Cannabis consumers, growers, and internationally-known brands showed out at the 19th annual Spannabis, a hemp and weed trade show that takes place in Barcelona, Spain. Hash makers from Spain, Germany, and Colombia were smoking alongside the founders of Amsterdam’s Green House Seed Co., rolling up with growers representing Brazil and cannabis advocates from Portugal.
The Spanish market is thriving in the shadows, as cannabis is decriminalized but there is no regulatory framework besides a simple “caregiver” social club model. For that reason, the hidden cannabis clubs around the city are the only safe consumption spaces for consumers. These clubs offer private members access to local and international products. Barcelona has 300 social clubs in total that are often difficult to find on any map or resource. ‘If you know, you know,’ is the energy surrounding cannabis in general in Europe.
Business owners representing the whole wide world of weed converged at the show. Spannabis official numbers say 50 different countries were on the floor among 25,000 attendees. While attendees for this show are mostly consumers, the conference did say over 5,000 business owners were on the floor this year.
California’s brands were well-represented among the crowds. A collaboration from Ashhok The Guru, owner of Guru Cannabis Co., and Sherbinskis featured a limited-edition Black Gelato rosin. Exclusive flavors from Fidels Worldwide were stacked behind the counters at clubs like Terps Army. California-born brands like Frosty Hash, Om Wellness, Puffco, the originators of Runtz, Zkittlez, and more, all made their presence known on the international stage.
Here are 10 key takeaways from 2023 Spannabis:
1. Misinformation is rampant
The industry is lacking in regulations, leaving consumers to put the pieces together and figure out which weed shops are real and which ones are fake. There are hemp and synthetic cannabinoid shops littered around the city in high-traffic tourist areas. These stores are selling CBD alongside “HHC” flower, which is a synthetic cannabinoid that isn’t necessarily safe for consumers. It shows a definite need for cannabis education across Europe. Spain is a leader, but its bizarre proliferation of fake dispensary storefronts begs to differ.
2. No market is perfect or fully formed yet
Operators in more developed markets are still working out regulations. “Don’t give up,” says Maria Marimbera, a social club owner whose owned a coffee shop called Toermalijn in Tilburg, Netherlands, for 33 years. She still admits that the Netherlands has imperfect regulations that are still shifting and not quite ideal to this day. Her message is one of hope and tenacity. “Keep on fighting,” she says. “You can go three steps forward, one step back. The rules get heavier and heavier. But we make progress.”
3. The UK market is coming soon
Next to Spain, the United Kingdom is on its way to having an industry with a new medical cannabis market. A massive distributor out of the UK says it’s only the beginning. Nikita Vora hails from the UK and works with the biggest distributor in England called Pure Sativa. Her father has risked it all to be in the industry in England for over two decades. The UK is a country to watch.
4. Germany will be first in line to adult-use cannabis
Just this week, Germany said it plans to approve adult-use cannabis after being given the green light by the EU. It’s also set up for an import/export economy. Really talented hash makers from Berlin were among the crowd at the cannabis social club La Kalada, and offered up some truly stunning products. I am excited to see what Germany does in the next few years.
5. There are growers killing it in remote markets
Cannabis culture is growing in its individual marketplaces, no matter how remote. Tenerife is one such marketplace. It’s an island located in the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain, making it one of the more lush environments for growing. While the grows are still forced indoors, the founder of RTZ Rootz, Sam, says he hopes to take advantage of the beautiful outdoor growing season someday. His flower won first place at the Tenerife Cup.
6. Genetics are still king
On the floor of Spannabis, you won’t find flower. But the one thing you will find from some of the biggest cannabis producers is seeds. 3rd Generation Family Farms is one of them, hailing from Mendocino County, California. The award-winning cannabis farm and breeder had some highly-sought after genetics on deck for the show.
7. California is well-respected and well-represented internationally
California is represented on the floor and in the menus in the private speakeasy-type weed clubs.
“Spannabis is like the event that everyone across the world goes to at one time,” says Roger Volodarsky, CEO and founder of Puffco. “There are many events across the world, but not one where everybody’s flying in. It seems like ultimately the global community of cannabis lovers is growing and meeting and connecting and going back home and growing their own individual market.”
Volodarsky says it’s “a good early sign of what’s to come across the world for the international market. It’s thriving.”
8. Weed is hidden: no smoking allowed
There is no cannabis consumption allowed at the show or on the street. (It’s no Hall of Flowers.) Even after almost 2 decades, the local government doesn’t fully support Spannabis. Cannabis is kept hidden. One cannot smoke on the street, otherwise they may face fines or worse, arrest. While weed is said to be decriminalized, there are certain states with conflicting regulations that have not gotten the memo and still look to incarcerate people over cannabis.
Cannabis is still very underground in Spain. It reminds me of Proposition 215 days in California when there were no regulations yet, just excitement. “They’re in that sweet spot before the storm,” says Volodarsky. “Before there are too harsh of regulations. California might have learned that lesson, hopefully, for some of these places.”
9. The local economy thrives
While the city and regulators may not welcome weed, the people do. It’s a massive economic driver for Barcelona. Spannabis is estimated to inject $8 million into the local economy. This could be a low-end estimate as 25,000 people visited the city for this festival alone.
10. The cannabis industry is diverse and widely-ranging
Many brands span continents. Alice and Flynn are one example, based in both Brazil and California. They’re the founders of Wooksauce Winery. The duo has won Emerald Cup solventless first place for the Personal Use category for its Wooksauce Winery strain Screaming Mimi. The duo also won 2nd place at the Ego Clash Invitational in the ice water hash category.