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LIFE IN SPAIN

What’s the law on cannabis in Spain?

Laidback social attitudes lead many to assume that smoking cannabis is legal in Spain, but the truth is far more complicated. The Local looks into the law, legal loopholes, and potential consequences for wrongdoers.

What's the law on cannabis in Spain?
Cannabis use will be legal for medical purposes in Switzerland. (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP)

Anyone who has spent time in a Spanish city will be familiar with the pungent smell of cannabis or hashish wafting through the warm night air. Some Spaniards smoke it on the beach, at the park, outside bars, from their balconies, or even walking down the street. 

Simply put, some Spaniards love smoking as much as they love sipping on a caña. In fact, Spaniards are some of the heaviest cannabis smokers in the EU, tied for first place with the French. 

According to a Stastica survey released last year, 11 percent of Spaniards have (admitted) to smoking cannabis or hashish in the last twelve months.

That’s a higher proportion of the population than countries synonymous with weed culture, like the Netherlands (9.6 percent), and significantly higher than the U.K. (7.1 percent) Ireland (7.7 percent) and Germany (7.1 percent). Other European countries with a significant stoner culture include Italy (10.2 percent) and Croatia (10.2 percent).

Spanish high streets are increasingly filled with CBD shops. Most Spanish cities and towns have weed ‘associations’ where members can buy and consume cannabis on the property, and Spain is also a major hotspot, or throughway, for the importation of hashish and cannabis from North Africa into Europe. 

As the Netherlands increases regulation of its famous coffee shops, the feeling among many stoners is that Spain, particularly Barcelona, is the ‘New Amsterdam’ as more and more associations open and Spain increases its offerings in the weed tourism market despite recent legal challenges. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that weed is completely legal in Spain, but the truth is far from that. The Local has broken down the law, the rules, the many legal grey areas, and the potential consequences of falling foul of the law. 

Around one in ten people in Spain has smoked dope in the last 12 months. But that doesn’t mean they can light up wherever they want. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)

The law

Although there is some confusion among tourists, cannabis use in Spain is not legalised but decriminalised. It is not illegal to smoke weed in your own home, or on other private property such as an association. Attitudes to personal consumption are relatively lax in Spain, generally speaking, given that it is done on private property.

Simply put: Spanish weed laws make the distinction between personal consumption in public and personal consumption in private. Many foreigners don’t realise that it is illegal to smoke in public, and you may see locals and tourists smoking on a park bench or down on the beach, but this is illegal and, if you’re caught, punishable by fines. You’ll also have your stash seized by the police.

In fact, even possession in public is illegal. So if you are stopped by the police for whatever reason and are carrying some with you, but not smoking it, you could be subject to a fine and will at the very least have your stash taken.

Buying and selling

It is illegal to buy, sell, or import cannabis in Spain and all are potentially punishable by time in prison.

It is, however, legal to buy and sell seeds and smoking paraphernalia. 

Growing

It is legal, however, to grow your own cannabis plants on private property as long as they are – for some unexplainable quirk of the Spanish legal system – out of view. There’s a limit of two plants per household. 

Visitor look at products of a stand at the Spannabis Cannabis Fair in Cornellá, near Barcelona. The fair is a smorgasbord of stalls with products for smoking and cultivating cannabis. (Photo by Josep Lago / AFP)

Cannabis clubs and associations

One legal loophole that exists in Spain is that of its famous ‘asociaciones cannabicos’. These are private member’s clubs where you can buy and consume cannabis within the confines of the property.

In order to join, often you’ll have to be introduced by a current member, and pay a membership fee. These clubs operate somewhat similarly to coffee shops in Amsterdam, or dispensaries in the United States, in that you enter and there’s staff working who can explain and recommend the different strains, types, and prices on offer.

Cannabis clubs are usually set up to be like bars with music, and often have pool and foosball tables. It is worth noting, however, that these clubs are occasionally subject to seizure by police who try to exploit the legal grey area to their own advantage, and in Catalonia – the capital of cannabis clubs in Spain, where 70% of Spain’s clubs are located – Catalonia’s Superior Court recently ruled against them.

There the courts are trying to close the legal loophole by overturning a 2016 regulation approved by the Barcelona City Council permitting the clubs to operate in the city. It is believed appeals are in process.

Medical cannabis

Spain produces a lot of medical cannabis, but not for Spaniards. Medical Plants S.L.U – a subsidiary of a big Spanish agricultural company – are just one of several growers legally approved by the Spanish government to cultivate and export cannabis for medicinal purposes in other countries.

In Spain, there are still no fully-formed medicinal cannabis laws. Like in the UK, it is technically possible to get your hands on some legal, medicinal weed, but this is incredibly difficult and just a handful of prescriptions have been given out. In Spain, the very few prescriptions that are written are usually for nasal sprays.

There are no official laws on medical marihuana in Spain yet. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP

CBD

Go to any big city in Spain and you’ll have probably seen CBD shops. CBD products are not illegal provided the product contains less than 0,2% of THC, the psychoactive component in weed that makes you feel ‘high’.

The future

As some court systems fight back against cannabis use and clubs, there’s also a burgeoning legalisation movement in Spain. It is, of course, very political. Last year the governing party, PSOE, voted against a motion introduced by minor left-wing party Más País (and supported by its junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos) to legalise recreational use. 

PSOE supports research into medicinal use, but are against fully-legalised recreational use.

This aligned PSOE with both PP and far-right Vox in the vote, and with a general election looming that the right seem poised to win, it seems the Spanish legalisation movement – whether medicinally or recreationally – has years to go before achieving its objective. 

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LIFE IN SPAIN

What childcare options are available over the summer in Spain?

Kids in Spain get around three months of holiday over the summer, but finding childcare options during this time can be challenging for parents, especially if they have to work. So what is available?

What childcare options are available over the summer in Spain?

Kids in Spain get to enjoy a ten to 12-week summer vacation, starting towards the end of June and lasting until around the second week in September. This is one of the longest summer holidays in Europe.

In the UK, kids get around half of this time with around five or six weeks, while in France they get around eight weeks and in Germany around six weeks.

Unless you are a teacher or are self-employed, most salaried workers in Spain, according to the Workers’ Statue, can only take up to two-weeks vacation at a time, meaning that parents are often stuck with what to do with the kids for the rest of the summer.

If you’re in this situation, what are your options for summer childcare and how affordable is it?

Summer school camps

Most regular schools in Spain offer campamentos de verano or summer camps. This means that your kids can carry on going to their normal school, even after the term ends. But instead of doing their lessons, they’ll get to do fun daily activities, crafts and games, as well as a variety of day trips.

If your children’s school doesn’t offer this option, then there’s always the possibility of signing up to a campamento at another nearby school.

Remember, you’ll need to enrol your kids in advance to make sure they’re able to get a spot.

The price for these is around €70 to €100 per week if your child is going all day, and this typically includes lunch. Be aware that these school summer camps are usually not available during the whole of the summer, so you may need to still organise childcare for the month of August or a couple of weeks in August, if you’re taking your vacation then too.

The advantage of these is that your kids will often get to be with their friends and will know the surroundings already, however it may not really feel like much of a holiday or a break from school for them, if they’re in the same environment. 

Specialised or themed summer camps

Another option, rather than going to a summer camp at a school, is a themed summer camp, based on your kids’ hobbies or the activities they love. There are many different summer camps across the country, focused on everything from sports and languages to music or even theatre.

For example, in Barcelona, the city zoo offers a summer camp, as does FC Barcelona, where kids can learn football from the pros all day.

In Valencia, the Bioparc offers a summer camp, as do a couple of the local outdoor swimming pools.

Try searching online for campamento de verano (summer camp) plus the name of the town or city where you will be, there are options across almost all of Spain.

As these are private companies, not sponsored by the state schools, they typically cost considerably more than the school summer camps.

Expect to pay anywhere upwards from €200 per week, and double this for popular summer camps. The general rule is that the better the facilities, staff and transport, the more expensive it will be. 

Temporary nanny or Au-pair

If summer camps or schools are not an option, or you’d prefer for your kids to get more attention or be around the house, hiring a summer nanny or au-pair is also a good choice.

There are many young people who want summer jobs in order to earn a bit of extra money and many career nannies who may be stuck without a job with their regular family in the summer.

This could be a good chance for your kids to learn another language, by hiring a native speaker from a different country. Many Spanish families hire native English speakers to look after their kids in the summer, so you could hire a Spanish nanny if your kids need to brush up on their language skills or even a French or Italian nanny, if you want them to learn new language skills.

According to Au-Pair agency Au-Pairs.com, the salary of an Au Pair in Spain is €70 per week if you live in the countryside, and €80 per week if you live in the city, which means between €280 and €320 euros per month, if they live in and more if they live out.  In cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, expect to pay a nanny around €10 per hour.

Ask family members for help

Many Spaniards will rely on family members such as grandparents to help look after their kids during the summer holidays.

If you don’t have family members in Spain then during the summer, you may be able to entice some family members to come over and help look after your kids or your children might enjoy a holiday back in your home country, if family members are able to take them in.

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