions, corporate income tax and sometimes even VAT (21 %).

 

Although marijuana clubs must operate according to these rules, they are in actual fact self-regulated and follow either their own codes of conduct or those established by regional unions of associations.

Thus, unlike most other countries, the legalization of cannabis in Spain is not a result of any legislative initiative, but of a constant trial-and-error testing of the existing legislation boundaries.

Although criminal proceedings against the cannabis clubs have been initiated and continue initiating (for both distribution and cultivating), the vast majority of them result in acquittals or suspension of the proceedings.

Can you legally grow weed?

The question often arises how much marijuana can be grown at home in Spain and whether it is legal at the moment (in the year 2020). Yes, you can grow cannabis at home for personal use only (within a private closed space), but no more than two plants. If the plants are visible from the public street, you face a serious fine, so the balconies and windowsills unfortunately drop out as an option, despite the beautiful Spanish climate and abundant sunshine. If you do not have some suitable roof terrace or patio, hidden from prying eyes, you will have to do with an artificial light. Moreover, you should take care of such factors as smell for if your neighbors complain about it, you will not avoid problems.

Is weed legal in Barcelona? Real situation

As far as the laws go, I think, we have gained some understanding – I hope no one has fallen asleep. Now let’s talk about what happens in reality.

In practice, everything is much simpler: these two basic principles for the clubs are critical as they allow them not to fall under the criminal code.

  • a marijuana club should be a non-profit organization
  • a marijuana club should remain a closed institution

These are really important points that all official cannabis clubs always follow. These are the strict regulations involved for cannabis clubs. The first point is expressed in the prohibition of using the words related to finance and trade in communication with a budtender. Putting it simply, you can’t simply say “to buy weed” when you choose the buds: instead, you use various neutral words (such as “get”, “take” and similar).

Buying weed in Barcelona as tourist — is it myth or reality?   Read full article

The second point stipulates the mandatory registration. Not one real and legal cannabis club will let you pass further than the reception without showing your identity card and filling out an application form. This may also include some other nuances related to the ban on advertising the activities of such designated cannabis clubs. You will not be able to contact a marijuana club until you send an application form and receive a return e-mail, which you will have to show when you enter an association. Only after that, the administration will answer your questions.

The most convenient way to send an application is through the club’s page in our catalog. You can use it as a guide around different associations. You, as a consumer, should not worry about any legal marijuana related issues at all. Everything that happens inside the establishments is absolutely legal and safe. So, is pot legal in Spain? Yes, but inside.

Please note that associations only accept cash. If you are wondering how much marijuana costs in Spain, keep in mind that you will need around 20 euros for the membership fee and an average of 10-20 euros per gram of buds.

Black marijuana market

For the sake of a full picture, perhaps it is worth mentioning the black market for marijuana. Thanks to the mild drug policy, in the streets of Barcelona, especially in its center, there are lots of offers to buy marijuana, hashish, and more. And due to the legal alternative in the form of legal “coffeeshops” in Barcelona, very marginal street elements are doing it too. Their target audience are tourists who are not oriented in the local current legal status of marijuana. There are many known cases of travelers being robbed under this pretext.

The offers on the black market can be divided into two types: buying marijuana directly off hands or go to a fake “cannabis club” – usually a gloomy basement. If you are looking for your nearest legal weed, that is not it. Such places, of course, have nothing to do with real weed legal places or associations (which, unlike the clandestine ones, rather resemble some coffee place in Barcelona): it’s just all about speculating on the fact that many tourists have heard about such cannabis legal places, but don’t have any idea how it all should look like. In both cases, the quality of the grass is stinking bad and the potential problems with the police are waiting for you, because by acting this way you become a participant in the drug trafficking. It is up to you to decide if you need such an adventure in a foreign country. In my opinion, having a unique opportunity in front of you to smoke the highest quality weed buds absolutely on legal basis in a pleasant environment, to mess with the street affairs, to put it mildly, is unreasonable.

The future of cannabis consumer associations in Spain

The attitude towards marijuana clubs, weed legalisation and decriminalization of cannabis varies among the authorities. There is a constant debate going where one side proposes to legalize the weed completely and the other side, on the contrary, proposes to tighten the control or even to shut down the cannabis associations that are getting out of control, some of which have several thousand members. There is also a certain tension between the central Spanish authorities and the government of Catalonia. The former argue that the laws on cannabis in Barcelona should be approved by the Spanish government and be common throughout the whole country. However, the Catalan administration, as we can see, does not agree with this.

Personally, I think the current legislation on cannabis (in Spanish – Legislación de Cannabis) in Barcelona is working fine and it is an example of a balance between total prohibition and cannabis legalization. The model of cannabis clubs shows how to limit the availability and promotion of marijuana to the vulnerable parts of our society – such as teenagers, for example (you can’t join a club until you’re 18 or even 21 years old). At the same time, to make the weed legal and available to adult consumers.

If you are ready to move from theory to practice, we have an article on “How to join a cannabis club“.

 

AUTHOR

Arthur Hutchinson

Cannabis culture researcher, journalist and consultant of Cannabis Guide Barcelona

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