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Jake Lessick Jake Lessick

Barcelona Cracks Down on Cannabis Clubs

A loophole in Spanish law allows technically legal "cannabis clubs" to proliferate. Barcelona has just closed about 45 of them for management "deficiencies."

5 Substance

Legal weed growing in Barcelona apartments. Photo via

Legal weed growing in Barcelona apartments. Photo via

Barcelona City Hall has ordered the closure of nearly a third of its “cannabis clubs,” amidst concerns of major growth in drug-related tourism. These technically legal non-profit social clubs take advantage of a loophole in Spanish law, whereby individuals are are allowed to grow two pot plants per household and distribute them within a non-profit organization. The number of clubs throughout the country has risen rapidly from an estimated 40 in 2010 to 700 in 2014, and 145 of these are in Barcelona. The city is now thought to rival Amsterdam for drug-related tourism.

But this week, Barcelona issued the closure of about a third of its cannabis clubs, citing “deficiencies” in management which include attempting to lure in non-members, selling unregulated weed and poor ventilation.

The clubs range from classy cocktail bars to basements of city apartments, and have become destinations for pot-lovers the world over. To stay within the law, members sign up to pay a yearly subscription and a fee for the cost of growing the weed they consume—kind of a “Barcelona Buyer’s Club.”

But with no clear regulations in place, some clubs have increasingly pushed the legal boundaries by encouraging tourists to sign up for club memberships online ahead of time, leafleting on the streets, and encouraging members to buy pot.

Following the recent closures, the Catalan federation of cannabis associations asked the authorities and the clubs to cooperate with each other. “We are aware that the administration does its job well and ensures the common good but this situation would be easier if, before it acts, it set clear rules for all cannabis associations,” they said in a statement.

In addition to the closures, Barcelona City Hall plans to place more restrictions on existing cannabis clubs including an enrollment cap and limited hours of operation while ensuring that clubs don’t open in close proximity to schools.