After two long years, Europe’s premier cannabis conference, Spannabis, finally reconvened near the shores of the Mediterranean Sea on March 11. The three-day fair, now in its 18th iteration, followed a two-year pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, 2020’s edition was set to begin with many of its global attendees already in Barcelona for the conference, when Spannabis—and every other major event on the planet—had to be cancelled in March of that year.
Thankfully, even with new COVID-19 variants looming in the wider stratosphere, this year’s event went off without a hitch. Though the crowd was smaller than in years past—likely due to COVID’s persistence in our daily lives resulting in numerous travel restrictions—spirits were high, and everyone seemed genuinely relieved and excited to be gathering as a community once again.
Running just one day before Spannabis on March 10 was the International Cannabis Business Conference’s (ICBC) B2B Barcelona event, which was emceed by comedian Ngaio Bealum. As they did back in 2019, ICBC once again partnered with Spannabis for the event in order to form a “super conference.” Businesspeople networked in-person, listened to expert panels and talked shop in a candid way—a dialogue that’s not always afforded for those who live in places where cannabis isn’t fully legal, including the US and Spain.
“Spannabis is the meeting point for the entire European cannabis scene. It is first and foremost a consumer event, however, many folks who attend are also looking for a B2B element,” said Alex Rogers, ICBC’s CEO and executive producer. “The ICBC’s partnership with Spannabis fills this gap and satisfies a clear need for major cannabis industry players to meet, network and to progress and advance the industry as cannabis laws are liberalized in Spain and across the continent.”
US cannabis companies were well-represented at both ICBC and Spannabis, the latter of which eclipses ICBC in size several times over and also includes consumption spaces, concerts and cultural activities in addition to exhibition hall installations and other business activations. Notable presences included vape gear companies Ispire and Puffco; California operator Leune; Humboldt Seed Co. (which also maintains employees in Spain); and hundreds more companies from around the globe.
In addition to Humboldt Seed Co., many of the world’s best seed banks attended—including Ripper Seeds and Royal Queen Seeds—as did a bevy of other well-appointed booths that suggest business is still growing post-pandemic.
Apart from the official Spannabis festivities, the excitement was palpable throughout Barcelona, particularly in the city’s cannabis clubs. The top of the must-visit list for the cannabis-loving hordes included HQ, which became the preferred choice of the California crew that was in town; CRTFD, a street art-focused club with plenty of California buds on offer; Terps Army, the Barcelona outpost of the Amsterdam club that originated the famed hash hole joints now popularized by California’s Fidel Hydro and Cookies; and The Plug, which employs one of the best damn hash makers in the world.
Notable were the parties and off-menu events such as Hash Holes and Donuts, the first inaugural event hosted at Cookies Barcelona, which is another popular club from the California cannabis brand (yes, it’s that Cookies). The party celebrated all things donut: a gram of top-notch hash rosin rolled in a gram of weed for the headiest joint that most people have never smoked, though that’s likely to come soon. The joints are already for sale throughout Barcelona, and in California. In general, most of the parties either happened at private cannabis clubs or private homes for rent outside the city.
A Hash Makeover
Aside from after-expo hours events, the hash culture renaissance was easily one of the most exciting aspects of being at Spannabis. Hash is by no means new to Europe, of course, but hash culture itself seems to be undergoing a sort of makeover at present.
Ego Trip, which took place during ICBC and wasn’t officially affiliated with the events, showcased the best hash makers in the region. Every club had someone in it who wanted to show off their wares. Coming from California, it’s a high bar to cross, but the quality of rosins, resins and all other types of dabs was stellar. Plus, looking out at the sea of consumers at the clubs, who are mostly men, just about every other person could be seen walking around touting a Puffco Peak, which is just beginning to figure out its expansion into Europe.
“Europe has loved hash for a really long time, but this new version of hash centered around water hash, rosin and BHO that’s become popular in the US has really started to take off in Europe,” said Roger Volodarsky, CEO of Puffco.
“However, most people are using the same analog technology that they were a long time ago—such as torches, nails and conventional dab rigs. So, for Puffco, we’re seeing this newly developing market; and even though it’s still quite small, it’s primed for innovative products like the Puffco Peak and Peak Pro,” he said, touching on the opportunity he sees in Europe.
As it becomes easier for Puffco to ship into Europe, Volodarsky says we should see many more people “benefitting from the hash experience because it becomes much easier to use.”
And he’s right. The way Puffco revolutionized dabbing in the US is clearly beginning to catch on in Europe, and it was on full display at Spannabis.
“Puffco’s products make using concentrates more accessible and allows people to get straight to the great experience they’re chasing,” Volodarsky said. “We heard this same sentiment from people repeatedly while at Spannabis.”
Volodarsky agrees that the new age of hash is still developing in both the US and Europe, with the latter ready to zoom into space, so to speak.
“I saw and experienced locally grown and extracted hash all made in Barcelona, and it was better than some of the things we’re seeing in the US,” he said. “It’s amazing to see even at this incipient stage of it being a micro-community, they’re already delivering the standard of quality that we have here in the US.”
Volodarsky says he looks forward to watching the evolution of hash and hopes that he’ll be able to realize his dream of traveling to Europe on vacation and being exposed to “different types of hash that are equal to or better than the American experience.”
If this year’s Spannabis was any indication, that day may come sooner than anyone may think.