The Spanish Social Club Model

My introduction to Cannabis came with youth, in alleyways and friends garages. For the people of Britain and I, Cannabis has been illegal for recreational use so far as any of us can remember. It was only as recently as 2018 that cannabis was made legal for medicinal use in the UK, yet it is still only accessible via a private prescription despite its accepted medical status.

Private prescriptions aren’t cheap and this can make them financially exclusive to many patients and consumers who might rightfully and lawfully be benefitting from a viable medicine if it were not for this restriction.

There are organisations working to help support the British Cannabis patient, like Cancard, which i will discuss in a later feature but essentially, residents in the UK have been living through nearly a century of prohibition. The act of outlawing cannabis has impeded the cultural, medicinal and economic potential of the plant and denied British people access to a basic human right, at a later date I will happily publish my opinions on the reasons behind this and the corporate influences on political figures that drive these decisions..

High Neighbours

Anyhow, because of these legal restrictions, commercial Cannabis quality in the UK has always lagged behind some of our more liberal neighbours internationally. 

Holland’s Amsterdam was notoriously the main global hotspot for Cannabis consumption and lapped up the tourism earned with this title, held since 1976.

In 2012 Colorado became the first US state to legalise Cannabis for recreational use, this paved the way for other states to follow and in 2018 their Northern neighbours Canada also accepted the use of Cannabis recreationally.

Among a list of other countries that have adopted a more relaxed stance to the plant, sits Spain, where Cannabis was decriminalised for personal use in 2014. However, prior to this legal shift, Cannabis had already found itself firmly rooted and accepted within Spanish culture, possibly influenced by the abundance of Moroccan hash that has passed through its borders over the decades.

Do it like the Spanish do

Spain has a long  history of resistance against its oppressors and from as far back as 1991, small, ‘speakeasy’ style, secret clubs were established and operated as part of a collective. The idea being that Cannabis is cultivated by a select few on behalf of the collective and sold in a private space to members at cost price. This private members lounge model gives people the freedom to consume good quality cannabis, comfortably in a relaxed setting. It’s worth noting that not everyone can enjoy Cannabis at home despite the legal capacity to do so and consuming in the street is ill advised and illegal.

For a long time these clubs operated in a ‘Red’ area of the law and risked prosecution with their operations, clubs would come and go as the weight of the Spanish law enforcers bore down on all of them. After years of fighting to uphold this model, in 2014 Spain officially decriminalised Cannabis and this led to a resurgence in private social clubs popping up all over the land but most prominently in Catalunya and more specifically, in Barcelona.

Since then, the law regarding Cannabis use and the operation of private member clubs has remained a ‘Grey’ area. The use of Cannabis is Decriminalised and not yet Legal, although hundreds of clubs continue to function with seemingly little resistance. Despite various amendments to laws and the application and regular adjustments to regulations, there is no clear directive when it comes to running a social club in Spain and many collective opinions will differ on what exactly are the rules.

The practices vary from club to club, some display their flowers and products but others do not based on their interpretation of the rules and instead might display a menu, only producing the products when requested.

 All clubs claim that the fee paid for Cannabis products is a ‘donation’ and not a transaction, with some clubs opting for members to load money onto an account rather than accepting cash at the dispensary counter.

The primary function of any club is to provide a safe space for its members to smoke. Some are more basic, providing low grade products with limited space to consume and mismatched furniture, offering only the core essentials but some are very high end. More upmarket clubs may have a well stocked top-shelf menu, a bar, pool tables, multiple games consoles, big screens and a comfortable spread of furniture in a spacious setting.

It’s not uncommon for clubs to hold events and activities in order to engage with its members; sports screenings, DJ sets and movie nights are popular as well as Cannabis industry expos, to keep members up to date with the latest innovations and trends.

How do you get in?

Chances are, unless you knew what to look for, you would walk right past a private social club and never know it was there. Naturally, clubs are set up to be discrete. A blacked out door in between a parade of shops doesn’t give much away and there isn’t so much as a hint of Cannabis aroma to tell tale either. 

If you manage to find one, the good news is that you don’t have to be a Spanish citizen to join a club, Cannabis lovers worldwide are accepted…. as long as you are 18/21+, dependent on the place.

The bad news is that it isn’t always as simple as just walking up to the premises and trying your luck, most clubs operate on an invitation only system, which means an existing member would need to refer you. Damn!

You may find success in talking your way into the club but it can be fairly simple to get an invitation via social media or perhaps from someone in your network. Most clubs will charge a membership fee of around £20, these are supposed to be annual fees but from my experience, only once in seven years have I ever been prompted to repeat this fee.

Barcelona is filled with promoters hoping to whisk you off the street and take you to a ‘coffee shop’. These guys operate illegally and earn a commision from the membership fee you will pay if you follow their lead. You will have no idea as to the club’s standards and I would not recommend doing this unless you are absolutely desperate.

Once you have an invitation or acceptance, you will most likely pay a membership fee before registering your details. Photographic ID is essential and you will need to provide a Spanish residence address…any address will do, other than the clubs. The front desk staff will briefly explain the rules and setup, most likely informing you that you should not take Cannabis off premises and if you do so it is your responsibility. Formalities over, you’re in!

Knowing the club circuit

There are so many clubs in Spain but I spend most of my time in Barcelona and there is no shortage here with numbers running well into the hundreds.

If you are able to choose between the clubs you wish to visit, it can be a tricky decision. Most big clubs that are proud to exhibit their standards, will have a social media presence and this can be a good way to get a feel for what to expect as a member.

Each club will have a registration fee on top of the cost for purchasing products, so it is important to do some research first otherwise you may spend blindy on a club that you aren’t satisfied with. Most clubs will have a seperate front desk/reception, so you will not be able to see the social club layout prior to registration.

There are clubs to suit every personality and preference, with members’ lounges being owned by Spanish, Italian, French and British collectives among others.

Some clubs hold chess tournaments and weekly yoga sessions whilst others hold member dining nights and meet & greets. 

Some play uplifting music, some play trap music.

Some dispense low quality flower at high prices, others provide high quality flower at low prices.

There is definitely a vibe for you and with the right help you will find it and without a doubt be wishing it was like this in the UK.

I will address whether there is a place to fit this style of social club model within the UK, in a later feature and I will also share my social club experiences and preferences in another.

Asa Spades ♠️

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