[Updated for 2018!] I get a lot of questions from readers about Barcelona’s cannabis clubs. Questions range from “How Can I get Membership at a Cannabis Club in Barcelona?” to “Is Weed Legal in Spain?” to questions about the club’s use of personal information and many others. Of course, there’s also no shortage of questions about the actual marijuana on offer in Barcelona. Because many of these questions follow a common theme, I thought this short but direct list of the 10 most important things you need to know about Barcelona’s cannabis clubs might help shed some light on what is – by necessity – a private industry.
(This is a preliminary application process; not all who apply will qualify for membership based on Spanish law and club policy. This process is not meant to be promotional in any way; application for membership is general and is not necessarily applied to any particular club unless the applicant fully qualifies.)
Here are the 10 most important things you need to know about cannabis clubs in Barcelona:
1.) Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona are private, not public
Don’t confuse a cannabis club in Barcelona for a coffeeshop in Amsterdam; they’re not at all the same thing. Amsterdam’s coffeeshops are public and are open to anyone at any time. Barcelona’s cannabis clubs, on the other hand, are only open to new members via referrals through existing members. These policies result in striking differences between the two:
- Amsterdam’s coffeeshops feel like you’re hanging out at a pub or bar
- Barcelona’s cannabis clubs feel like you’re hanging out in your own living room
If you join a cannabis social club, you can trust that your information will remain private. You won’t receive marked mail from the club, they won’t sell, give away or provide your information to anyone else, the club will not leak or otherwise make your information available to government or other authorities, and the club won’t spam you with advertisements or offers. Why? Because it’s all private, not public.
2.) You Don’t “Buy” Weed from Barcelona’s Cannabis Clubs
When you become a member of a cannabis club in Barcelona, you are essentially part of a coalition that grows and distributes marijuana among its members. Therefore, the marijuana that’s grown belongs to all members, including you. You are required to pay for your share of what it costs to grow the marijuana and pay for the building space and other facilities, utilities, etc. These costs are recouped in a number of ways, and members generally share the cost.
This means that you’re not buying weed when you go to a smoking club. You’re simply acquiring your share of what you and other members have grown. Therefore, it is considered rude to talk about “buying weed,” and if you do so while at a club you might be corrected. Instead, ask how much the member share is, or how much contribution is required for X number of grams of cannabis.
3.) You Need an ID and Address in Spain to Get a Membership
In order to get a membership at a cannabis club you must present a valid government-issued passport, driver’s license, ID, or NIE card. You must also register using a regular residential address in Spain; in most cases a hotel or hostel address won’t work so you will need to provide a residential address. No mail will ever be sent to the address you provide, the information will be kept strictly confidential and in most cases you are not required to “prove” your address. Spanish residency is NOT required to join a cannabis club in Barcelona or any other city; you must merely supply a residential address at the time of your inscription.
NOTE: In addition to the above, some clubs may require you to allow them to photograph you for their records. If you’re comfortable with this, then go for it.
Additionally, some clubs require members to be 21 years old or older, while others accept new members as young as 18.
4.) You can Still Get in Trouble for Smoking Marijuana in Barcelona
Just because you can get weed legally in Barcelona doesn’t mean you can be flippant about it. Spanish law is very liberal in private spaces. Therefore, it’s okay to have some marijuana in your own home, or in a private club. But if you display or use marijuana in a public place and are caught, you’ll almost certainly be fined, the marijuana will be confiscated and depending on the circumstances you could be arrested and jailed.
Be smart. Just because you see people smoking joints on Las Ramblas doesn’t mean you should too. In fact, the truth of the matter is that outside of a private residence or a club, you could be harassed and ticketed by police. If you take cannabis out of a club (most people do) then please remember to transport it in your under garments. Spanish authorities cannot search there without a warrant. If you do get caught with weed in public, you will be ticketed and pay a fine, but there is no criminality involved unless you are over a threshold that most cannabis club members never exceed.
5.) Not All Marijuana at Cannabis Clubs in BCN is grown by the Club
Some Barcelona smoking clubs can’t afford the space, equipment and services required to grow fine quality marijuana. Instead, they resort to acquiring it via other means. In some cases this may involve getting weed from other clubs, or it may require cooperation with large growers out in the Spanish countryside. There are also some clubs that get their marijuana from the guys that sell it down on the beach.
Where the club acquires its cannabis may not matter to you, but it definitely does to me. After all, if I wanted street marijuana, I’d just go get it from the street guys directly and at a much better price.
6.) Not All of Barcelona’s Smoking Clubs are Created Equal
The differences from one club to the next are astounding. There are huge clubs that span three floors of a major building, and there’s clubs that are nothing more than one small room with a couple of cheap chairs. There are clubs that are located in dark basements, and clubs that are in bright new spaces. Some are themed, some are not. Some are fancy, some are dingy.
Whatever type of environment you’re looking for, chances are that you can find it at a cannabis club in Barcelona. In fact, there’s even a gay cannabis club in the city called Berry Boi, but I’ve never been able to get much information on it.
What I’ve found is that most people who are regulars at Barcelona’s cannabis clubs have memberships to multiple clubs – usually at least 5 or 6 – and frequent them all for different reasons.
7.) Most Cannabis Clubs Charge a Yearly Membership Fee
You’ll pay your fair share for the effort required to grow your marijuana and house you in a number of ways. First, nearly every club requires a yearly membership fee. This is generally 20-35 Euro, but can be as low as 10 Euro and as high as 100 Euro. Some clubs give membership away for free, but this is rare and often comes at a price – poor service, cruddy environment, terrible weed, etc.
It is not appropriate to negotiate or attempt to have the fee waived. We are all members, we all need to support each other and these small fees are how we pull together to do this. You’ll also contribute a set amount per gram for different marijuana strains and hash, and for any other products or services offered by the club.
Additionally, you may want to bring a friend or family member with you to the club who doesn’t smoke, but still wants to see what it’s like. This is completely acceptable, but this person must still register for membership to be able to enter the club, in keeping with the private nature of the clubs which is necessary for their existence.
8.) There are Legal Limits to How Much Marijuana you Can Acquire
This is important; there are limits to how much weed you can purchase per month in Spain. I believe the limits are something like 98 grams, which means that if you’re getting lots of weed at multiple clubs, you could be subject to investigation. Probably not, but you should know this. When you register at a cannabis club, you will be provided with information about what the limits are, and you’ll sign a form stating you’ve read this information.
You’ll be asked on the forms how many grams per week you will acquire from the club. This is not a commitment; it is merely an estimate so you are not required to collect this amount each week, and clubs will only allow you to acquire 5 grams per day maximum. I usually write that I’ll acquire around 8-10 grams per week or up to 40 per month, and for me that’s probably pretty accurate unless I’m doing a lot of entertaining that month.
By filling out this form, you are authorizing the club to grow X grams of marijuana on your behalf. This protects the club in the event that its cultivation operations are investigated.
9.) Cannabis Clubs in Spain Cannot Advertise Publicly
Because Spain’s cannabis clubs are private, members-only organizations, they cannot publicly advertise. This may be why so few people are aware of what’s really going on in Barcelona, how prevalent the cannabis clubs are, and that membership is available even to foreigners. In fact, as of a recent ruling in Catalonia’s parliament in early 2015, there are no residency requirements to join a cannabis club.
If you see that a club is advertising publicly, such as someone handing out fliers or other literature or advertisements on the street, then you probably should not go to that particular club. After all, doing business with a cannabis club that’s breaking the rules is self-defeating when lawmakers in Barcelona and Spain overall still haven’t really made their minds up about cannabis clubs just yet.
If you are approached by someone on the street who wants you to join a cannabis club, you should take extreme caution as this is probably not legitimate. Professional clubs do not send promoters out into the streets to recruit new members – they don’t need to and it’s against the law anyway. I know some shady characters who promote clubs on Las Ramblas and the popular plazas nearby, and they’re not exactly people you want to get involved with. Beware.
10.) Regulations for Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona are on the Way
There are close to 200 cannabis clubs in Barcelona, and they’ve all been operating under what are often confusing statutes and grey areas that make it difficult to be certain that they’re doing the right thing. Thankfully, legislators have been hard at work developing a set of standards that Barcelona’s cannabis clubs can be held to. Some of these standards are being put into effect now, while others have been reserved for systematic implementation.
This means that we can expect at least some changes to the way cannabis clubs operate in the coming months, so it’s important to stay abreast of these changes in case any of them present risk or potential problems for you, whether you’re a Catalonian or not.
UPDATE: A lot has happened in the last couple of years. Catalonia passed a referendum to regulate the cannabis clubs, thanks to the La Rosa Verde petition, but then in 2017 the region lost its autonomy after a failed bid for independence. Now, the federal government of Spain has stepped in, applying Constitutional law, which protects and allows cannabis clubs to exist without the need for specific regulation…at least for now[January 2018 and beyond]. For more information about this, please review the materials at the following link:
Acquiring Membership at a Cannabis Club in Barcelona is Relatively Simple
There seems to be a lot of mystery about Barcelona’s smoking establishments, but the reality is that in most cases, membership opportunities are abundant. So how exactly does one go about getting a membership at a Barcelona cannabis club? If you know someone who is already a member of a club, you can simply ask them to sponsor you. If you don’t know anyone, then you’re more than welcome to strike up a dialogue with me in the comments below, in the comments on this post about my first experience at a club in BCN, or by using the site’s contact form. You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ve helped many people acquire membership at a Barcelona cannabis club, and I may be able to do the same for you.
(This is a preliminary application process; not all who apply will qualify for membership based on Spanish law and club policy. Application for membership is general and is not necessarily applied to any particular club unless the applicant fully qualifies.)