If you’re planning to take a trip to Barcelona, Spain, there are a few sights and experiences not to miss: the stunning architecture of La Sagrada Familia basilica and other structures by Antoni Gaudi, countless delectable tapas, golden beaches, endless shopping, and of course, marijuana clubs.
The social cannabis clubs in Spain allow members of each collective to come together for the cultivation and use of marijuana. These clubs are not open to the public; new members must be invited and approved by at least one current member and must officially register with the organization before being purchasing any product.
When my husband and I recently traveled abroad, we had the opportunity to join and experience one of these clubs. Through a mutual friend and colleague, my husband made a connection with a middle-aged gentleman who is a founding member of a club in Barcelona, and after some emails and phone conversations, we met up with him the afternoon we arrived. As we walked across town together, my husband and his new friend chatted about family life, the international pharmaceutical industry, and various amazing strains of weed. I tried to listen while still taking in the architecture, the colorful graffiti, and all of the unique shops and restaurants the city has to offer.
Suddenly, we stopped walking. We were down an average-looking alley, at an average-looking storefront, and we were there. I wouldn’t have given this place a second look, but I had no idea what to expect. We entered a spacious foyer with a desk and attendant just inside the door. Our friend spoke in Spanish with the man at the desk, who presented my husband and me with a few papers in English to read and sign. He asked for our passports and recorded the necessary information. We each had to pay our membership fees, and then we were in. We took our official membership cards and headed down the hall to see what was behind the door.
The first room we entered resembled a typical café or coffee shop, though I’m not sure if there was actually any coffee. Several small tables stood throughout the room, some occupied by a couple of people, others empty. On the walls, framed images from magazines and newspapers documented the legal process of establishing these clubs. Books on marijuana cultivation and history lined the shelves. A glass case displayed buds from various strains, complete with descriptions of each plant’s effects.
An open door revealed a small office, home of the humble budtender. My husband and his friend scanned the available product, asking to look more closely or take a sniff when interested. I looked around at the available glass pieces and vaporizers to rent, surprised at the calm but professional atmosphere. Atop the marijuana display case sat a cash register, complete with a credit card machine bearing the logos of Visa and MasterCard. The men made their purchases, and we learned about some discounts for users with medicinal approval.
Next, we went downstairs. In this large, open room there were cushy chairs and couches in several different groupings. The lights were down, and the music was up. Some guys played video games on a big screen in the corner. Others gathered around the billiard table. We sat down on some leather furniture around a table and enjoyed our purchases together. Groups mostly kept to themselves, but our friend knew many people there, so a few stopped by to say hello.
The experience was quite different from Amsterdam, with its small, open-air coffee shops. There, people stop in for a quick smoke and a chat and move on. Here, you come to sit down and stay a while among friends and like-minded people. You discuss the different strains not just as a smoker but from the standpoint of cultivation as well. Each member has a personal stake in the club’s production, as it is a communal atmosphere as opposed to a consumer-driven one.
After a couple of hours enjoying some great company, we needed to go back to our apartment. Apparently, there was another area of the club with a more upbeat, dance-type atmosphere, but we never saw it. It was evening by now, and since we hadn’t slept in almost 48 hours, we were exhausted. I put the rest of the product we had purchased into my purse, and we walked the few blocks to the metro. We arrived at our apartment without incident, relaxed with our legally purchased marijuana, and finally went to sleep with a new adventure under our belts.
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