After my last trip to Amsterdam, planned for yet another weekend of stoned idiocy — I vowed never to go back again.
There I was, standing second in queue at supposedly one of the best coffeeshops the weed Mecca has to offer, for 25 minutes, while the guy behind the counter flirted badly with two Dutch girls.
The night before had been heavy — wide-eyed diatribes in the kitchen of an Airbnb at 5am, heavy — so I was in no mood to be kept waiting. Eventually, I was served. The same Don Juan grunted at me a few times before handing over a bad weight of what turned out to be distinctly average weed. It was then I’d made this particular decision to never go back.
Because a few months earlier, I’d spent a gloriously blissed-out and hazy week in the cannabis clubs of Barcelona, and brother, I had seen the light.
The weather in Amsterdam didn’t help: ashen-grey skies and the steady beat of freezing cold rain fell on the cobbled streets for the entirety of the trip. Nor did any of the other 20+ minute waits in over-hyped, over-priced coffeeshops. The substandard weed distributed by pretentious assholes was the last straw.
Amsterdam has long-enjoyed the reputation as the place-to-go for all types of debauchery and druggery — particularly for cannabis use. But the city has since tried hard to shake that image, and has done well in the process.
Barcelona, it enjoys a better climate all year round than Amsterdam. Crucially, the weed there is fresher and more potent, largely because the Barcelona cannabis scene hasn’t succumbed to the pitfalls of over commercialization.
And rather than coffeeshops wide open to the public, the setup in Barcelona is different. There the establishments are technically clubs, which one can join easily with the right connections. Compared to the coffeeshops, they’re much more lowkey and generally carry a friendlier, more-relaxed atmosphere.
Russ Hudson, professional cannabis tester and cannabis consultant originally from the U.S. (and author of the children's book "What's That Weed?"), knows all about the scene there. He was the one who helped me get set up at my favourite club, Choko, on my first trip to the city a few years back. Here's what he has to say about Barcelona and its lauded weed scene.
First, how has Barcelona’s cannabis scene come into being and evolved over the last few years?
From the original constitutional protections, we evolved in Catalunya via a major petition called La Rosa Verde, which gathered 60,000+ signatures to petition the regional parliament to regulate the cannabis clubs in Barcelona. This petition was approved, although with major amendments, and for the first time ever, a government body had issued regulations for cannabis clubs in Spain. However, before those regulations could be put into place, Catalunya made a failed bid for independence, lost its autonomy and government, and the entire project has been scrapped. We’re now back to the way things were in 2014 and previously, with no regulation for cannabis clubs; but thankfully, the Right to Privacy and the Right to Association still allow this industry to exist.
And what makes Barcelona a great destination for cannabis users?
For most people, the sunny weather is the biggest factor. Couple that with the sleek and confidential nature of the cannabis club scene in Barcelona, and it’s clear why so many people come here. Additionally, Barcelona is an historic city with influences from all over the world, stunning architecture, a wild nightlife, and relaxed attitude — making it one of the best tourist destinations independently of its cannabis clubs.
How do you think Barcelona compares with Amsterdam, and who do you think would enjoy the former more than the latter?
I think virtually everyone will enjoy Barcelona’s cannabis clubs over Amsterdam’s coffeeshops, unless you’re just looking for a quick pop-in and pop-out, don’t care about slightly higher prices, and don’t want the hassle of finding a sponsor*
(*This is the process of getting someone who is a member of the club to recommend you. The process differs club to club, but for resourceful people, it’s piss-easy to get set up in even the best clubs. Google is your friend here.)
Which is your favorite Barcelona club & strain(s)?
Honestly, each club brings something unique to the table, so I like to visit multiple clubs. My favorite strain? It depends on what I’m doing, how I’m feeling, where I am, who I am with, etc. For sativa, I like all the hazes, and for indica, I like Zombie Kush from Ripper Seeds in Sabadell, Spain, just outside of Barcelona.
[For more info on Barcelona’s cannabis scene, Hudson's website MarijuanaGames is a great resource, with tips and recommendations on all the best clubs & strains.]