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Medical Cannabis in Spain: Navigating the Hazy Path Between Regulation and Access


Cannabinoids, Events

As the vibrant city of Barcelona gears up for the renowned Spannabis Week, a pivotal moment for the European cannabis community is on the horizon. This event serves as a melting pot for stakeholders ranging from policymakers and medical professionals to activists and scientists, converging to discuss the intricate and changing regulatory landscape surrounding cannabis in Spain.

Looking ahead to the event, Broughton Clinical and Behavioural Scientist and expert in the field, Alberto Sainz examines the current Spanish cannabis landscape, its impact on medical cannabis users, and the potential challenges for Spanish medical cannabis users going forward.

Spannabis Week: A Nexus of Cannabis Influencers

Spannabis, coupled with the International Cannabis Business Conference (ICBC), transcends traditional cannabis events. Beyond being a platform for industry players, it encourages debate on regulations, showcases cutting-edge technology, and facilitates connections across diverse sectors.

Medical Cannabis Conundrum

Barcelona has a relaxed attitude towards cannabis, evident through its 200-plus Cannabis Social Clubs (CSC’s). However, there is a paradox in Spain as recreational use remains illegal, and medical use is tightly restricted. Despite being the seventh-largest legal medical cannabis producer globally, Spain lacks a formal medical cannabis program.

The absence of a medical cannabis program means that only drugs approved by the European Medical Agency, like Sativex and Epidiolex, can be prescribed, and only for specific conditions like spasticity associated with Multiple Sclerosis and certain types of epilepsy.

Unlike other European countries, Spain does not have a medical cannabis programme. The route to legislation remains unclear. A draft programme was announced in 2022. March 2024 saw the opening of a public consultation, in which medical cannabis patients and organisations are lobbying for a legislative framework similar to programmes approved in other European Countries.

Cannabis Social Clubs: Navigating the Grey Area

While the medical cannabis program is subject to delays, Cannabis Social Clubs operate in a legal grey area.

CSC’s operate as non-profit associations. Within Spain, from a regulatory perspective, non-profit organisations are considered private spaces where members who share common interests meet without commercial objectives. So, a non-profit organisation could be a tennis club, chess club, or a cannabis club.

Leveraging existing regulatory considerations, these clubs navigate a legal loophole. Firstly, the production, possession, and use of cannabis in a private space are not considered criminal offences, if justified for personal use. Secondly, group production and sharing of cannabis among club members in a private space are also not considered as offences, provided there is no promotion of cannabis use.

Self-Regulation, Regional Disparities, and the Impact on Medical Users

The first CSC’s were mostly created by cannabis activists who were looking for alternatives to the illegal market. Several federations emerged with “codes of good behaviour” to self-regulate CSC’s activities. However, with no official regulations, many CSC’s have failed on local regulations, resulting in their closure.


Certain regions, such as Catalonia and the Basque Country have been more lenient toward CSC’s, with some city halls even regulating specific aspects. However, the absence of national regulations makes the existence and stability of these clubs dependent on local politics.


Whilst it may be assumed that the existence of such clubs allows medical cannabis users access, in reality, this is far from the case. The lack of regulation, availability of clubs, lack of quality control, and varied medical training for CSC staff means that medical cannabis users often cannot access a constant and reliable source.


Desamparados: The Plight of Medical Cannabis Users

Contrary to popular belief, cannabis use is not entirely legal in Spain.

Medical users face uncertainty and unreliable access to cannabis medicine. The impending regulation may offer hope, but the timeline and sufficiency for the needs of medical cannabis users remain uncertain.

As the Spanish cannabis landscape evolves, the challenges and opportunities surrounding both recreational and medical cannabis will undoubtedly take centre stage in the conversations shaping the future of cannabis in Spain.

The Spannabis week, scheduled for March 13th-17th in Barcelona, will serve as a forum to delve into these pressing issues.

Alberto Sainz, Clinical and Behavioural Scientist and an expert in the field will be shedding light on the impact of emerging cannabis research during the B2B International Cannabis Business Conference, where he will be speaking at 13:50 local time on 14 March.

Connect with Alberto here:

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