A recent visit to Barcelona showed me it’s the future of cannabis and I’m living in the past. Though I’ve been a stoner for 25 years, I don’t naturally integrate into the city’s cannabis club scene for the simple reason I’m used to buying solid from the street, and smoking at home. Barcelona showed me it’s time for a change.
In the last ten years, Barcelona AKA BCN has replaced Amsterdam as the cannabis capital of Europe. Thanks to a clause in the Spanish constitution that allows its citizens to form associations and do as they please in private, a series of court cases dating back to the 1970s, and the bravery of Barcelona activists, the first clubs began opening in the 1990s. However, these places were just private grow ops and dispensaries.
It wasn’t until 2001, with the opening of the Barcelona’s Cannabis Taster’s Club that the current cannabis social club model, a safe place to buy and smoke cannabis with like-minded friends, was born. Fast-forward ten years and what started out as an underground movement led by activists becomes a thriving business opportunity, with clubs popping up all over the city. By 2012, there are hundreds of clubs, an estimated 500 across Catalonia.
With growth came problems. Police started raiding and shutting down clubs they suspected of trafficking. Charges were pressed on the owners of some clubs, the two most famous cases being Three Monkeys and Panagh. Both cases went all the way to the Supreme Court, taking years to process, but ultimately ending in dismissal of trafficking charges.
Over the years, many attempts to introduce regulation for cannabis clubs have been made. La Rosa Verda, a set of guidelines drawn up by Barcelona activists was passed in 2017, however its victory was cut short by the Catalonian coup a few months later. For now, the clubs operate in accordance with the Buenas Practicas, a code of practices outlined by the Catalonian Federation of Cannabis Associations (CatFac.)
Of all the rules, the most important is that the club operates as a non-profit, existing to serve its members not profit from them. The clubs agree to grow a certain number of plants, usually two per member, and in that way they justify a private grow op. Members can receive up to 3 grams per day, and 25 grams per week. The average price of a gram in a club is €10. Some of the clubs are making a goddamn fortune.
As a user who’s coming from the black market, I have to remind myself to not smoke weed like a tourist. That means not balking at the prices and remembering that clubs offer a safe place to smoke and meet like-minded freaks, a real gift after years of smoking in secret. By now, I’ve been to about six BCN clubs, and the one thing they all have in common is stoners, but not the kind I expected.
Sure, it’s mostly young dudes in hoodies, or older dudes in hoodies, yes, mostly dudes, but the ladies are there, too, just in smaller numbers. Before going, even I bought into the hype, assuming that because they have constant access to weed, BCN stoners must be hitting it like it’s 4/20 every day. But that’s scarcity thinking, the result of buying from an unreliable black market for so long.
When a person can access a commodity easily, and is not concerned about getting more, it’s an abundance economy, and rather than promoting more use, it gives people space to consider how they use, prompting them to self-regulate. The same is true of any substance. Yes, a certain percentage of the population become alcoholics and drink to excess, but the majority do not buy a bottle of vodka on a Tuesday morning even though they can if they want.
In an abundance economy, the relationship with any item is a product of personal responsibility and self-care. I saw this in action with many of the stoners I spoke with in BCN. They were conscious of how much they smoked, in some cases did not smoke tobacco, and in others only smoked weed at set times of the day or week. They were more interested in quality than quantity.
I see now that my habit has evolved out of a scarcity model that keeps me clinging to it in unhealthy ways. It’s time for a change. Watch this space, my freaky friends.