The status of cannabis in Barcelona is somewhat confusing at first glance; it is neither legal, nor illegal. Cannabis in Barcelona is mostly tolerated, but not explicitly authorized, similar to the Dutch policy of tolerance. However, marijuana in Barcelona does enjoy some backing of the Spanish Constitution, giving cannabis enthusiasts a little more security than what one can expect in the Netherlands, or at the Federal level in the United States. This article explores the legality of cannabis in Barcelona, particularly focusing on the network of private cannabis clubs in Barcelona.
THE LEGALITY OF CANNABIS AND MARIJUANA IN BARCELONA
Cannabis in Barcelona: Drug Laws in Spain
Spain has never criminally prosecuted citizens for personal possession or cultivation of marijuana. That doesn’t mean that cannabis in Barcelona is legal, but it does mean that a marijuana user in Catalunya won’t serve time behind bars if they’re caught with a few joints. However, even personal possession, consumption, or cultivation can be penalized if deemed to be “in the public view.” This means that you can’t use, possess, or grow cannabis in Barcelona in a public setting; more on this below.
Cannabis in Barcelona: The Constitutional Right to Privacy
The Spanish “Right to Privacy” is a Constitutional protection that basically allows citizens to do whatever they want in private; including growing a few cannabis plants, and consumption of said marijuana. In legal theory, this extends to virtually anything; if you wanted to, you could grow poppy plants and make your own opium, or you could grow a coca tree and make your own cocaine. This is all acceptable as long as it’s in private.
While there has never been any regulation or laws created to spell out precisely what is authorized, there are some generalities that must be obeyed. Mostly this consists of ensuring that everything you do in this regard remains private. If your cannabis plants can be seen from the roadway or are visible from your balcony, etc., then you’re not covered under the privacy protections of the Spanish Constitution, and these plants could be seized by police. Likewise, if the smoke from your joint wafts out your window and enters the flat of an upstairs neighbor, then your activity can be deemed to be encroaching on public space. If the neighbor complains, expect a visit from the police.
If you’re smoking cannabis in Barcelona anywhere in public and you are caught by police, your weed will be confiscated, and you’ll be issued a hefty fine. You won’t get any jail time and there’s no criminal culpability, but a fine and harassment by police in Catalunya is severe enough.
To avoid this situation, don’t consume or publicly display marijuana in Barcelona. Keep in mind that when you are in a public place like a park, or just walking down the street, you have very little right to privacy under the law; the only part of your body that is considered private (when in public) is your groin area. Police cannot search your intimate areas without a warrant, which means that the only safe way to transport cannabis in Barcelona is to tuck it into your undergarments, and only remove it in a private setting, such as one of the many professional private cannabis clubs in Barcelona, or a private residence.
Cannabis in Barcelona: The Constitutional Right to Association
Spain’s Constitution grants citizens the Right to Association. This right allows like-minded citizens to band together in an organized manner for social or other purposes. For instance, FC Barcelona – Spain’s infamous football team – is an Association under Spanish law. There are also associations for lawyers, chess clubs, art enthusiasts, woodworkers, etc.
Enter the Cannabis Social Club
Cannabis clubs in Barcelona were born out of both the Constitutional Right to Privacy, and the Right to Association. Because each person has the right to privacy, they can grow a few cannabis plants for personal consumption. And because each person also has the right to association, people can band together for the purpose of growing and sharing/consuming marijuana.
Let’s examine this further. Let’s say that I’m growing 3 or 4 marijuana plants in my flat on Via Laietana in Ciutat Vella, Barcelona. Now let’s imagine that you are living in the city and that you’re also a marijuana consumer, but you don’t know how to grow the plant, and even if you did, you don’t have enough space in your apartment to do so. In legal theory, you can ask me to grow a few plants on your behalf, because I have the space and skills to cultivate, but you don’t.
Now if I produce excellent cannabis safely for you, it might soon follow that one or two of your friends ask me to grow for them, too. And then maybe a few of my friends ask the same thing. So, to receive some level of protection under the law, the group of us organize as an Association under the Spanish Constitution. We use our Right to Privacy and Right to Association to produce cannabis in our private setting, for our private members.
What I have just described above is exactly the definition of a private cannabis social club in Spain. Whether it’s just a half dozen friends organizing to avoid the black market and self-supply marijuana, or it’s a 400sqm cannabis club in downtown Barcelona with hundreds of members, the legal theory and protections under the Constitution are the same.
Cannabis Clubs in Barcelona: The Closed Circle Doctrine & Non-Profit Status
Cannabis associations in Barcelona are not-for-profit, and are generally considered to operate within the law only when they maintain a rigid Closed Circle Doctrine.
Closed Circle Doctrine: to receive consideration and protection under the Right to Association in regard to cannabis, each association must ensure that the cannabis it produces remains in the network of private members only and does not reach the public in any way or fall into the hands of the “black market.”
Not-for-Profit (sin animo lucro): cannabis associations must be not-for-profit. This means that money collected from the members must be used to pay for the operations of the group, and should not be used to enrich individual members.
Once again, cannabis in Barcelona isn’t exactly legal, but it isn’t illegal, either. Remember; cultivation, possession, distribution, transport, etc. of cannabis has never been expressly authorized under the law in any way. It’s also never been criminalized at the personal/individual level. The reality is that there are not really any laws against it, but there aren’t any authorizing it either. So, if you’re asking; “Is cannabis legal in Barcelona?” the answer isn’t simple, but that’s not what most people are really asking. What they’re really asking is “Can I safely get weed in Barcelona?” And, fortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding “Yes!”
For more information, membership options, and details on how the clubs work, please read the following article:
Have you acquired and/or consumed cannabis in Barcelona? What was your experience like? Any thoughts or tips you’d like to add? Let us know in the comments section below!