Weed clubs, guns, and anti-tourism protests in Barcelona

July 10, 2024

Hey hey!

The big story around Barcelona these days: an anti-tourism march was held over the weekend in which protestors sprayed tourists with water guns.

It’s all over the international news. Oh my!

About that: one of my least favorite trends online is the proliferation of “reaction” videos. Content creators do it a lot, though, so it must be effective: find the dumbest person you can on TikTok, then give a rebuttal of whatever inane drivel they’ve published – as long as it’s popular.

In a way, you’re just riding on the coattails of other people’s viral videos: if the topic was popular for them, maybe your reaction can be similarly popular, and you can earn a bit of money from the YouTube ads. But its hardly worth it – in my opinion – if you have to spend your life responding to people who are objectively stupid.

Well, that’s how I feel about reporting on every anti-tourism thing that happens here in Barcelona.

So here’s the deal: Spanish people protest a lot.

Some are annoyed by tourism in their cities, but most would never think to spend their Saturday afternoon at a protest about it. If you’re harassing people on the street based on their appearance, you’re an asshole. And of course, anyone who’s bothered by the outsized impact of tourism on the Spanish economy is welcome to start a business that will add a few billion euros to the GDP in some other way.

If you’d like, you can read my other articles about the Catalan independence protests years ago, the riots about some imprisoned rapper, or the taxi strikes that occasionally shut down main streets.

For now, though, let’s move on to some real news.

Barcelona cracks down on weed clubs

A couple of years ago I wrote an article about cannabis in Barcelona, which explained the situation of the city’s many weed clubs.

The short version: they exist in a sort of legal grey area, allowing “members” to “obtain” cannabis inside the clubs. Officially, they’re only supposed to distribute small amounts, and selling weed (or promoting its use) is prohibited.

Smoking in public is also illegal, according to Spanish law, as is transporting large amounts, but as far as I can tell smoking marijuana in the privacy of your own home is okay. (As usual, this is not legal advice.)

weed club in barcelona eixample
A sign that says “Club Social” most likely means a weed club.

Anyway, I reported at the time that Barcelona’s City Hall was thinking about getting rid of the weed clubs. And today I saw that they’re finally getting serious: allegedly, they’ve ordered 30 local weed clubs to close. The clubs have 10 days to appeal, and we’ll see what happens in the courts.

Police have localized 212 weed clubs in Barcelona, and the official objective is to close all of them.

Barcelona isn’t Amsterdam, and apparently, the local government doesn’t want to add “cannabis tourism” to its long list of problems. All this is part of the new city government’s plan to combat antisocial behaviour (incivismo, they call it around here) with crackdowns on drugs, graffiti and noise in the streets at night.

So, as usual, I have my doubts about this kind of thing. Will closing weed clubs just create a bigger market for street dealers? Will the government be doing something about hard drugs also?

Only time will tell. And I should mention that this is only happening in Barcelona. Weed clubs in other parts of Spain are safe, for now.

Bringing out the big guns in Catalonia

Meanwhile, La Vanguardia reports that police are confiscating assault rifles up here like never before. 

The mafias involved in growing and importing drugs are also finding themselves to be targets for robberies, and they’re arming themselves for self-defense.

Black-market kalashnikovs (and other types of machine guns) are brought to Catalonia from Eastern Europe and –increasingly – Africa. The police have no real idea about the scope of the problem, because drug traffickers are unlikely to file a report if they’ve been robbed. But it’s there.

gun photo from unsplash
Send lawyers, guns and money…

Of course, Spain isn’t the US, and you can’t just legally buy guns for self-defense. There are strict licensing laws and very limited reasons why owning a gun would be permitted at all: private security, hunting, and sport, mainly.

But that doesn’t stop criminals from owning them. On the recent “night of Saint John”, in fact, there was a multiple homicide out near Girona in which a guy known to be involved in the drug trade shot up several members of a rival clan after an argument. The gun he used was an AK-47 – he dropped it while fleeing the scene.

But let’s get back to the marijuana issue.

What’s the future of weed in Barcelona?

In another article, El País says that cannabis tourism isn’t legal anyway: the law states that clubs can’t sell weed to new members who just walk in – there’s a mandatory 15-day waiting period for access to the “dispensary”.

(The journalist for El País writes that he “managed to gain access to a cannabis club… with the promise not to reveal its exact location”. Kinda weird, considering that you can find literally dozens of clubs on Google Maps. They’re not exactly top secret. He doesn’t mention whether or not he “obtained” any weed while he was there.)

cannabis store in barcelona
Places like this won’t let you “obtain” actual cannabis, but they sell accessories.

Anyway – and always in the interest of journalism – I used to go to a weed club, down in Barceloneta. They were allowing people to obtain the stuff about a block from my old house – and at least at that time, there was nothing about a 15-day waiting period.

I would go during the pandemic, and a lot of times the smoking area would be closed, or open, or socially distanced – depending on the shifting restrictions about indoor gatherings in those days.

After a while, Morena and I moved to another neighborhood and I lost interest in getting high. I’m not even sure what happened – one day I ran out of weed, and didn’t feel like making the 20-minute walk down to “obtain” some more. That was it.

It’s weird. But I was never a serious “lifestyle stoner” or anything. I’ve never been tempted to buy drugs on a streetcorner, or do anything “harder”. But I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s more likely to do these things if they’re widely available and semi-legal. In fact, I went to the weed club the first time because a friend suggested it, and made it seem pretty normal.

What was I going to do? Be all straight-laced and boring about it?

“No, sorry, my body is a temple!”


Stoner wisdom vs actual science

As you can tell, I don’t really have strong opinions about the wacky tabaccy one way or another.

These days, in the US, it seems like being high all the time is pretty mainstream. Is this the big win for freedom that your local potheads were promising back in the 90s? I don’t know. The word “freedom” is notoriously ambiguous, and can be used to advocate for all sorts of things.

I also seem to remember a fair amount of “stoner wisdom” going around back in the day: like the “fact” that smoking weed has absolutely no negative side effects, and may actually make you a better driver… “Reefer madness” was nothing more than a myth from the 50s, so smoke up, dogg!

Okay. Well. I guess I believed all that when I was 15 – not that anyone was really offering me drugs back in those days. Now it seems like we probably have more information. And… oops! Looks like smoking weed can cause psychosis, for example.

(The science is still unsure about marijuana’s effects on drivers. And of course, another thing the pandemic did was point out how the average person has no idea how “science” works. But I digress.)

Anyway, that’s the news of the day: anti-tourism protests and a crackdown on weed clubs. Oh, and the gun thing. I’ll keep you posted about any updates.

Keep it real out there, y’all.


Daniel AKA Mr Chorizo.

P.S. A few weeks ago I published my account of a bike tour I did down in La Mancha: the Route of Don Quixote. Well, I’ve also finally finished editing all four videos about it. Fun times!

P.P.S. Now there’s a breaking story about how George Clooney – remember him? – is asking for Biden to step aside and let someone less senile have the nuclear codes. I guess old Clooners gets to write op-eds in the New York Times whenever he wants… Let me take this opportunity to remind you that if you’re an American living abroad, you can sign up for an overseas ballot at votefromabroad.org – I don’t exactly love our options this time – and I’m sure I’m not the only one – but I still think it’s important to vote.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. "… the sh-t has hit the fan." What do I win? 😂

    I sort of get the backlash to Barcelona being awash in tourists. That said, when I last visited there 20 years ago the city wasn't exactly tourist friendly either, enough so that I haven't been back. That experience put me off of Spain for more than 10 years. Luckily Madrid was a great antidote. Anyway, I see the same problems in Rome. While most are okay there is always a small percentage like the woman who tried to get it on with a statue of Bacchus in Florence recently that give all tourists a bad name. Given the sheer numbers, even if it's just 2% that's a lot of loud, brash and obnoxious behaviour to deal with. But is the backlash really about ugly tourists or is it simply that fever that runs through Barce that it's somehow a special and unique city where just living there ups ones hipster cred? Dunno.

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