Spain’s laws are liberal when it comes to cannabis use. Personal, private use is decriminalised and there are several ‘cannabis social clubs’ across the country, though social club managers are acting illegally as drug traffickers. The exception is Catalonia, where the cultivation, use and distribution of cannabis is now permitted in designated clubs.
Cannabis laws in Spain
Can you possess and use cannabis in Spain?
It’s illegal to use or possess cannabis in Spain – in public places. However, a legal loophole means that users can consume cannabis in the privacy of their own homes, and there are even ‘weed dens’ operating in some of the major cities, though these aren’t officially legal.
Using cannabis in a public location is regarded as a serious order offence and is punished with fines between €601 and €30,000, in accordance with the Law on the Protection of Citizens’ Security. Additionally, the offender may be liable to have assets seized, and if they’re using cannabis in a public location (such as a bar), the establishment is at risk of being closed down.
If a minor is caught offending, the fine may be suspended if they voluntarily enter a rehabilitation or treatment programme.
Spain is unusual in that it operates as several decentralised regions, with some adopting alternative laws to others. As an autonomous region, Catalonia’s laws regarding cannabis are different to most. In 2017, the Catalonian government legalised the consumption, cultivation and distribution of cannabis for members of designated clubs.
Can you sell cannabis in Spain?
When it comes to the sale of cannabis, the law is more clear-cut. Drug trafficking is regarded as an offence in the Criminal Code, and penalties are determined based on the nature of the crime.
If the drugs sold don’t cause serious damage to health (cannabis is usually identified as such), then prison sentences range from one to three years. For harder drugs, this is extended to six years. If there are any aggravating circumstances, prison sentences can be as long as 21 years.
Fines are also imposed for cannabis trafficking, and all substances, instruments and profits are confiscated. If the offender is in a particular profession, they run the risk of being disqualified from it.
Prison sentences may be decreased if the offender was dependent on drugs at the time of the arrest, and successfully completes a treatment programme.
The ‘cannabis social clubs’ are more ambiguous, with some people believing that it is legal to use cannabis in them. However, the Spanish Supreme Court states that any “organised, institutionalised and persistent cultivation and distribution of cannabis among an association open to new members is considered drug trafficking.”
Can you grow cannabis in Spain?
In accordance with Spanish law, the cultivation of cannabis in a ‘private place’ (e.g. your home) has been decriminalised. However, the plants must be for personal use only – medicinal or recreational. If you’re caught cultivating a significant number of plants (the law doesn’t state an exact number), and the authorities decide that you’re planning to sell or distribute the cannabis, then you could be prosecuted for drugs trafficking.
The lack of regulation regarding how many plants can be grown is what has led to the boom in Spanish cannabis social clubs.
Is CBD legal in Spain?
CBD is legal in Spain, as long as it contains no more than 0.2% THC (the substance responsible for providing a ‘high’). It’s even legal to manufacture CBD, as long as it’s not done in public.
Can cannabis seeds be sent to Spain?
It’s legal to buy and sell cannabis seeds in Spain. You can also legally receive them in the post from other countries.
Medicinal cannabis in Spain
Although Spain is progressive in its decriminalisation of personal cannabis use, it is lagging behind in terms of its medicinal cannabis laws. These laws don’t differentiate between recreational and medicinal cannabis use. This means that patients find it difficult to obtain a prescription for cannabis products that contain 0.2% THC or over.
The OECM is an organisation that seeks to raise awareness about the benefits of access to cannabis for patients across the country. They highlighted the problems associated with the current laws; which were driving patients to obtain cannabis from the black market.
There are only limited medicinal cannabis products available on medical prescription at present. Sativex, Epidiolex, Nabilone and Dronabinol can be prescribed, but they are all costly. For example, Sativex costs over €400 per bottle and can only be given to patients with multiple sclerosis.
As a result, Spanish patients are choosing to grow their own instead, or visit a cannabis social club. Carola Perez suffers from chronic pain and uses cannabis in an attempt to ease her symptoms. She grows 16 strains at home, and using the plants, can create ‘medicines’ based on what levels of CBD, THC, indica or sativa she requires.
“No pharmaceutical company is going to offer us that,” a cannabis activist states. “Only nature can offer us that.”
Catalonian medicinal cannabis
Spain’s laws are unusual, in that every region in the country has some legal differences, as they are partially autonomously governed. Catalonia is the only region (apart from Pais Vasco) to legalise medicinal cannabis completely.
In some of the region’s cannabis social clubs, patients can even find volunteer doctors on hand, who can recommend the right strain and dosage.
Industrial hemp in Spain
Hemp has been a part of the country’s history for centuries. In the 21st century, the industry has experienced a revival, with Spanish farmers capitalising on the economic potential of the plant.
It’s unsurprising, given the suitability of Spain’s climate for growing hemp. With an average 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, several harvests are possible. At present, EU directives permit the production of hemp as long as the THC levels are below 0.2%. The Royal Decree 1729/1999 lets farmers cultivate 25 different varieties of hemp in Spain. All seeds must be EU-certified to be regarded as legal.
Good to know
If you are travelling to Spain (or currently live there), you may be interested to know the following:
- 17.1% of young people (15-34 years old) in Spain use cannabis.
- It’s estimated that there are around 400 cannabis social clubs in Spain; though it’s difficult to state an exact number, as some don’t remain in operation for very long. Catalonia has the highest number of cannabis social clubs in the country.
- According to a report in The Telegraph, Spain is ranked as 13th in the world in terms of numbers of people who use cannabis.
Political parties and cannabis
Some of Spain’s politicians are open advocates of legalising cannabis; such as Pablo Iglesias of the populist Podemos party. In his call to end the prohibition, he said: “We wouldn’t have to spend money on security arrangements against illegal trafficking, which generates crime and exploitation.”
Several other political parties welcomed his suggestions for a state-run production model. Notable exceptions were the People’s Party (PP) and the Socialist Party (PSOE).
The Spanish Federation of Cannabis Associations is an organisation that seeks to channel public support for regulating and legalising cannabis. They focus on applying pressure in parliament, and working with autonomous communities who are already undertaking various regulation processes.
We interviewed Javier Puig, president of the Federation of Cannabis Associations, and he told us:
“Public perceptions are now favourable, with a majority in favour of regulating cannabis. Society is ripe for change and we must take this matter up in Parliament. To date, given the single-mindedness of the central government and also of some opposition parties, the political work had been focused on the autonomous communities, where various regulation processes are under way and we are hoping more will follow suit. But it is now time to do more work in Madrid and we have several initiatives in progress.”
Cannabis social clubs
Spain’s cannabis social clubs exist thanks to a loophole in the law, which decriminalised consumption of cannabis in private places.
There are hundreds of these clubs across the country, and they all operate as private organisations. Cannabis plants are cultivated on the premises, and members of the club pay a fee to access the cannabis in a legal, controlled way. Members usually have some control over certain aspects of the club’s practices; for example, what strains of cannabis are grown and how the club is managed.
Cannabis social clubs offer several advantages to their members. The quality of the cannabis is regulated, unlike cannabis sourced from the black market. Members can also access it for a fair price.
There are certain rules in place for the clubs. These include:
- Registration. All social clubs must register in a regional registry of associations.
- Harm reduction. They must seek to reduce any harms associated with the supply and consumption of cannabis.
- Closed to the public. Only members can access the club, and membership is only granted upon invitation by an existing member. Alternatively, individuals can join if they have a doctor’s note, confirming that they would benefit from cannabis for medicinal purposes.
- Placing limits. Daily personal allowances must be adhered to, to prevent members from selling the cannabis on the black market.
- Immediate consumption. The cannabis should be consumed on-site, though small quantities are permitted to be taken away.
- Non-profit. Members only pay fees to cover production and management costs. All revenue is reinvested into the club.
The majority of cannabis social clubs can be found in Catalonia – particularly in Barcelona. Here, the clubs often have very different personalities, with some being glamorous and ‘high-end’ and others being more rustic and appealing to the ‘eco-crowd’.
Barcelona – the new Amsterdam?
Barcelona is a hotspot for cannabis users. There are several social clubs in operation, plus some head shops and glass shops (selling cannabis paraphernalia), and various annual cannabis events. The most significant of these is Spannabis, which takes place every March.
Sensi Seeds opened the Hash Marihuana Canamo and Hemp Museum in Barcelona in 2012. This museum, situated in Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) details the use of hemp and cannabis in societies throughout the world.
The big question is – how does Barcelona compare to Amsterdam; which is usually regarded as the cannabis capital of the world? One of the advantages to Amsterdam is the coffeeshops, which can be visited by tourists (the only city in the Netherlands to permit this). In Barcelona you may visit the cannabis social clubs, but only if you have an address that you can provide. A hotel address is acceptable.
As such, it’s technically easier to smoke cannabis in Amsterdam than it is Barcelona. The Spanish social clubs don’t advertise themselves, and without local knowledge, they can be hard to track down. This is unlikely to change any time soon. Barcelona doesn’t need to promote the social clubs for economic benefit; it’s already a major tourist destination.
Cannabis events in Spain
Spain hosts a few major cannabis events throughout the year. These include:
- Spannabis. Spannabis is Europe’s biggest cannabis expo, trade show and festival. Each year, thousands of people flock to Barcelona to hear talks from some of the world’s leading industry figures, to see the latest cannabis innovations, and to keep up with key developments in the field.
- ICBC. Also held in Barcelona, the International Cannabis Business Conference is linked to the famous San Francisco event. Some of the world’s most prominent cannabis companies exhibit there, and many industry experts are also in attendance.
- ExpoGrow. ExpoGrow in Irun calls itself “much more than a cannabis event”. Visitors can enjoy the samples, gifts and discounts on offer, and learn about the current ‘hot topics’ for the cannabis industry; particularly in the fields of medicine, research and hemp growing.
- Medical Cannabis. As the name suggests, this event focuses on the role of cannabis in medicine and addresses some of the controversies surrounding the plant. This event also takes place in Barcelona.
Will cannabis be legalised in the future?
Given the pressure placed on the government to properly legalise medicinal cannabis in Spain, it seems likely that this will happen in the near future. This is especially the case given that so many other EU countries have now done so.
As for recreational use? It largely depends on the political party in control at the time. While many of Spain’s parties are pro-cannabis legalisation, others adopt a more conservative approach. Only time will tell whether this happens or not.
- Disclaimer:While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article, it is not intended to provide legal advice, as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.