In recent years, Barcelona has become a popular destination for cannabis tourists thanks to the hundreds of cannabis social clubs dotting the city. The coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdown in Spain, however, have dealt a blow to the cannabis tourism industry in Barcelona. Tourists have been scarce in the Catalonian capital, as Europe-wide restrictions on travel kept people from leaving their home countries. In addition, Barcelona residents have struggled to access cannabis for recreational and medical use during Spain’s lockdown.
Now that quarantine measures are easing in Barcelona, residents and tourists alike are wondering what they’ll find when visiting one of the city’s many reopened cannabis coffee shops. New regulations are in place to ensure health and safety standards are met.
Spanish Tourism Takes a Hit
As one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Spain enforced a strict lockdown. The country has slowly started reopening, but some cities lag behind others. Madrid and Barcelona, for example, are easing lockdown more slowly since the outbreak of cases was larger in these areas. Tourism accounts for 12 percent of Spain’s GDP, so the country is hoping to be able to safely allow tourists to visit this summer. Until then, many Spanish cities are hoping to promote domestic tourism to make up for the losses.
Since the cannabis industry in Barcelona is closely related to tourism, both industries have suffered during the pandemic lockdown. Many dispensaries and weed cafés in the city are hoping to stay afloat despite being forced to shut down for three months.
Cut Off from Cannabis During Coronavirus Lockdown
As of March 14, Spanish cannabis clubs had to close down since their services were considered non-essential by the government. As most of these cafes operate like social clubs, they were treated the same way as bars and restaurants – the first places to close and the last to reopen during the pandemic.
As a result, many regular cannabis users were cut off from their normal dispensary process, leaving them to either grow their own cannabis at home or turn toward the black market. Some cannabis clubs were allowed to do home distribution, but within a week of Spain’s lockdown, even these activities were ceased. Some clubs continued to operate clandestinely, opening for an hour or two each day so medical cannabis users could access safe, high-quality cannabis. But they risk fines for staying open, as well as being stopped by police when they travel to the city’s outskirts, where their plans are cultivated, to stock up.
The strict lockdown rules left many cannabis users in a dire situation, forcing them to buy from the black market to have the cannabis they needed.
Legally Consuming Cannabis at Barcelona’s Weed Cafes
As of May 25, cannabis clubs throughout Spain were allowed to reopen, as the country slowly ends its restrictive quarantine measures. Now that Barcelona’s cannabis coffee shops are allowed to open up again, cannabis users in the city will once again have a place to legally obtain their weed. Since Spain is still in the process of deconfinement, clubs will have to follow strict health and safety rules if they want to keep operating.
According to the Spanish government’s guidelines, here’s what you can expect when visiting a Barcelona cannabis café in the immediate future:
- Face masks are required to enter the clubs, and cannot be removed while inside
- Only 10 people will be allowed inside clubs at one time, to enforce social distancing. The club staff and owners will be responsible for ensuring the 10-person limit isn’t exceeded
- Since there’s a 10-person limit, individuals can only spend 20 minutes inside a cannabis club at one time.
- Inside the club, members must practise two-metre social distancing.
- Hours for some clubs might be restricted, to help limit the overall number of people visiting the club
With these rules in place, the experience at Barcelona’s cannabis clubs will certainly be different. Normally, the clubs operate on an invite-only basis, requiring you to register with them online beforehand and present your ID upon arrival. Now, you must present your invitation, ID, and a face mask to be permitted entry.
The atmosphere inside the weed cafés won’t be the same, either. You likely won’t be able to interact with fellow members as much due to the two-metre distancing and the 20-minute time limit.
Final Thoughts on Legally Consuming Cannabis in Barcelona
Technically, it wasn’t illegal to consume cannabis in Spain during the coronavirus lockdown. Smoking in private has been legal in Spain for several years. But many people didn’t have access to weed at home, not being able to grow their own plants. With the cannabis cafés closed, many people resorted to buying weed illegally. As of the end of May, cannabis consumption in Barcelona has become accessible again with the reopening of coffee shops across the city. This is a safer way for both residents and tourists (once they return) to enjoy cannabis in Barcelona, albeit with some restrictions.