Political victories are easy to see, but there are often underlying cultural events that shape our progress. Spannabis, one of the world’s leading cannabis festivals, is an example in Spain. Most of the cannabis community is likely unaware that tens of thousands of revelers attend the event every year, making the event one of the largest cannabis festivals in the world. Spannabis helps bring the European cannabis community together and help promote tolerant, progressive attitude across the continent.
The success and growth of the Seattle Hempfest is an example of such an event having a cultural impact in the United States. Many cannabis law reformers around the world were certainly unaware of Hempfest, especially before it grew into a massive event, but it isn’t a coincidence that Seattle and Washington State have been progressive on cannabis policy compared to most of the U.S.
As we become a more connected society, political and cultural developments in other countries increase in importance as their impact is felt beyond a country’s borders. Cannabis law reform and culture are no different. Positive marijuana momentum in Mexico and Canada influence the debate in the United States and U.S. drug policy definitely impacts the rest of the world.
Raul del Pino, the communications director for Spannabis, will be coming to San Francisco to present at the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC) on February 13-14. Raul will share the latest on developments in Spain and will add to a conference that is working to continue our movement’s momentum around the world. It was an honor and a privilege to have Raul answer some questions ahead of the conference.
How long have you considered yourself a cannabis law reform advocate? What brought you into the movement?
Since 1996 I have been interested in Cannabis thanks to my interest in the studies of psychoactive substances. From that that time I adopted a critical attitude toward the prohibition of drugs, especially marijuana, from the viewpoint of personal freedom.
When did Spannabis begin? How many events have been held?
The first Spannabis event occurred in 2002 in Barcelona. Since then we have held the event 12 times and next March (2016) we will hold the 13th.
How many people have attended over the years?
The number of attendees over the years has grown exponentially, and notably each year we surpass the attendance of the previous year. Last year we had close to 35,000 attendees from many different countries, and 3,000 attendees are licensed professionals in addition to over 500 businesses were represented.
Last year we noted an impressive increase in exhibitors and attendees from the United States, thus spannabis has become this platform to launch a multitude of products and businesses.
We believe that our success on the international level makes Spannabis one of the largest and most important Cannabis Fairs in the world.
Can you describe your work for the event?
Hmmm…It’s hard to say exactly what I do because there are so many things going on. An event of this kind requires a work team that is well coordinated and one that has been working for months preparing for the event. As for me, I am in charge of everything to do with things digital and new technologies, like dealing with the means of communication. During the exhibition my main job is to deal with the press, as well as helping coordinate various events, really there are many different issues that I am dealing with.
How is cannabis treated in Spain?
Spain is a country with a very old cannabis culture, due to our location which is so close to Morocco, the largest producer of Hashish in the world, which was an old colony of Spain. So it is a illegal drug that is accepted socially. Also given our climate we can grow lots of crops so Spain has never lacked hashish and marijuana.
Because it has been socially acceptable for a long time, and the spanish law has no criminal penalty for consuming or possessing drugs, thus the consuming of drugs in the privacy of your home is legal. Also there are many pro-cannabis groups and the the ambiguity of the spanish law has given rise to Cannabis Social Clubs, but these are not great times for them, now they are being criminally prosecuted and there have been cases that some members of the clubs have gone to jail and the closure of some and lots of fear among the club members.
Does there seem to be movement improving the law?
These days we are waiting for a new government to be formed after the elections in december. The situation right now is very confusing because we don’t know what party or parties will form the new government. Some of them are pro marijuana legalization.
How is the United States cannabis law perceived in Spain?
The US is originator of the prohibition of drugs throughout the world, and was the first country to prohibit marijuana, as well as industrial hemp. The paradox we find ourselves in is that now the US has begun to decriminalize marijuana in some states. we have a shred of hope that if US legalizes soon after the rest of the world will follow. At any rate we are dealing with contradictory laws.
Are advocates and industry members keeping tabs on developments in states like Colorado that have now legalized cannabis? Or the fact that other states, like California, are likely to legalize in 2016 and coming years?
As I told you, in Spain we are paying attention to what is going in the US regarding the legalization of Cannabis, for sure this will influence legalization in Spain and other countries, in addition to that the industry in the US and Spain is more and more involved with the other, which looks like in the coming years good business opportunities for both countries.