Cannabis Culture Around the World
Smoking in Spain
Recently I had the opportunity to go to Barcelona Spain to check out the cannabis scene. It all started over a year ago when I was drinking tequila late into the twilight hours with a recent acquaintance and kindred spirit. He had been doing an immense amount of recent traveling while working on a YouTube TV show about global cannabis culture. As fate would have it on that early morning, we made the decision that we would smoke together in a foreign land.
When we met at the airport in the early afternoon of Nov. 3, we hardly recognized one another. I had just returned from New Orleans and he had just returned from the Philippines, and there we were standing face-to-face at SeaTac airport in Washington State, about to board a 12-hour flight to spend a week smoking hash in one of the world’s most developed cannabis markets.
It was something I have never experienced. People from all over the world were gathering in these clubs to smoke and socialize.
Upon arrival, we immediately went in search of Barcelona’s social clubs. The city does not recognize medical marijuana, it is strictly recreational. Residents are allowed to grow a few plants at home. The bustling city’s head shops sell a combination of paraphernalia, grow equipment and seeds, though ironically, most of the seeds we came across were from California-based companies. Cannabis can be legally grown and ingested at home or in a social club, but it is illegal to consume or possess in public. Immense fines and jail time can result in possession of cannabis while on public property.
There are over 400 social clubs in Barcelona alone but getting in can be tricky. They were usually behind an unassuming door on a side street. You have to either be with someone who has been before, or be invited by the club via Facebook. This voyage had placed luck on our side and we were able to gain entry. Entry with a ‘chaperone’ was best as we didn’t have to spend time looking for the entrance and often the door fee was waived.
By and large, we got in by reaching out to the clubs over Facebook directly. They would give us a code to enter and tell us to bring the code and €20. Usually the address made available on Facebook was a decoy, and we would wander the blocks aimlessly for some vague sign of the club. Once you enter, you are escorted into a waiting room. A person behind a desk will ask for an access code and you’ll find yourself pen in hand scribbling on some paperwork while simultaneously forking over some cash. You are then let into a second, much larger room. It was exactly how I imagined a modern speakeasy would look, except with cannabis instead of hooch.
In each place we visited cannabis wasn’t alone on the menu. Often times, liquor, coffee and food found a place on the menu. Try the crepes smothered in infused Hazetella—cannabis infused Nutella. To die for. Each club had some form of entertainment as well. Magazines fanned out on the tabletop were offered as legitimate entertainment in some locales, while chess boards and stages designed for live music and performance art were offered as amusement in others.
In each place we visited we were greeted with ten strains of cannabis and ten types of hash. Prefilled cartridges and edibles could be ordered and picked up a day or two later. The flower was better than I expected, but the hash was extraordinary. Full melt or bubble hash of that quality has never made its way into my regular rotation—I was blown away. Once we discovered the quality of the hash we found ourselves pushing the flower to the side with our noses in the air and had ourselves a smorgasbord of hash. That trippy acid scene in Charlotte’s Web in which Templeton the rat feasts on carnival leftovers should adequately paint a picture in your mind.
It was something I have never experienced. People from all over the world were gathering in these clubs to smoke and socialize. No one was too concerned with the quality, it was either good or it wasn’t. People of all ages came together to talk, smoke and try their hand at chess or pool.
After a week of smoking and filming we caught a flight home. My buddy was off to Rome but I had to get back to work. I plopped down in the Frankfurt airport drank a liter of beer (yes you can get beer by the liter in the Frankfurt airport) and dreamt about my next destination. I had heard the Berlin scene was crazy energetic albeit dangerous. In comparison to the Philippines where even suspected cannabis use can lead to death, I would say it may be less intense. South Korean hair follicle testing is on another level. Often performed on the street, word is that a positive follicle test may lead to jail time, even if consumption occurred abroad. Considering my alternatives, I think the open air hash markets of Freetown Christiana will be my next stop!