I had never been to a cannabis fair. Working a full time job and having kids is not so conducive to attending trade fairs that are not mandatory to my work.
This changed recently, once I completed my book and started writing for Marijuana Times. I needed to reach out to those in the European cannabis industry. For my first cannabis event, why not make a splash and go to the biggest in Europe, if not the world? The fact that it was on the outskirts on one the most chilled out, beautiful cities in Europe, (Barcelona) was an attractive bonus. This was the 13th Spannabis, and I was one of 34,000 attendees.
Truth be told, I had no idea what I was getting myself into and was nervous that the entrepreneurial utopia I had constructed in my mind would be shattered.
Landing late Friday afternoon, the show had already started. I won some time by grabbing a cab directly to the event from the airport. The public transport infrastructure in Barcelona is excellent, but I was later than I wanted to be.
As the taxi pulled up to Fira de Cornellà, the 17.000 m2 exhibition centre that was hosting the event, I could smell marijuana smoke through the closed windows of the car.
No sooner had I stepped out of the cab, I saw Franco of the Greenhouse Seed Co. and Strain Hunters documentaries fame. Being such a major cannabis celebrity, I couldn’t let the moment pass without saying hi.
I approached from behind (my only clear access) and clumsily said, “I just want to say hi”. Thankfully, the two guys either side of him turned to me and said a cool but friendly “hi”. Franco didn’t turn and continued to finish the joint he was constructing.
After a few awkward seconds, it was clear he wasn’t going to reciprocate my greeting. I totally get his reaction and that’s cool. We were outside the event and he was running two major stands on the back of an expedition to the Congo. If anyone deserved to enjoy a quiet joint without being distracted by strangers it was this man. I slipped away, cursing myself for being such a doofus.
Onto the show. Judging by the smell of things, it was in full swing. I headed to the press ticket office. They couldn’t find my name on the list. The person on the counter called for backup. I showed her my emails with the boss. The queue behind me grew. She called the boss. Standing in the Mediterranean sun, I was starting to sweat. They looked and finally found my name hidden under the staple at the top of the page. It was in the T section for “The Marijuana Times”, not the M section for “Marijuana Times” where she was originally looking.
Once inside, it was immediately clear this was not your average trade event. Despite announcements over the tannoy saying no smoking is allowed on the premises, cannabis smoke wafted through the air and the attendees looked more like they were attending a festival than a trade show.
The press office was surrounded by young guys sporting large beards and even larger baseball caps. I must’ve looked a like real square and was ignored accordingly. Not wanting to embarrass myself any further, I headed into the throng.
The expo housed 500 companies. It was a mix of seed companies with spectacular stands brimming with beautiful girls gifting free seeds, horticulture companies offering bio soils, nutrients and hydroponic systems and all other auxiliary companies you could think of and many you couldn’t.
I headed to the seed company Dutch Passion, who have supplied me seeds in the past but who I have never met in the flesh. I was introduced to one of their expert growers. I talked through the project I have planned this year and he offered some advice for companies to hook up with. My hit list.
No sooner had I set off I saw GOD. Jorge Cevantes, author of numerous cannabis growing books. One of which is lovingly referred to by growers the world over as “the bible”. I was filled with trepidation after my experience with Franco, but still couldn’t let the moment pass without saying hello.
It turned out that he was a lovely man. He had even heard of my book which blew me away. I offered him a copy and he asked me to sign it in an amazingly humble gesture. We posed for a selfie, Jorge holding my book looking saint-like and me gurning like a fool next to him. If you follow me on twitter I apologise for the shock of seeing it – just concentrate on Jorge and the book, ok.
I headed to my Airbnb lodging in town to relax and enjoy the sights of Barcelona, a happy man.
The following day I wanted to catch the show early. I arrived just as it was opening. The queue snaked around the building as far as the eye could see. I waved my press wristband to security and was one of the first to enter.
I wanted to settle business before the huge queue that I had passed bought their tickets and entered. The next few hours were spent introducing myself, exchanging cards and getting contacts for interviews.
Everything went swimmingly. I was in the zone. Gone were my nerves and excitement from yesterday. After years of scooting around the peripherals of the emerging cannabis industry, I had landed in the European cannabis epicenter and it was awesome. I achieved more in those few hours than I would have ever achieved elsewhere.
I realised that Spannabis is THE cannabis event to attend in Europe. Sure, the others are good, but Spannabis is the one where the most companies attend and you’ll get the most done. Everyone I spoke to confirmed this.
Around midday, the show started to fill. Navigating around with my camera and growing collection of swag I was picking up was proving to be difficult. Last port of call was to say thanks to the Dutch Passion guys for their help. As I was there I had one last pleasant surprise.
The guys on the stand were selling seeds hand over fist and struggling to keep up with the punters waving fifty euro notes in the air. As I patiently waited for a lull in the wave of growers I spotted a familiar face moving serenely past under a white fedora.
“Excuse me” I called, “Marc Emery?”.
He stopped, turned, and greeted me like an old friend despite never having met or heard of me before. We shook hands and chatted away for a long while about his experiences and plans for the future (of which I will cover in another article). It was a real treat and a perfect ending to my first Spannabis adventure.
I thanked my friends at Dutch Passion and headed off. I’d achieved what I set to achieve and had the rest of the weekend to enjoy the amazing city of Barcelona which appears to be wrestling Amsterdam’s crown for Europe’s most cannabis friendly city.
Walking the street of Barcelona that evening I spotted dealers in the alleyways hawking cans of beer. The cannabis clubs have taken the safe drug of cannabis off the streets and left space for dealers to peddle a much more damaging drug – alcohol.