Spain Approves Medical Cannabis Reform: Pharmacy Dispensation Planned for End of 2022

On Tuesday the Spanish Congress of Deputies passed medical cannabis reform. The decision to do so was based on the report of a special health commission which formally examined the issue between March and May of this year. It is also widely expected that as of June 27, the full Health Commission will formally approve the report. Then it will take another six months for the Spanish Health Agency (AEMPS) to produce guidelines for actual dispensation.

No matter the hurdles still in the way, this means that medical cannabis will be available upon prescription via Spanish hospital pharmacies by the end of 2022. According to estimates there are about 300,000 domestic patients who could immediately benefit from this change in the law even though most of them will fail to get access due to the high levels of bureaucracy that remain. Further, because only the public hospitals can prescribe, patients with private health insurance are being left out for now.

It is clear, as a result, that while positive, this is an extremely limited first step. Medical use of cannabis will only be allowed for conditions including cancer, pain, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, and epilepsy. Most patients will also not be able to access flower which is still limited for “research purposes.” Dispensation of cannabinoid extracts will also occur initially only via hospital pharmacies and only specialist doctors can prescribe.

According to Carola Perez, a well-known patient advocate and president of the Spanish Observatory for Medicinal Cannabis, a group of patients, doctors and researchers dedicated to cannabis reform, medical cannabis could be available via regular pharmacies eventually. The change now pending for the end of the year still creates an onerously small window of access. “Most patients will still be forced to source their medicine via clubs, home grow and the black market,” she said. Despite the beginning of an extremely limited window of access, Perez is nonetheless happy that at least this first step has been taken. “We have been fighting for this moment for the last seven years,” she said by phone from her home in Spain. “It is also clear that we still have much to do.”

What Is Changing in Spain?

Spain has just entered the “medical cannabis club” in Europe, where patients can, theoretically at least, obtain cannabis by medical prescription via a pharmacy, with the national health system underwriting the bulk of the cost. The countries where this is possible at this point includes Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Luxembourg, and Greece. In Holland, it is legal to buy cannabis at a pharmacy, but tragically, since 2017, Dutch insurers have refused to reimburse claims. As a result, most Dutch patients must rely on their own cultivation, the black market, or the cafes. Unless Spanish medical access is considerably broadened, it is also likely that this will remain the status quo here as well.

What the formal acceptance of medical efficacy does mean unequivocally is that the currently-operating four medical cannabis cultivation companies in Spain with authority approved by AEMPS will no longer solely have to export their product but can now distribute to domestic patients. It also means that foreign medical producers can enter the Spanish medical market.

Where Does This Leave The Clubs and Recreational Reform?

It is clear that Spain is being pulled down a path that other European countries have already trodden. What is interesting about this newest (and inevitable) development is that it creates two distinct and bifurcated domestic cannabis markets—a formal medical one and a well-developed if less than legit grey one consisting of the cannabis clubs. Mostly located in Catalonia and Basque country, clubs nevertheless exist in every major city—though many have not reopened or are not operating in the same way post-COVID. In Madrid, for example, it is easier to get cannabis delivered than go to a physical club as of June.

It is also unclear what the fate of the clubs will be in this new environment. It could be that, like Holland, the Spanish authorities use this first medical opening to close down the clubs—although that is not really feasible at this juncture. More likely is the approval of a broader medical market and eventually, just as in Holland, the establishment of a formalized recreational market. Even if the first step towards the same is some kind of national cultivation plan or, as in Luxembourg and Malta, limited home grow becomes formally legitimized.

Regardless, no matter how short the step, Spain has now affirmed medical efficacy—which means that medical cannabis use is legal in every major economy within the bloc. Recreational reform in countries including Germany, Luxembourg, Portugal, Holland, and Switzerland also means that the entire conversation about the use of cannabinoids is now finally in full swing across Europe.

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Spain Hemp Museum Unveils New Japanese-Themed Exhibit

The exhibit will be on display following its opening on May 12 through February 2023, and marks a 10th anniversary celebration. Those who live in the neighboring area or are planning a vacation to Spain could slate a few hours on their trip to check out this fascinating collection.

One of the exhibit’s displays tells how ninjas in training would plant a batch of hemp and strive to jump over it every day to improve their jumping skills. Toward the end of the growing season, the ninjas would be able to leap over their hemp plants, which can grow up to three or for meters (approximately between 9-13 feet for American customary units).

“This children’s story is a testament to a time when cannabis was ‘big in Japan’. As spring approached, each rural household would plant four to five furrows of hemp seeds. The cultivated hemp was the family’s main source of fibre, used to weave cloth,” the museum writes on its website. “It was also an important source of income, as city merchants would buy the finer hemp fibres. This silk-like hemp was used to create the most precious clothing, from summer kimonos to samurai attire and the garments of Shinto priests. Every aspect of work involving hemp, from planting to weaving, was women’s labour. This continued throughout the Meiji era, when Japan quickly became an industrialized empire.”

The exhibit teases unique hemp-related haiku poetry from 120 years ago.

gentle rain in the
city carries sunset smell
and the hemp reaping
-Haiku master Masaoka Shiki, 1895.

It also showcases ancient Japanese hemp clothing samples and important artifacts in display cases. This fascinating display is one of a kind, and allows attendees to get a rare first-hand look at the history of hemp as its rich influence on life in 18th century Japan.

Today, Japan’s laws regarding cannabis are much stricter. Although the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, recently met to discuss lifting the ban on medical cannabis, the government is far from embracing legalization. This isn’t the first time government officials have begun to see the benefits of medical cannabis. Back in 2015, Japan’s “First Lady,” Akie Abe, expressed her desire to see the country’s hemp industry return to its former glory.

Japan’s hemp prohibition mirrors that of the United States, which was likely influenced by American occupation in the 1940s. Kyodo News reports that 5,482 people violated the country’s cannabis law in 2021, (4,537 for possession, 273 for illegal sales, and 230 for illegal cultivation).

Youth cannabis consumption in Japan is also a major concern, and has led to popular video game company Capcom to let Japanese police use its characters from The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles to sway consumption by minors.

But yet, cannabis advocates remain. There’s one hemp museum in Nasu, Tochigi Prefecture owned by Junichi Takayasu, a local expert on cannabis and its role in Japan’s history.

“Most Japanese people see cannabis as a subculture of Japan but they’re wrong,” Takayasu told The Japan Times in an exclusive 2012 interview. “Cannabis has been at the very heart of Japanese culture for thousands of years.”

Ten years ago, Takayasu expressed his hope that the future is bright for hemp in Japan. “Japanese people have a negative view of cannabis but I want them to understand the truth and I want to protect its history,” he said. “The more we learn about the past, the more hints we might be able to get about how to live better in the future.”

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Increase in Cannabis Pollen Linked To Illicit Growth in Spain

Researchers from the Polytechnic University of Cartagena in Spain have come to an interesting conclusion. Recently, the amount of cannabis pollen in the air has increased dramatically. It is not unreasonable to postulate, as the polytech scientists have now done, that the total amount of illicit cultivation in the region has increased significantly in the last four to five years.

The scientists in Cartagena have been tracking cannabis pollen for decades to try to establish the level of cannabis production and origin in the cities of Cartagena, Murcia, and Lorca. The three cities are located just across the Alboran Sea from Algeria and Morocco.

What they have found most recently, beyond an uptick in overall volume, is that only a small amount of the particles in the air come from North Africa. This too is on trend. Authorities have noticed that there has been an increase in cultivation in Spain and a lower dependency on hash coming in from abroad.

Of the three cities, Lorca and Cartagena stood out, registering more than 80 grains of pollen per cubic meter, with Murcia reaching a peak of 66 in 2020. This is a significant delta considering that the three cities registered levels of between 19 and 27 in 2017.

This conclusion comes from the fact that there has been a dramatic increase in busts in the area over the same period of time.

The Spanish Cannabis Uprising

While most people, starting with the Spanish government, have focused on the nascent cannabis club industry in and around Barcelona, the reality is that illicit cannabis cultivation—not to mention use—is widespread in Spain. This is something that authorities are belatedly getting a handle on as they try to figure out how to legislate a situation where the horse has clearly left the barn.

As of last year, the government began formally considering how to recognize the medical efficacy of the plant. Beyond this, the Spanish legalization discussion is in an interesting place at the moment. Cultivation for the clubs is widespread, as are the clubs themselves, particularly in Catalonia and Basque country. Beyond this, there are four licenses issued by the government allowing the cultivation and processing of GMP or pharmaceutical grade cannabis—but only for export. Hemp is also allowed, as long as it is being used for industrial purposes.

However, it clearly does not stop here. Bootleg Spanish products are showing up all over Europe right now—and not just of the CBD kind. There is more illicit production here than the authorities can ever control—which is also why there have been a few very public and large national busts of late.

In the meantime, Germany has decided to speed up its recreational legalization plans.

If the Spanish intend to resist the obvious, it will only do one thing. Rob the government of tax income if not tourist euros spent elsewhere. The impact of the German decision cannot be understood either and for a very simple reason: There is a huge amount of German investment in the Spanish economy. And for now, while that is predominantly real estate and banks, there is no reason that this could not extend, and soon, to cannabis.

Pollen Testing Confirms the Obvious

The Spanish pollen test appears to be the first of its kind. Most studies of air quality in this industry so far have been focused on the emissions of indoor cultivation in Colorado and California. Beyond this, the main way authorities try to understand drug use (in both the U.S. and Europe) is to measure metabolites collected from city wastewater. In Europe, the last major study of the same found that the highest levels of THC metabolite have been found in cities in Croatia, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain.

Given the fact that not only are Spanish citizens cultivating and using cannabis—and apparently increasingly so as countries in Europe address recreational reform, it seems only a matter of time before Spanish policies finally catch up. And when they do of course, there will be a far easier way to measure both cultivation and consumption in the form of legal, regulated, and taxable production and sales.

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Cannabis Clubs in Spain: Have They Closed Down?

The USA has certainly dominated the legal cannabis market in recent years, with now 18 states having fully legalized cannabis and 38 of them having legalized it for medical use. However, certain parts of Europe have been showing signs of real change also. You’d think that a continent containing the Netherlands and specifically Amsterdam would do more for cannabis legalization but, on the whole, stagnancy has been rife throughout. The UK, France and Italy have been infamous for their slow and steady approach. However, small nations like Luxembourg and Malta have recently decided to take big strides towards weed legalization.

Germany is supposedly only a few years away and Spain has been known to have an underground culture of legal cannabis establishments. But what about Spain and their famous cannabis clubs? Well, in 2021 it was announced that their industry of secret weed clubs would have to come to an end, but has that actually happened? Let’s take a deeper look. 

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Spain

Spain is a hot, beautiful country at the bottom western side of Europe, with a population of around 50 million. What was once the world’s first global empire, is now a proud nation that is home to the second most-spoken native language in the world: Spanish. The design and architecture in Spain is an incredible balance between rustic and artistic. The Spruce writes:

“Spanish mission architecture has retained many of the classical building elements throughout the years. Blending influences from Spain, Mexico, and Indigenous cultures, this simple and rustic, yet beautiful architectural style has become a popular choice in warmer climates across the United States”

Barcelona hosts some of Gaudi’s best work. The pinnacle of this is his iconically designed La Sagrada Familia. 

Cannabis in Spain

Cannabis in Spain, like many other nations, is a slightly grey area. In the context of the rest of Europe, Spain is more liberal than most, but is not quite at the level of many US states. At the current moment, cannabis in Spain is decriminalised for personal cultivation and use, but is illegal to sell or to purchase. It’s confusing to understand it completely and it’s actually this confusion that led to the existence and creation of cannabis clubs. But we’ll get on to that later. First of all, let’s be a little more specific around the legal situation.

Selling Cannabis

It is 100% illegal to sell cannabis buds in Spain. However, it is not illegal to sell the likes of seeds or hemp products. This is quite common in European countries. CBD products are legal in Spain, as long as no more than 0.2% THC is contained (this will go up to 0.3% in 2023). However, these CBD products cannot be in the form of buds – they must only exist as edibles, drinks or tinctures. 

Purchasing Cannabis

Purchasing cannabis is illegal through and through. Like any other country, there are street dealers who will try to sell it to you on the streets or on beaches, but ultimately that transaction will be considered unlawful. But with Spain’s cannabis clubs, you can become a member and indirectly purchase cannabis that way. By paying a members fee, you are then eligible for their products. 

Cultivating Cannabis

The growing cannabis laws in Spain do differ from much of Europe; it makes them stand out. It is actually legal to cultivate cannabis in the privacy of your own home in Spain, but there must be no more than 2 plants. Plus, these plants must be grown out of sight of neighbours or other passers by. Growing cannabis in secret? Well, this sounds the same as any other country, doesn’t it? however if you are caught then you won’t be prosecuted as what you’re doing is technically legal if you stick to within the guidelines. 

In 2022, Spanish officers raided a cannabis cultivation ground and destroyed around 415,000 plants, worth up to 100 million euros. The CBD-based plants were being grown to be used to treat medical issues. However, Sky News writes:

“Although CBD sale and consumption is legal across Spain and in many European countries, Spanish law bans the cultivation of cannabis plants for anything other than industrial purposes, such as textiles and seeds, according to the Agriculture Ministry”

Medical cannabis in Spain is not really regulated and thus does not have much of an industry in the country.

Smoking or Vaping Cannabis

Whether you’re smoking or vaping cannabis, it is illegal to do this in public places in Spain. This includes streets, parks, buildings, beaches – anywhere that is considered a public space. There are hefty fines, confiscations and even prison sentences if people don’t obey these laws. However, this means that smoking or vaping cannabis in private places is allowed. It is this exact law that led to the invention of cannabis clubs. Their whole purpose was to be this exact private place for people to consume weed. The logic was this: If there were private clubs for people to consume cannabis, then it would not be breaking any laws. 

Cannabis Club

Officially, the first cannabis club in Spain opened in 2001 but it was from 2007 that the industry began to boom. It is believed that there are now more than 500 cannabis clubs in the country, all having thousands of members. 400 of these clubs exist in Barcelona, but they also exist in many other cities in Spain – not just Barcelona and Madrid. The original idea of these clubs, as previously mentioned, was to offer a private place for people to consume cannabis legally. Unlike the Amsterdam and California model, this was not a profit scheme, it was more of an underground movement. Members pay an upfront fee, and are then allowed to have access to the club, which grows and offers its own cannabis to members. Transform Drugs writes:

“With no profit motive to increase cannabis consumption or initiate new users, the clubs offer a more cautious, public health-centred alternative to large-scale retail cannabis markets dominated by commercial enterprises.”

This is why it can be quite difficult to join Spanish cannabis clubs, especially if you’re a tourist. There are certain strict rules that must be abided by. You need to have an ID to join, you need to have a Spanish address to join, and in some cases you need to be referred by an existing member to join. Cannabis club owners are aware that their entire existence relies on the respect and well-mannered behaviour of their members. Spain Weed Guide writes:

“At these clubs, you are not actually buying weed. As a rule of thumb, you want to avoid the topic of buying products while inside. You will either be corrected or in some extreme circumstances, asked to leave.” 

Buying cannabis is illegal, but paying a membership fee and smoking cannabis on private premises technically is not. The entire existence of these clubs rely on certain legal loopholes. However, that’s what makes the cannabis clubs quite fragile. 

Have They Closed Down?

In 2021, the supreme court of Spain supposedly shut a legal loophole down that allowed for Spanish cannabis clubs to exist. After this, it was reported that many if not all of these holy places would face closure. But since then, it’s all been a little quiet from the media. So what has actually happened? The Guardian writes:

“The associations began as private clubs where members could buy and smoke cannabis on the premises. In recent years, many have departed from this model to become outlets for the massive quantities of cannabis grown in Catalonia, often under the control of eastern European and other mafias.”

What began as a strict, underground members club culture, has now become many clubs trying to promote cannabis. This model is more similar to that of California and Amsterdam. Whilst not all cannabis clubs run this way, even the existence of one or two rebel clubs like this is enough to force the entire industry to close down. The law that once said that: “private consumption of cannabis by adults … is part of the exercise of the fundamental right to free personal development and freedom of conscience”, was overturned in 2017. Since then, the city of Barcelona was running on its own independent regulated laws but that ability has now also been overturned. From reports it seems that many owners of cannabis clubs knew that this day would come, but enjoyed the ride nonetheless. The simple members fee of around 10 euros was enough for the clubs to be seen as money-making, cannabis-promoting establishments. 

When Harris Bricken, a cannabis law blogger, attended the 2022 Cannabis Business Conference in Barcelona she wrote on what she heard from many activists and poltictical figures:

“After all these years of cannabis movement in Spain not only do we have no regulation of medical use or medical cannabis, but, outside of decriminalization there is not even a legal framework for private cultivation and consumption.”

Final Thoughts

What had begun as something so sweet, was now becoming sour. Whilst cannabis clubs in Spain do still exist, they have become stricter and harder to be a part of. And the ones that do, can very easily and frequently be shut down.

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Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp

On Wednesday, Spanish authorities announced the destruction of 415,000 cannabis plants worth an estimated $108 million. Police claimed that this was a vital strike against Europe’s “largest cannabis plantation.”

Approximately 50 tons of plants were being dried in a warehouse in the rural region of Navarre. The plantation was spread over 166 acres of land. The owners are now facing criminal charges.

But here is where the story starts to get really strange.

The plants were all low THC hemp—a substance at least on the European level, which is no longer considered a “narcotic.” Even in Spain, the sale and consumption of CBD is legal.

Spanish Cultivation and Legality

This case is one of the stranger ones to hit headlines of late, precisely because it highlights the legal confusion over the status of cannabis and hemp across the E.U. However, it also goes to show why there is a dire need for not only European, but individual European country sovereign reform.

Legally, the cultivation of cannabis in Spain (including CBD) is only allowed when the cultivator is growing “industrial hemp.” Growing hemp for conversion into CBD remains a criminal offense. Indeed, Article 368 of the Spanish Criminal Code criminalizes the cultivation of cannabis when it promotes, favors, or facilitates the illegal consumption of “drugs” with a prison sentence of between 3-6 years.

However this case is a bit of a legal oddity. European law, which of course at this point Spain is out of compliance with, does not define hemp with more than .02% CBD as a narcotic. In this case, the farmer was apparently planning to export the dried plant to other countries for this extraction process.

Further, per the Kanavape case, companies are allowed to export hemp flower and low THC products across country lines for sale when legally produced in the country of origin —which would also seem to apply in this case as the farmer claimed that this is what he was doing. Apparently, even though the crop was designated as industrial hemp in Spain, the intent to export and then extract was what triggered the police action.

It will be interesting to see the development of this case.

The Dire Need for European Reform

It is precisely cases like this that underline the growing need for a regional approach to comprehensive cannabis reform. The problem seen in Spain (home, let’s not forget to non-profit cannabis clubs where high THC flower can be obtained), is one that is also showing up in other countries.

In Germany right now, importation of CBD can still result in legal action from overzealous prosecutors. In France, this was also true until the Kanavape case, which of course then went on to challenge E.U. law on the topic—and further set E.U. wide precedent that if hemp is legally produced in one member state, it can also be exported to another.

There is currently a case in Germany now pending in an attempt to bring German law into compliance with the E.U. on this matter.

This case, if properly defended, may well go on to set legal precedent about the same in Spain.

Until such matters are settled, however, working even in the CBD space in Europe remains a dangerous proposition.

It was, after all, less than a year ago that the German grocery retailer Lidl was actually raided by police in Munich for the “crime” of selling cookies and other products containing CBD.

In the Meantime…

The entire European cannabis industry is actually getting more hazardous, not less, even as reform begins to make headway in individual countries and E.U. wide policy on CBD is being set. This is even true in Holland, home of the coffeeshop, where there is a national trial underway to regulate the cultivation of cannabis, but the mayor of Amsterdam wants to ban tourists from the coffeeshops and close about two-thirds of them down.

In Germany right now, there are several hundred pending cases against legitimate businesses selling hemp—even as the new government has announced its intention to create a recreational market for high THC cannabis.

Beyond that, there are about 185,000 pending preliminary criminal proceedings across the country for recreational users who have been busted by the police for possession or even home-grow for personal consumption. These numbers also do not include patients, including those whose insurance companies have refused to cover medical cannabis despite such treatment being recommended by their doctors.

As the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn.

The post Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp appeared first on High Times.

Spanish Police Bust ‘Europe’s Largest Cannabis Farm’—Despite Only Growing Hemp

On Wednesday, Spanish authorities announced the destruction of 415,000 cannabis plants worth an estimated $108 million. Police claimed that this was a vital strike against Europe’s “largest cannabis plantation.”

Approximately 50 tons of plants were being dried in a warehouse in the rural region of Navarre. The plantation was spread over 166 acres of land. The owners are now facing criminal charges.

But here is where the story starts to get really strange.

The plants were all low THC hemp—a substance at least on the European level, which is no longer considered a “narcotic.” Even in Spain, the sale and consumption of CBD is legal.

Spanish Cultivation and Legality

This case is one of the stranger ones to hit headlines of late, precisely because it highlights the legal confusion over the status of cannabis and hemp across the E.U. However, it also goes to show why there is a dire need for not only European, but individual European country sovereign reform.

Legally, the cultivation of cannabis in Spain (including CBD) is only allowed when the cultivator is growing “industrial hemp.” Growing hemp for conversion into CBD remains a criminal offense. Indeed, Article 368 of the Spanish Criminal Code criminalizes the cultivation of cannabis when it promotes, favors, or facilitates the illegal consumption of “drugs” with a prison sentence of between 3-6 years.

However this case is a bit of a legal oddity. European law, which of course at this point Spain is out of compliance with, does not define hemp with more than .02% CBD as a narcotic. In this case, the farmer was apparently planning to export the dried plant to other countries for this extraction process.

Further, per the Kanavape case, companies are allowed to export hemp flower and low THC products across country lines for sale when legally produced in the country of origin —which would also seem to apply in this case as the farmer claimed that this is what he was doing. Apparently, even though the crop was designated as industrial hemp in Spain, the intent to export and then extract was what triggered the police action.

It will be interesting to see the development of this case.

The Dire Need for European Reform

It is precisely cases like this that underline the growing need for a regional approach to comprehensive cannabis reform. The problem seen in Spain (home, let’s not forget to non-profit cannabis clubs where high THC flower can be obtained), is one that is also showing up in other countries.

In Germany right now, importation of CBD can still result in legal action from overzealous prosecutors. In France, this was also true until the Kanavape case, which of course then went on to challenge E.U. law on the topic—and further set E.U. wide precedent that if hemp is legally produced in one member state, it can also be exported to another.

There is currently a case in Germany now pending in an attempt to bring German law into compliance with the E.U. on this matter.

This case, if properly defended, may well go on to set legal precedent about the same in Spain.

Until such matters are settled, however, working even in the CBD space in Europe remains a dangerous proposition.

It was, after all, less than a year ago that the German grocery retailer Lidl was actually raided by police in Munich for the “crime” of selling cookies and other products containing CBD.

In the Meantime…

The entire European cannabis industry is actually getting more hazardous, not less, even as reform begins to make headway in individual countries and E.U. wide policy on CBD is being set. This is even true in Holland, home of the coffeeshop, where there is a national trial underway to regulate the cultivation of cannabis, but the mayor of Amsterdam wants to ban tourists from the coffeeshops and close about two-thirds of them down.

In Germany right now, there are several hundred pending cases against legitimate businesses selling hemp—even as the new government has announced its intention to create a recreational market for high THC cannabis.

Beyond that, there are about 185,000 pending preliminary criminal proceedings across the country for recreational users who have been busted by the police for possession or even home-grow for personal consumption. These numbers also do not include patients, including those whose insurance companies have refused to cover medical cannabis despite such treatment being recommended by their doctors.

As the saying goes, it is always darkest before the dawn.

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Spannabis Conference Sparks Up Again

After two long years, Europe’s premier cannabis conference, Spannabis, finally reconvened near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on March 11. The three-day fair, now in its 18th iteration, followed a two-year pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 2020’s edition was set to begin with many of its global attendees already in Barcelona for the conference, when Spannabis—and every other major event on the planet—had to be cancelled in March of that year. 

Thankfully, even with new COVID-19 variants looming in the wider stratosphere, this year’s event went off without a hitch. Though the crowd was smaller than in years past—likely due to COVID’s persistence in our daily lives resulting in numerous travel restrictions—spirits were high, and everyone seemed genuinely relieved and excited to be gathering as a community once again.

Joining Forces

PHOTO ICBC

Running just one day before Spannabis on March 10 was the International Cannabis Business Conference’s (ICBC) B2B Barcelona event, which was emceed by comedian Ngaio Bealum. As they did back in 2019, ICBC once again partnered with Spannabis for the event in order to form a “super conference.” Businesspeople networked in-person, listened to expert panels and talked shop in a candid way—a dialogue that’s not always afforded for those who live in places where cannabis isn’t fully legal, including the US and Spain. 

“Spannabis is the meeting point for the entire European cannabis scene. It is first and foremost a consumer event, however, many folks who attend are also looking for a B2B element,” said Alex Rogers, ICBC’s CEO and executive producer. “The ICBC’s partnership with Spannabis fills this gap and satisfies a clear need for major cannabis industry players to meet, network and to progress and advance the industry as cannabis laws are liberalized in Spain and across the continent.” 

US cannabis companies were well-represented at both ICBC and Spannabis, the latter of which eclipses ICBC in size several times over and also includes consumption spaces, concerts and cultural activities in addition to exhibition hall installations and other business activations. Notable presences included vape gear companies Ispire and Puffco; California operator Leune; Humboldt Seed Co. (which also maintains employees in Spain); and hundreds more companies from around the globe. 

In addition to Humboldt Seed Co., many of the world’s best seed banks attended—including Ripper Seeds and Royal Queen Seeds—as did a bevy of other well-appointed booths that suggest business is still growing post-pandemic.

Apart from the official Spannabis festivities, the excitement was palpable throughout Barcelona, particularly in the city’s cannabis clubs. The top of the must-visit list for the cannabis-loving hordes included HQ, which became the preferred choice of the California crew that was in town; CRTFD, a street art-focused club with plenty of California buds on offer; Terps Army, the Barcelona outpost of the Amsterdam club that originated the famed hash hole joints now popularized by California’s Fidel Hydro and Cookies; and The Plug, which employs one of the best damn hash makers in the world. 

Notable were the parties and off-menu events such as Hash Holes and Donuts, the first inaugural event hosted at Cookies Barcelona, which is another popular club from the California cannabis brand (yes, it’s that Cookies). The party celebrated all things donut: a gram of top-notch hash rosin rolled in a gram of weed for the headiest joint that most people have never smoked, though that’s likely to come soon. The joints are already for sale throughout Barcelona, and in California. In general, most of the parties either happened at private cannabis clubs or private homes for rent outside the city.

A Hash Makeover

PHOTO Gracie Malley

Aside from after-expo hours events, the hash culture renaissance was easily one of the most exciting aspects of being at Spannabis. Hash is by no means new to Europe, of course, but hash culture itself seems to be undergoing a sort of makeover at present.

Ego Trip, which took place during ICBC and wasn’t officially affiliated with the events, showcased the best hash makers in the region. Every club had someone in it who wanted to show off their wares. Coming from California, it’s a high bar to cross, but the quality of rosins, resins and all other types of dabs was stellar. Plus, looking out at the sea of consumers at the clubs, who are mostly men, just about every other person could be seen walking around touting a Puffco Peak, which is just beginning to figure out its expansion into Europe.

“Europe has loved hash for a really long time, but this new version of hash centered around water hash, rosin and BHO that’s become popular in the US has really started to take off in Europe,” said Roger Volodarsky, CEO of Puffco.

“However, most people are using the same analog technology that they were a long time ago—such as torches, nails and conventional dab rigs. So, for Puffco, we’re seeing this newly developing market; and even though it’s still quite small, it’s primed for innovative products like the Puffco Peak and Peak Pro,” he said, touching on the opportunity he sees in Europe. 

As it becomes easier for Puffco to ship into Europe, Volodarsky says we should see many more people “benefitting from the hash experience because it becomes much easier to use.”

And he’s right. The way Puffco revolutionized dabbing in the US is clearly beginning to catch on in Europe, and it was on full display at Spannabis.

“Puffco’s products make using concentrates more accessible and allows people to get straight to the great experience they’re chasing,” Volodarsky said. “We heard this same sentiment from people repeatedly while at Spannabis.”  

Volodarsky agrees that the new age of hash is still developing in both the US and Europe, with the latter ready to zoom into space, so to speak.

“I saw and experienced locally grown and extracted hash all made in Barcelona, and it was better than some of the things we’re seeing in the US,” he said. “It’s amazing to see even at this incipient stage of it being a micro-community, they’re already delivering the standard of quality that we have here in the US.” 

Volodarsky says he looks forward to watching the evolution of hash and hopes that he’ll be able to realize his dream of traveling to Europe on vacation and being exposed to “different types of hash that are equal to or better than the American experience.”

If this year’s Spannabis was any indication, that day may come sooner than anyone may think.

The post Spannabis Conference Sparks Up Again appeared first on Cannabis Now.

2021 Roundup of Cannabis Reform in Europe (and 2022 Predictions)

As the world contemplates a whole new year, whether or not COVID will finally recede, there are a few things to cheer about, including cannabis reform. Namely, no matter how many uncertainties face us all, as grey January stretches beyond the holiday lights, there is certainly cheer in the air that will last much longer than the season.

Indeed, there are plenty in Germany right now who are already making plans for infused Weihnacht treats just a few years hence. It is now clear that cannabis will take its place quickly in German traditions, Christmas being just one of them. Canna-Glüwein (hot, mulled wine), anyone?

Beyond this, the rest of the EU now teetering on the edge on this issue, has now woken up to the reality that no matter what they decide to do (Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Malta and, of course, the current laggard, France), now that Germany has just uttered the declaration that is the beginning of the end. If not an inevitable form of economic development and tax money in a world starved of the same.

Cannabis has turned a major corner in Europe in 2021. Here are the major hallmarks of the year.

Red, Amber, Green, Go Deutschland!

Germany’s new “Traffic Light” political coalition has promised to address the issue of recreational reform legislatively in 2022. Unlike the U.S. where multiple attempts to pass federal cannabis reform have failed, this is likely to happen. 

In the initial rollout of reform, however, do not be surprised if the Germans decide to follow the Swiss and allow regular pharmacies to be the first port of call for both medical and recreational users. It would solve several issues at once—starting with the establishment of tight restrictions on cultivation and retail supply chain. 

A short term, interim solution such as this will knock out a far more contentious issue—how to structure a licensing system for everything from cultivation in the country (and by whom) to specialty shops that resemble American or Canadian “dispensaries.” Namely not medical establishments. Plus, online sales.

This is for both Germany and cannabis reform, expect there to be several iterations of reform, starting with state and city experiments that will inevitably see Berlin, Bremen, Dortmund, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Cologne and Munich on the front lines (because such ideas have been avidly pushed on a municipal level before).  

Also, don’t forget that it basically took four years after the law changed and two after the cultivation bid was finally awarded, for there to be distribution of German cultivated medical cannabis. Don’t expect the details of recreational to be handled or hammered out much more quickly. See Canada.

In the meantime, however, full decrim will become the law of the land, and patients will be free of prosecution, both for possession and presumably (hopefully) reasonable home growing. Despite the reluctance to actually have cannabis cultivated in the country, either by patients or companies (see the drama over the first cultivation bid), this is not 2017. Germans, albeit grudgingly, now admit that the drug does work, as a drug, even if they are not yet of one voice in the majority that cannabis prohibition has of course, failed.

Regardless, German recreational, just as medical reform was before it, is a huge, huge step which will drive other countries across the region forward too.

Malta and Luxembourg will Lead the Way

It is a sign of how convoluted the Dutch situation is, if not national position, generally, that the island of Malta led the way on actual, formal, federal, recreational cannabis reform within the European Union (EU). Indeed, if there are analogies to be made, Holland is kind of like the European California—creating a market that exists in the grey areas but is only now facing a discussion (and further one far from complete) about how to federally regulate the industry.

Luxembourg also, it appears, was just hanging back until another country took the leap, despite promising the same in 2018 as a new coalition government took the reins there. Now there is no excuse for any more delays.

Portugal will also inevitably now enact reform as soon as the smoke from the general election early next year clears—and no matter who wins. The country needs an economic boost—either from tourism or exports, and this is a natural solution.

Beyond this, Spain may well follow a Dutch model to formalize production for its clubs rather than coffee shops in the next 12 to 24 months.

Also expect to see Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, Greece and potentially outliers like Belgium begin to move with the herd, even if in the creation of experimental markets. This may or may not start to happen next year, but it will most certainly catch on within the next 24 months.

The Swiss Wild Card

Do not forget, of course, that the Swiss began preparing for a recreational trial rollout that now has a calendar date set for actual lift off in 2022. Companies have been submitting and obtaining approvals for the last eight months or so.

The beginning of this market, with its own strange requirements and rules, will also inevitably drive discussions and the shape of reform just across the DACH if not other EU borders the country shares with other countries. Everyone will be watching what goes down in Der Schweitz—including the unique waiving and blending of certain kinds of certifications—including but not limited to Novel Food and GMP.

Other Notables (or Not)

Try as they might to get some respect, the British cannabis industry, such as it is, has weathered difficult times, and these do not seem at least for now, to be ending any time soon. 

In contrast to the British on both European membership and cannabis reform, North Macedonia will inevitably play a role in the immediate future, even if just as a source of cheaper flower and oil extracts.

Poland is also still teetering on the brink of actual if not accessible medical reform, but expect this now also to speed up.

The Growth of Import Markets Serving Europe

The year 2021 was notable for another reason. Feeder markets will target EU if not Germany at their founder’s mandate, continued to grow. This means that no matter what happens with future cultivation discussions, in any country, starting with Germany, there will be no shortage of other certified cannabis from countries all over the globe at this point, looking for a German home. 

For this reason, there will be significant downward pressure on both the medical and “other” flower and biomass discussions.

Bottom Line On 2021?

If there is an analogy to be made, the situation in Europe now on the ground looks a great deal like the conversation in the U.S. in 2012, post presidential election that returned Obama to his second term in office. Namely, two states, Colorado and Washington State, voted on state mandates to create state markets. They both bloomed in 2014—and the rest, as they say, is history.

The developments this year in Europe, and even some of the stuttering delays, no matter their cause or ultimate resolutions, resemble this period, in many ways. And that spells great news for the industry, on all fronts.

The post 2021 Roundup of Cannabis Reform in Europe (and 2022 Predictions) appeared first on High Times.

Exploring Cannabis Culture in Barcelona, Spain

“Barcelona, archives of courtesy, shelter of the foreigners, hospital of the poor, father-land of the brave, the vengeance of the offended and pleasant correspondence of firm friendship, and in the site, and in beauty, unique.” – Miguel de Cervantes

In the next part of our series on cannabis culture, we’ll be looking at Barcelona. Remember that cannabis culture is the way that cannabis can be perceived and treated within a society, city or country.  This includes the separate regulations regarding individua cannabinoids that we find in the plant like CBD vs THC. In our next stop we look at the capital city of Catalonia, an autonomous region of Spain; the home of fantastic football, awesome architecture and a growing weed culture, Barcelona: With the rise of Barcelona Cannabis clubs, what secrets can we find in this jewel of the mediterranean?

Whether you’re talking about the US, Europe, or anywhere else in the world, cannabis culture can vary significantly. To learn about laws across the globe, make sure to subscribe to The Medical Cannabis Weekly Newsletter, your hub for all things cannabis-related.


Barcelona 

Barcelona is found on the northeastern coast of Spain, but it is also the capital city of the autonomous region of Catalonia, a region in a constant battle for independence from the rest of the nation. Because of this Barcelona has quite a unique and different feel to other Spanish cities. It is home to 4.8 million people, making it one of the largest cities in europe. It is also one of the most visited by tourest, being the fifth biggest tourist city in Europe. It is home to a happening hipster scene and has inspired multiple songs and movies and artworks before. Famously, Freddy mercury sang of its beauty in his hit solo song, ‘Barcelona’.   

“Barcelona, Such a beautiful horizon, Barcelona, Like a jewel in the sun! Viva Brcelona!

Here are some of the top places to visit in Barcelona, the beautiful horizon, some famous sites and scenes to see:

Basílica de la Sagrada Família

Located in the northern part of the city this iconic neo-gothic church dominates the skyline, as well as the souvenir stands. Designed by Antoni Gaudi, who started the project in 1883, the huge church was only supposed to take 10-15 years to build, but ended up being a lot longer, still being under construction today. This is a must see for anyone in Barcelona and is guaranteed to take your breath away. 

The Gothic Quarter (Barri Gòtic)

Don’t get lost in this medieval maze of ancient streets, one of the oldest parts of Barcelona, the gothic quarter has been a religious centre for hundreds of years. There is evidence of Roman and medieval architecture and in the centre of it all stands the Catedral de la Santa Cruz y Santa Eulalia, a spectacular cathedral. You can also find the Picasso museum and be serenaded by some classical Spanish guitar whilst you walk. There are also some fantastic bars and pubs down these streets.

Las Ramblas 

The main central street in Barcelona, full of tourists, but still a mainstay for any new visitor. A beautiful high street with old school bars and restaurants to suit everyone, all shaded by the boulevard of beautiful trees.

Cannabis in Barcelona 

So what is the cannabis culture like in Barcelona, what do the people of this beautiful city thing about the plant? Is it an important part of its culture? Well the truth is, it is. Barcelona is rapidly growing into one of the most important cities in Europe when it comes to weed. With over 200 specialised cannabis clubs, it’s clear to see that the city is taking Cannabis culture seriously. These cannabis clubs are an exciting development for European cannabis culture in general as they are bars where you can work, drink, play some pool but also legally smoke cannabis. The technicalities on the law in Barcelona are a little more complex, but we will discuss that below. With so many Cannabis clubs to choose from it is important to understand how they operate and which are often recommended as the best. An important thing to note is that to go to a Cannabis club you must be a member. So, let’s unpick the law in Barcelona around Cannabis.

Is It Legal?

For a simple answer to this question I refer to the Barcelona weed guide: “Smoking and possession of marijuana is completely legal within the confines of your own home or within a cannabis club. As long as you aren’t smoking or in possession of cannabis in a public place, you are not breaking the law. Even as a foreign national you are within the law.” This sounds like great news and a relatively simple rule to follow, however there are some traps that are possible to fall into whilst in the city. For clarity let’s have a look in a little more detail at what counts as illegal weed usage in the city.

Illegal

As stated before, smoking weed at home and in a cannabis club is perfectly legal, but this means smoking it anywhere else is not. If you are caught smoking cannabis on the streets you could be prosecuted and fined at least €600! Also, unlike Amsterdam, where it is also illegal to smoke on the streets, the police are much less forgiving. On top of this, it is also important to remember that you shouldn’t buy cannabis from any street vendors as again, you are not at home or in a Cannabis club, it’s not worth the risk as you can get some by being a member of a club. It’s also important to remember that being in possession of Cannabis whilst not at home is illegal, so even if it’s in your pocket, if you get searched you can be fined. But now we know what’s illegal, what can we do in Barcelona?

Legal 

The Cannabis Club scene is one of the fastest growing weed cultures in Europe and is an interesting experiment that hopefully other cities will begin to follow. The clubs are interesting as they aren’t public like the cafés in Amsterdam. Instead, they are private members only clubs that you need to apply for which means they have a much more private feel. Inside, you can perfectly legally smoke and buy weed. Although, I wouldn’t use the term buying weed as the way the clubs work is a bit more like you own a share of weed when you pay your membership fee and you acquire it when you go to the club. You have to pay a yearly membership fee, but once that’s sorted, you’re all set to go. How do they work legally though? Well, as stated above it isn’t illegal to smoke cannabis on private properties and a Cannabis club counts as a private property, once you’re a member so it all works perfectly!

How to Join a Cannabis Club

The first thing you have to do is find the right club, below we’ve listed some of the most recommended Cannabis Clubs online. It’s important to understand that every club is different, sometimes with a different fee and with a different vibe, so make sure you find one that is right for you. The next step is that you have to request an invitation online. You can ask friends in Barcelona who are already members to get you in, but If you don’t have anyone in the city already you have to find the clubs online, or on instagram and message, requesting an invitation. Again, our friends at Barcelona Weed Guide have some tips for this: “Apply for an invitation from a specific member of staff and when you arrive at the cannabis club you need to ask for this person. They are inviting you to the club and they can get you membership.” Sometimes the club is closed to new members, but if they’re not, the most common reply from them is this: “Please, show this message at the reception desk and bring your ID to identify yourself as a legal adult (age). We can’t answer further questions until we meet face to face at the club.” And that’s exactly what you need to do, don’t forget your ID as this is the key to being accepted!

Recommendations 

Here are some of the top recommendations according to a few sites online: Barcelona Coffee Shop, Dragon Weed Club, Zkittlez Weed Club and G13 Weed Club. There’s a much more extensive list, with links at this site

Are they closing down?

These Cannabis clubs are pioneers and have been shown to be reducing the amount of street selling and criminal convictions for cannabis possession. However, there have been motions towards closing these clubs down. Arguments have been made that the clubs are promoting themselves and aiming themselves at young people and tourists, so the police and government have decided to crack down on these promotional activities and will start inspecting the clubs. This could be bad news, but at the same time the Catalonian government has been to-ing and fro-ing on the topic for a while.

Conclusion

Barcelona is a beautiful, bustling city full of beautiful buildings and some spectacular sights, but it is clearly also one of the pioneering cities of Cannabis culture in Europe. One can only hope that these clubs remain what they are and that the protection of the rights of Barcelona citizens and tourists to smoke cannabis is maintained through these brilliant clubs. If you visit Barcelona and want to join a club, remember you have to apply online first and can’t just turn up at the door.

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Fact Check: Is Luxembourg the First European Country to Legalize Cannabis?

Has Luxembourg become the first to legalize cannabis in Europe? Reports are circulating that the country of 600,000 recently became the first country in Europe to legalize the production and consumption of cannabis. However, news of this should be taken with a grain of salt. Despite growing movements for cannabis reform in Europe, many countries […]

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