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The Barcelona Cannabis Club Scene: Update Spring 2022

Even a first-time traveller to Barcelona these days would have no trouble easing into one of its most popular, if not immediately prominent, attractions—the famed, semi-underground cannabis clubs.

There are around 200 clubs operating right now. The majority of these clubs are scattered in the middle part of the city. Although they operate within the gray areas of law, these clubs are still open to business with the authorities if there is a signed handshake agreement. Namely, keep below the radar and follow the unspoken rules to the best of one’s ability. 

There are lots of those—which, very much like the early days of California, Colorado, or Washington, one must be in the scene to know. Even then, these operations could still be raided or their members can face fines up to $550 for possessing cannabis.

Here are some general guidelines. Clubs cannot advertise, market, or promote their own club or the products that are “dispensed” within the premises. Technically, they also do not “sell” anything. Members must “contribute” to “club expenses.” And one must also be referred by another member.

Don’t let this discourage you if you find yourself in Barcelona and need a place to replenish your stash. You will need a passport, some cash, and then you are good to go.

It is very easy to quickly find your way into the informal labyrinth of clubs that dot the Gothic Quarter of downtown—be sure to also take your fully charged smartphone and stick to Google Maps. Also, it is easy to lose yourself in the maze-like cobblestone and charming streets.

Courtesy Marguerite Arnold

How to connect to local weed (Legally)

This perspective will not be offered by a club owner or employee. They aren’t allowed to speak to the media and even though they give me thumbs up whenever I mention that I write for them. Chronic News.

The best place to be if you want to sample more than one club is the old town—or Ciutat Vella, a part of Barcelona that hails from Spain’s seagoing and imperial past. Balconies overlooking narrow streets that are almost Medieval in style feature lush tropical vegetation. As you dance, the lyrical tones and sea breezes of Spanish oral Spanish will surround you.  

Once in the general vicinity, just type in the words “cannabis barcelona” into your browser. Convenient “weed maps” with directions will appear at the top of the list with no more effort. Search around a bit, and you can even find a WhatsApp group which is happy to inform you about the “best and closest.” Then it is just a matter of being able to follow directions.

Unwritten laws that include court cases precedents, require clubs to refrain from soliciting new members. This means that even if you negotiate to the web presence of your intended destination, the chances are that the club’s initial electronic greeting will inform you that they are not accepting new members. Don’t believe that. This is what they have to tell you. They will all tell you to be a legal adult and identify you at the reception before you can ask any questions.

As soon as you get there, opaque glass doors will open up to reveal a gatekeeper hidden behind a glass-fronted door. If you’re a returning or new member, this is the place to pay your membership fee of $25. Memberships last for one year.

You will be sanctified once you have entered the club.

In a very similar way, the clubs that I saw in March 2022 were organized: One room, with vending machines and low-slung couches and tables and large flat screen TVs. There is also an inevitable counter where you can “contribute” to the expenses of the club by selecting your strains (or other products). A low-key staff will be on hand to answer any questions, except those about the items displayed. There are many things that distinguish clubs: their locations, décor, and, of course, the invisible staff behind them.

Prices range from 10 euros a gram (about $12) to 50 in the posher clubs—usually in the nicer areas of the sector. It is also possible to get not only weed but edibles—some of which look like they might have just been imported (or more likely, copied) from California.

The future of the Spanish clubs is unknown. But it is also clear that they are negotiating the tricky legal environment—and on the cusp of greater things to come—once the inevitable reform gets here.

Courtesy Marguerite Arnold

Alex Aller, for as long as you talk, will tell you that he is an example of a Barcelona entrepreneur in action, making the change happen as soon as possible. Negotiated as it might be.

Aller, an attractive Argentine expat in his early 40s, runs a unique consulting company for 30 clubs in central Barcelona. His WhatsApp referral is what I have met before meeting him. Because he’s a member all of the clubs that he digitally maps and is also a staff member, any online referral (or one from him) meets the requirements of the law. Although it is not the most elegant way to address the problems of current environments, this works.

“Change is coming, but it is very difficult for the clubs at the moment,” he said on his office terrace in a central and hip part of town. Since he acts as the critical buffer between clubs and their managers, his web business has been booming. 

“Everyone has to be careful not to violate the letter of the law—although talk to a different attorney, and you will get different interpretations from every lawyer,” he grins. “I work alongside five lawyers in Barcelona alone.”

He immediately responds when asked about the final push for reform. “When Germany finally legalizes it,” he said, a bit ruefully. 

But it is also very clear to Aller, as well as most on the ground, that in the meantime, they will continue to make a living—from both locals and the frequent visitors, including Germans, who are flocking to Barcelona now that COVID restrictions are receding. Visitors return with new knowledge about the domestic marijuana future.

Courtesy Marguerite Arnold

There is change everywhere. This is happening faster than expected. 

The clubs that deal with cannabis are looking forward to spring and ending the pandemic. They are all happy to forget about it and get back to the business of running a business.