Barcelona has a new tourist attraction that some locals wish would disappear: a burgeoning number of "cannabis clubs," where people can legally buy and smoke pot. Although selling marijuana is against the law in Spain, some regions allow local residents to set up nonprofit clubs whose members grow and share it for personal use. As recently as 2011, only a few dozen such groups were in the Catalonia region, which includes Barcelona. But since then, the number has risen to about 400.
The exponential proliferation of the number of associations, clubs and other groups that distribute cannabis among their members and create new spaces for socialising, has surprised even the most optimistic advocates of more reasonable drug policies. In a short time, and in spite of those in government, civil society has provided a response to a problem that realpolitik has been unable to tackle.
The last few years have witnessed a boom in new cannabis user associations in Spain. Although there are no reliable figures for them, most are known to have been created for the collective cultivation of marihuana crops, and are now several hundred-strong. They are mainly found in Catalonia, which is also home to the largest of them: some have existed for only a short time but already have several thousand members.