Arriving at a non-descript place, situated in a small but busy square, neighboured by various shops and restaurants, we ring the doorbell. Someone who looks like he smokes all day every day comes to let us in. I’m with a familiar face and we’re welcomed inside. My chaperone pulls up a chair and sits with some friends who frequent the place just as often. I’m on my own and head to the counter………
I did hardly any research prior to my Spanish trip for reasons I’m not really sure of. I knew I didn’t want to see a boat and be able to eat, sleep, socialise, ‘live’ at my own pace for a while. 11am mornings, early nights, late nights, see people, not see people. Sightsee on days I want to and not feel bad about some good, long chill sessions.
The whole Cataln culture and desire for independence thing was news to me when I arrived. But what I also had no idea about, and what actually affected my life directly was what came to my attention regarding the marijuana culture in Barcelona. In one sentence, smoking a joint is almost as socially acceptable as puffing away on a cigarette (although we all know that’s borderline taboo itself).
I was constantly aware of the smell of weed- on the streets, during the day, at night, at the hostel, outside pubs and clubs. Everywhere. It took me a couple days to finally come to the realisation that marijuana in Barcelona Is an accepted part of life. I mean this not only in the way that it is socially acceptable to smoke the stuff, but also in its accessibility.
Thanks to a loophole found in laws pertaining to marijuana in Spain, opportunists have managed to build businesses (legal ones) based on the sale of it. Yes- you can purchase weed, legally, over the counter. And once you’ve done that, you can pull up a couch in the establishment, roll yourself a joint and enjoy it in peace.
These ‘clubs’ as they’re called are a relatively new thing but for a long time the law has allowed two marijuana plants per person, so long as its grown and smoked in the privacy of your own home. The loophole works more or less this way: They take your allowance of 2 plants and provide you with a regular yield at a fair price that you can collect from the club every day. For every member that joins, the club can then add and grow another two plants to their ever growing fields of herb. Obviously not everyone is purchasing marijuana from their ‘own’ plants, although some do.
Towards the end of my extensive hostel stay I was what you might call ‘accepted’ by the staff as ‘one of them’, or a little more than a guest at the least. Their ‘local’ club is conveniently located 2 blocks away, and as with any of these establishments, one needs to be a member to gain access. Id spoken to enough passing travellers to know that obtaining a membership at one of these places is as easy as one, two, three. Quite literally. 1. Arrive at club, 2. Sign up as a member with any form of identification and 20 euros, 3. Purchase the marijuana of your choice. Indoor, Outdoor, Sativa, Indica, 50/50 for 4,5,6,7,8 euro a gram. Your choice.
Some clubs are a little nicer than others but they all provide the same function. You will always get a few different strains on offer and will never be disappointed by strengths and tastes as every batch is monitored for a high standard. On arrival you might be offered drinks and a seat and some of the nicer clubs will even host cinema evenings and club nights where you can get to know fellow smokers.
……..He photocopies my ID book, cuts out the picture and glues it to what will be my membership card. Then he puts it in the laminating machine and we begin to talk business. This is a first for me- purchasing marijuana in much the same manner as I used to rent my movies from the movie store. Being out of the loop in terms of what’s what on the ‘menu’, I ask, ‘what’s your favourite?’ A question I used to ask the movie store people.
I settle on one called 1024- an interesting name- the only one I’ve come across made solely out of numbers. I reunite with my friend and pull up a chair. I meet his friends. Also Argentinians. The one’s been to South Africa- on a rugby tour 15 years ago. I’m told what needs to happen next and I oblige. Even though there’s already one going round the table.
Want to read more about this unique situation? Here is a great article with some sweet pictures.