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The Spanish Connection

PHOTOS Nikki Lastreto

Industry Events

The Spanish Connection

The weed world lit up Barcelona for a series of memorable events.

To be in Barcelona for the International Cannabis Awards and Spannabis Week is akin to visiting the holy grail of the weed world. Tens of thousands of aficionados descended on the glorious ancient city of Barcelona on the Spanish Mediterranean coast, both as tourists and stoners, anxious to soak in the sights and the smokes.

We arrived after a long flight and, of course, had to sleep off the jet lag first. I wanted to try out the new Mammoth product from their Heavy Hitters line, Lights Out. First, I took a 10 mg single dose, but I guess my tolerance is high, so I took a second and that did the trick. I awoke many hours later, refreshed and ready for the wild week ahead.

Spannabis 2024
The entrance to the he Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum (L) and Swami outside the Choko cannabis club.

Hitting the Clubs—and the Joints

The first stop was a famous Cannabis Club called Choko, owned by our friend Cedric Peres. Barcelona is renowned for the city’s 200-plus clubs, the only spots to legally purchase and smoke in the city. It’s been a curious workaround for many years—the clubs accept members, who pay a fee to join, which gives them the ability to purchase cannabis grown for their members. Each has a unique vibe. Choko is quite upscale and cozy on two levels, with some tasty cannabis selections, a bar and a DJ playing every night.

We also visited the very popular HQ, which offered local flowers, including some grown in living soil that Swami thought wasn’t bad. There were so many California friends there that it was like an old home week, plus several certified Ganjiers from Europe and the US.

Unfortunately, the local government decided that Spannabis Week was the best time to bust the clubs and instill fear into them. Reportedly, at least 20 were raided over the week. If you are inside, all is OK, but once you leave the premises, they are free to bust you, take your product and give you a hefty fine. One member told us that a couple of clubs she visited even suggested that when they leave, “stuff your weed in your underwear, the one place they won’t look.” Spain remains in the “grey area.” Clearly, the war on drugs isn’t won yet.

Besides the obligatory visit to the famous cathedral Sagrada Familia, designed by the famous Antoni Gaudi and wandering the streets of old Barcelona admiring the incredible architecture, our first stop was the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum. Located inside the stunning Palau Mornau, a family palace built in the 15th century on a side street in the heart of the old Gothic city, this is the largest museum solely dedicated to cannabis in the world. Its collections are staggering. Displays included the many uses of hemp over the centuries and even an antique hemp loom for weaving fabric, pipes from every corner of the globe, old classic paintings of hemp and hashish consumption and fascinating memorabilia from the more recent drug war years. 

Nikki and Swami with Royal Queen Seeds President, Shai Ramsahai.

Celebrating With Best Buds at the International Cannabis Awards

On Wednesday evening, at the International Cannabis Awards gala, it felt like the whole world had accepted cannabis and that the time had come to celebrate the plant freely. The elegant event was held in the classical La Llotja, a 14th-century stone building that was used as a stock exchange/customs center for Barcelona for hundreds of years. Gorgeous stone statues graced the main halls, where guests gathered to sip champagne and nibble savory treats under the soaring Gothic columns, highlighted with emerald green lighting. Attire ranged from blue jeans to ballgowns and everyone wore a stoney smile.

“Now this is how we should all be doing cannabis events, in style,” commented thought leader and Chief Impact Officer at Ispire, Luna Stower. Solvent-less extraction expert, fellow Ganjier instructor and DJ Nikka T provided the night’s tunes. Kudos to co-producers Sergio Martinez and Dani Walton and their team from Blimburn Seed Co. for pulling the event off with such grace. “The ICAs will help to normalize and de-stigmatize cannabis for the world,” Walton said.

Following the reception, everyone gathered for the Awards presentation. As this was the inaugural ICA, the focus was on auxiliary products and honoring cannabis luminaries from across the globe. Next year, the event will also feature cannabis flowers and products from California, New York and Europe, each tested in its home area and then the judges (including Swami and I, Kyle Kushman and others) will come together to choose the overall winners. “We’ll move the Judges, not the flower,” explained Sergio.

The event was shared via live stream and 18,000 worldwide viewers joined us in honoring the victors, including several from our California clan. Winners were decided by a popular vote made by over 11,000 people. The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Steve DeAngelo. Humboldt Seed Company placed 2nd in the Best Global Seed Bank, under Royal Queen Seeds who took home the gold. Jimmy Divine won the Social Media Influencer award and Luna Stower was presented with the winning cup for Cultivating Community. Other categories this year included Best Nutrient, best Vape Device, Best Rolling Papers and Best Ventilation, to name a few.

At the end of the night, I found producer and friend Sergio Martinez looking very proud. “I am super happy about the event. Everyone had a great time, and we learned so much. Next year will be even better,” he exclaimed.

I know I can’t wait until the next one!

Spannabis 2024
Crowds at Spannabis 2024.

Worldwide Weed at Spannabis 2024

As the weekend approached, the clubs became increasingly crowded as stoners arrived in Barcelona for the Spannabis 2024 event, a Feria del Cáñamo (hemp fair) held at the Fira del Cornellá, a convention center on the city’s edge. More than 25,000 attended this sprawling fair, located in five separate halls plus many booths outside as well. Unlike The Emerald Cup, no cannabis flowers or products could be sold at Spannabis, yet everyone seemed quite high. Joints, pipes and vapes were blazing everywhere.

Like The Emerald Cup, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Spannabis. What began as a small event now had super long lines of excited visitors waiting to get in. “International” was the word of the day. I hadn’t heard that many accents in one place since the old “trimigrant” days up here in the Emerald Triangle when workers came from every corner of the globe.

Over the weekend, we must have spoken with people from at least 30 countries, some as far as Afghanistan, Iran, India, Thailand, Peru, Surinam, Angola and of course the USA. Every country in the EU and UK were represented. I had no idea they were growing so much weed in places like the Canary Islands, Poland and Ireland!

Mila Jansen with one of her fans.

What a delight to see our old friend Mila Jansen—aka “the hash queen”—at her Pollinator booth. She hosted her Dab A Doo concentrate cup in Barcelona for the 40th time and coincidentally had 40 concentrate/hashish entries with 170 judges on hand. Mila is famous for inventing the hash washing machine and so she had a line of fans—mostly young men—waiting to take their photo with her. “I love this event,” she said, “because it brings people together from around the globe.”

Friday and Saturday were shoulder-to-shoulder packed at Spannabis, encouraging conversation and a party vibe. Yet intellectual pursuits were also available as people had a chance to visit with genetic experts and scientists who shared the latest knowledge about this special plant. Author Jeff Lowenfels presented his latest exciting cultivation and living soil discoveries in his newest book, “Teaming with Bacteria.” This event fed not only the high head but also the informed head.

From Tiny Seeds

On Friday evening, the Spannabis Cup was presented. We were so happy to see that the first-place award for Rosin went to our friends Jessica and Madison at Frosty Hash for their tasty concoction made from Zkittlez, while Neighbors, a Barcelona brand, won first place in the Sativa division. These are just two of the many proud winners.

Hundreds of brands filled the tents and main hall with booths featuring everything from growing products and nutrients, packaging and paraphernalia, to CBD products and seed banks—lots and lots of seed banks.

Royal Queen Seeds, the winners of the Seed Bank category at the ICA and MJ Biz in December, had a huge outside two-story set up constantly buzzing with people meeting up and getting high. Company president Shai Ramsahai told me that his father was the founder and so he started helping out in the biz when he was 15 years old. The company was founded in Holland but moved to Spain a few years ago. They now also have their first warehouse of seeds in the USA—Oregon, to be exact. They feature 12 cultivars and Ramsahai claimed the Gelato 44 is the best seller. “It’s time for brands to think globally,” he recommended.

The Humboldt Seed Co booth and Nat Pennington (R) with 1st place trophy from Autoflower Cup for Mint Jelly and Benjamin Lind with 2nd place trophy for Best Seed Bank from the International Cannabis Awards.

Another seed bank prominently featured was our friends at Humboldt Seed Company. Their beautiful natural wood booth, fashioned from cedar grown on the Humboldt Seed Company property, was designed by Jasmin Salisbury and Benjamin Lind in the US, but built and assembled in Spain. The woodsy, organic look teamed with inviting, soft incandescent lighting and live plants added to the organic feel. As Jasmin Salisbury explained, “We wanted to bring our customers into the character of the place where we grow as much as possible.”

Founder and CEO Nat Pennington told me he’s done three and a half Spannabis events, the half being the year Covid interrupted it.  This year, they brought a crew of 10 to Spain from Humboldt County and judging by the crowds constantly around their space, it was worth it. “We’re kicking ass,” said Pennington proudly. “It just keeps getting better. It feels more and more like a big family as we see customers returning year after year and we get to continue the conversations we started in previous years. It’s great to meet growers from around the world.”

Rolling papers are also a huge thing at trade shows like this and OCB, founded in 1918, is one of the oldest and most well-respected companies. Swami was honored to present a “how to roll a Swami joint” demo at their booth to quite a crowd of onlookers. OCB supplied him with some Banana Cooler flowers, the 2nd place winner in the Spannabis awards. What a great aroma of grapefruit, floor cleaner and basil and the banana kicked in once it was ground up. Everyone approved of the 2.5-gram joint he rolled (“more weed, less paper” is Swami’s motto) and the fact that he doesn’t use a paper crutch was new to many of them. “I’m not missing the filter at all,” said a surprised Arnau Tango, curator for OCB.

Spannabis 2024
Swami with Arnau Tango, curator for OCB share a joint.

Eyes to the Future

By the close of Spannabis on Sunday, everyone was glowing and feeling excited about the future of cannabis in the world. Especially since Germany recently announced that the personal possession and cultivation of cannabis will be legal for recreational usage by adults starting in April 2024. A Portuguese man with whom I spoke told me that in his country, it remains illegal, but there are no harsh punishments. Basically, a ticket is given if the person has over 50 grams of flowers and does not have a police record. And so, I have to ask, do they want it fully legal, or is the grey area so much more comfortable?

Spannabis felt like the Emerald Cup in 2015, pre-legalization. Everyone has such a strong faith in the future, while I say enjoy what you have now.

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