Colorado is to the United States as Catalonia is to Spain. The autonomous region in Spain has collected enough signatures to regulate a legal cannabis market.
A fully-regulated cannabis industry will be overseen by the Catalonia Parliament. Unlike other nations in Europe that still rely on a black market for growing cannabis, Catalonia will have a comprehensive program that will oversee the industry in a “seed to sale” fashion.
“We did not want to do something halfway,” said Alba Vergés, Chairwomen of the Health Commission in the Catalonia Parliament. “What we could not do was regulate the dispensation and let the marijuana through the back door.” Members of Parliament spent months consulting with health experts, members of law enforcement, legal experts and researched successful legalization outcomes in other parts of the world. By all accounts, it was a thoughtful, thorough and inclusive process between the public and the Catalonian government. It is still possible that the federal government will dispute the decision of Catalonia Parliament.
In Spain, cannabis consumption exists in a legal grey area. The industry is structured through cannabis clubs, which require paid membership. The terms of the membership require that an applicant wait 15 days before receiving any cannabis, which is meant to discourage cannabis tourists like those popular in Amsterdam.
Under the new regulations, the amount of cannabis each club can grow and sell will be limited. Transportation will be closely monitored by government officials and each stage of the process will be recorded. Agricultural specialists will also examine the amount of plant material grown with the amount a club consumes to make sure all cannabis bought and sold is accounted for. These rules are significant, since previous legislation did not specify between what was considered a personal amount of cannabis and what amount showed an intent to distribute. It was that very lack of specificity that has allowed cannabis clubs in the region to operate without consequence.
The amount of cannabis a member can purchase is up to 60 grams per month. Adults 18-21 are only able to purchase 20 grams. Cannabis is still not allowed to be consumed in public, and cannabis edibles are prohibited completely.
Owners of cannabis clubs are encouraged by the new legislation, which maintains the current club structure.
“The only thing we ask for is legal security,” said one club owner.
“We have been working with one foot in the law for many years and another one out.”
Catalonia unique relationship with Spain means that they share a constitution, but Catalonia is recognized as its own “nationality” by Spain. Members of Catalonia’s Parliament realize that their new cannabis laws conflict with that of Spain’s, but are insisting that it is within their power to make this decision.
Cannabis legalization in Europe has been progressing slowly, but attitudes are shifting worldwide. While Catalonia may be taking steps to limit cannabis tourism that has been popular in Barcelona and Amsterdam, the benefits of legalization are being examined more objectively thanks to normalization. “The law we will approve is very advanced and gives a very clear message. It’s time for a paradigm shift when it comes to legislating drugs,” said Vergés.
I was in the ladies room when I found the cannabis vapor pen at the bottom of my bag. This was not an ideal time for such a revelation; I was in Stockholm’s international terminal, which meant I’d unwittingly snuck it through customs twice so far.
To be fair, this particular brand’s vapor pen looks more like an e-cig than a cannabis product. (The all-caps “MENTHOL” label affixed to the tube probably didn’t hurt either.) There wasn’t much to be done upon discovery except check to see how much was left. I held it up to the light: almost empty. No problem – I’d just finish it off before my next flight in a few hours. I retreated into the nearest bathroom stall and proceeded to get quite high, bundling my scarf, coat, and sweater to create a makeshift sploof to diffuse the vapor. Needless to say, this wasn’t quite how I’d envisioned my first foray into international marijuana consumption.
When I stumbled across half-price tickets to Europe on an airline that still checks the first bag free, I couldn’t supply my payment information fast enough. Having listened to a lot of people wax poetic about the benefits of international travel, I know it’s one thing to talk about and quite another to actually take the plunge. Two weeks abroad would give me plenty of time to jump between museums and enjoy the local flavor, from what I could tell.
Julene Hoff’s view right before she found the cannabis vapor pen in her bag in Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Before traveling, I did the requisite Googling to assure myself that I wasn’t entering any weed-free zones. The wisdom of strangers did not disappoint: my first stop, Barcelona, is fast transforming Spain into the “Holland of the South’ – and I could hardly fancy myself a 420 enthusiast without sampling the city’s cannabis club scene, right? While the city sounded marijuana-friendly in a low-key way, similar to Seattle, the finer details of procurement posed a bit of a problem – namely, my lack of Spanish identification. The clubs that would allow me to join with a foreign passport, provided I supplied a Spanish address, had a much steeper membership fee than any of the highly recommended clubs listed on the internet. Not that I had a Spanish address, but I knew it was just a wink-nudge to jot down something residential (not your hotel) that the club won’t ever send mail to. I figured I stood a good chance of figuring it out upon arrival—there had to be some app that would help me sort things out.
Once in Barça, a generic weed app confirmed my suspicions about the cost versus quality of the fare in foreigner-friendly clubs; anywhere known for the quality of their product requires Spanish identification to become a member. Finding a local sympathetic to my plight proved difficult—bro ex-pats are apparently as cool overseas as they are on their home turf. The only offers of assistance had less to do with purchasing a few grams than with me coming over to their flat; I wouldn’t trade being a conventionally attractive woman for anything in the world, but these overtures grow tiresome. Had none of these men seen Bob Saget’s cameo in Half Baked? Considering the abundance of easily acquired flower back home, I couldn’t convince myself to jump through hoops to get it while on the road. If nothing came up, I’d just hold out until getting stateside.
A week later in Prague, after my travel companion noted that I’d been “rather grumpy” in a way he could “handle exactly one more day of,” I decided to give it another go. Back to the internet, which offered up the following options: buy from the dealers in large city squares (not advised), asking your bartender (iffy, might get you kicked out or overbilled), or email one of the handful of people positing themselves as Prague pot blogs. The last option probably sounds sketchy—and it was—but that’s never kept me from following advice found online before.
Julene Hoff’s view after she finished the cannabis vapor pen in the bathroom at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
The first email I sent yielded the name of a bar I could get to via public transit and the confirmation that the barman would be “helpful,” though there was no mention of the price. A swift visit to Google revealed this to be one of two bars commonly suggested to travelers trying to pickup; it also revealed that the bathrooms were known to be gross, the bartender might be an asshole, and that there was probably a host of junkies just waiting to steal my purse.
One German visitor had this to say of The Club:
“Very bad drinks at very high prices. The only reason that they have so many recommendations is cause they sell Marihuana illegally. You always have to expect a raid (happened several times). If you don’t want to experience Czech jails, just don’t go there… AVOID.”
I admit the last line made me raise an eyebrow, but reviews of the only listed alternative suggested I would be purchasing from the same variety of sketchy characters in the bathroom – and that’s a line I’m just not willing to cross.
Email number two connected me with a service that delivered only to hotel rooms or apartments and required a good deal of information prior to scheduling a drop-off time. Three grams would run me 900CZK (or $37) surprisingly close to what I would pay in Denver, so this seemed the most logical option. Except the same friend that complained about my mood, a known excessive when it comes to alcohol and cocaine, was dismayed by the mentioned of a delivery drug deal. Considering I asked permission instead of begging forgiveness after, it was a tough point to argue. Besides, “I went to Prague and had my weed delivered” does not make for a particularly interesting anecdote.
Her view from the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Left with one (possibly) viable option, I opted to head out at 10pm on a Wednesday for the bar mentioned in that first email. It took a few convenience stores before I found one selling transit tickets. The bar was in Žižkov, a neighborhood known for parties and bars filled with locals and ex-pats alike. The most difficult part of getting there was finding a corner store selling transit tickets, honestly. I took the subway several stops and found the bar without problem — this is the era of mobile GPS, after all. (Not to mention reasonably consistent and affordable service from Project Fi.)
Following the email’s instructions, I knocked at the door and waited to be buzzed in. After taking a seat at the bar and ordering a beer, I took some time to case the joint. The first thing I noticed was an abundance of people under the age of 23 at the tables surrounding me. The second was that the fog filling the room had a 3:1 ratio of cigarette smoke to weed. The scent of herb was faint by comparison. Granted, there is a lot of tobacco being smoked in Czech Republic in general; everyone smokes at the bar, in restaurants, and abundantly throughout the streets. Czech Republic is also, much like the rest of Europe, a big fan of the spliff. (I am not.)
The barmaid was indeed friendly when I asked if she happened to know where I could buy weed, encouraging me to see and smell before purchase as she handed me a nondescript dimebag. The weed was plush with good color, red hairs and a light frosting of trichomes. I’m sure that could’ve crystallized into something even more audacious, but this weed was still a week or two shy of being appropriately cured and dried. But let’s be real: it’s not like I hauled my cookies across town to say “no” upon finding the verdant grail, even if it could’ve used another week or two to cure. I paid 500 CRK (or $20) for two grams – only slightly more than if I’d gone delivery, sans delivery fee and the tip no dispatcher ever mentions. She was also quick to sell me packs of oddly sized Prague-branded papers and filters, a swank-looking set of local goods in gold foil packaging. The bartender loaned me her grinder and I set about rolling myself a proper Yank joint of the all-green variety. I’m sure you can imagine how cool I felt borrowing some guy at the bar’s lighter to light and re-light that damn damp thing.
Most conversations I overheard were in English, and I struck up several as I sat there: about drum and bass with the Eastern-block hot bartender who claimed she was 40; a Yank that took advantage of dual citizenship to move to Canada after George W. got his second term – the only one I’ve ever heard of; and two Italian guys that managed to annoy everyone by loudly asking after the weed’s quality, and the bartender when one asked “for the pot” without buying a drink first.
At this point I was pretty high on that foreign supply, hadn’t eaten in 10 hours, and was battling it out with the growing awareness of my dry eyes and smoke-hazed contacts. I became very wrapped up in dealing with this, but heard enough to know that the language barrier was not doing the Italian guys any favors. I can’t remember if they even got their weed, but I do remember being self-conscious about the awkward amount of time I spent rubbing my eyes. I wasted another hour bullshitting with the aforementioned characters before the bar closed and kicked everyone out. I made it back to the apartment by tram without incident, the micro-stash lasted the final few days, and I was pleasantly surprised by my significantly lower tolerance upon returning home. This marked a successful trip and initial foray into international pot tourism, though in the future I’ll stick to finding my hookup after landing. Store-bought pot may be more convenient, but there’s something to be said for the entertainment value of a digitally-assisted cheeba chase.
A modern form of immigrants, labelled “Ex-Pots”, are leaving Europe for greener pastures.
European families with epileptic children in need of cannabidiol (CBD) oil are packing their lives up and migrating west to Colorado to obtain legal, medical marijuana treatments. One of the families featured in the fascinating article by The Guardian comes from Ireland and the other comes from Spain.
While marijuana can be obtained in both of those nations (Spain has a plethora of cannabis clubs), the access to high-grade CBD oil overseas is far more restrained than it is in America’s cannabis capital of Colorado. These children have such severe forms of epilepsy that they can have more than 20 seizures a day.
Out of time and out of options, young patients Tristane Forde of Ireland and the Pena twins from Spain have permanently relocated to Colorado. Forde, a tw0-year-old with Dravet Syndrome, has gone from experiencing seizures multiple times a day to seizure free basically instantaneously upon his arrival.
Forde’s family traveled all the way from Dunmanway, Ireland to Aurora Colorado. That 4,000 mile trip sounds very much worth it when you hear his mother say that,
“For the first time, it looked like there was a sparkle in his eyes. It sounds corny, but he just looked so much brighter.”
Getting the best medicinal marijuana on the planet from qualified doctors clearly can perform miracles. That miracle was also not lost on the Pena twins, whose father Javier relocated them from Spain to Colorado Springs (an hour south of Denver).
After seeing videos about the CBD-heavy strain Charlotte’s Web and its effects on epilepsy, Pena made the move thinking that
“I thought that this is the possibility for us to get a better life for them. Why not try? We didn’t think we could find any solution.”
While it’s difficult to transplant your family–Pena got a job transfer–it’s become a common practice. An estimate from Realm of Caring puts the amount of “Ex-Pots” at approximately 400 families. Those families come from all over the glob, including England, Iran and Australia.
That means that at least two continents’ are sending medical marijuana patients overseas. The only drawback? When these families’ visas eventually dry out, they may be forced to go home and leave the medical marijuana behind.
Should that day come, hopefully there will be one of two solutions. The more obvious solution is that the world’s moral obligation allows these visas to extend.
The more pragmatic and long-term solution is that their nations and federal laws in America finally allow families like these to import the best CBD oil on the planet. When there’s finally a solution to a disease that’s been ripping families apart for decades, it’d be a crime to keep that solution away from them.
French Beekeeper Nicolas Trainerbees has created the world’s first “honey pot plants” and the revelation may have way bigger implications like solving the bee crisis.
Since 2006, the 20-year-veteran artisan beekeeper, marijuana grower, and true renaissance man has been studying and looking at the possible symbiotic relationship between bees and cannabis resin (trichomes or kief). It took him a long, sticky eight years, but in 2014, Nicolas hit the jackpot.
His years of trials paid off and he began to notice that the bees’ health seemed to benefit from cannabis and that the bees’ honey also became infused. The bees utilized the marijuana plant’s resinous glands to make propolis, a gooey material (typically from other tree buds) that act as both a sealant for bee hives and as an “antiseptic, antibiotic, and healing” remedy for the bees.
Likewise, the wax produced by these bees could also (allegedly) benefit the human race. Nicolas claims that the bees’ honey is infused with cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and acts as an edible medical marijuana condiment of sorts. He also says that the honey tastes and smells a lot like whichever strain of cannabis is being grown.
As for the bees, it’s hard to determine the extent of their health improvement via one man’s word and without research or studies.
That said, it’s a novel idea, and the mere possibility that a dying breed that creates a vital, medical component (honey) to society might have their savior in the form of cannabis! And for the PETA folks out there, don’t worry: the bees aren’t getting high because they don’t have an endocannabinoid system. Cannabis affects humans because it’s cannabinoids and terpenes bind with endocannabinoid receptors located throughout our brains and bodies.
Conversely, Trainerbee claims they’re much happier and living fuller lives.
French Beekeeper Nicolas Trainerbees
photo credit: Dinafem
The Citizens’ Security law, enacted in Spain on July 1, has received much scrutiny from Spaniards because is restricts many basic human rights. It is being referred to as “Ley Mordaza,” or the “Gag Law” because it removes peoples’ rights to public protest, limits freedom of expression, and makes taking photographs of police illegal, among other things.
There is one upside to the passing of this stringent law, however. One section, article 36.18, was amended so that cultivating cannabis is only illegal if the plants are visible in public places. Although growing cannabis was made illegal in 1967, it was widely disregarded, and cannabis cultivation and use has remained engrained throughout the country.
Private possession has been decriminalized for many years, but now the cultivation of the plant will be allowed as well. Reportedly, most smaller grow operations were usually just destroyed when found, and cultivation equipment was seized. Now, seedlings can also be sold by shops and growers, as long as they are not openly displayed.