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What’s the law on cannabis in Spain?

Laidback social attitudes lead many to assume that smoking cannabis is legal in Spain, but the truth is far more complicated. The Local looks into the law, legal loopholes, and potential consequences for wrongdoers.

Cannabis use will be legal for medical purposes in Switzerland. (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP)
Cannabis use will be legal for medical purposes in Switzerland. (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP)

Anyone who has spent time in a Spanish city will be familiar with the pungent smell of cannabis or hashish wafting through the warm night air. Some Spaniards smoke it on the beach, at the park, outside bars, from their balconies, or even walking down the street. 

Simply put, some Spaniards love smoking as much as they love sipping on a caña. In fact, Spaniards are some of the heaviest cannabis smokers in the EU, tied for first place with the French. 

According to a Stastica survey released last year, 11 percent of Spaniards have (admitted) to smoking cannabis or hashish in the last twelve months.

That’s a higher proportion of the population than countries synonymous with weed culture, like the Netherlands (9.6 percent), and significantly higher than the U.K. (7.1 percent) Ireland (7.7 percent) and Germany (7.1 percent). Other European countries with a significant stoner culture include Italy (10.2 percent) and Croatia (10.2 percent).

Spanish high streets are increasingly filled with CBD shops. Most Spanish cities and towns have weed ‘associations’ where members can buy and consume cannabis on the property, and Spain is also a major hotspot, or throughway, for the importation of hashish and cannabis from North Africa into Europe. 

As the Netherlands increases regulation of its famous coffee shops, the feeling among many stoners is that Spain, particularly Barcelona, is the ‘New Amsterdam’ as more and more associations open and Spain increases its offerings in the weed tourism market despite recent legal challenges. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking that weed is completely legal in Spain, but the truth is far from that. The Local has broken down the law, the rules, the many legal grey areas, and the potential consequences of falling foul of the law. 

Around one in ten people in Spain has smoked dope in the last 12 months. But that doesn’t mean they can light up wherever they want. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP)

The law

Although there is some confusion among tourists, cannabis use in Spain is not legalised but decriminalised. It is not illegal to smoke weed in your own home, or on other private property such as an association. Attitudes to personal consumption are relatively lax in Spain, generally speaking, given that it is done on private property.

Simply put: Spanish weed laws make the distinction between personal consumption in public and personal consumption in private. Many foreigners don’t realise that it is illegal to smoke in public, and you may see locals and tourists smoking on a park bench or down on the beach, but this is illegal and, if you’re caught, punishable by fines. You’ll also have your stash seized by the police.

In fact, even possession in public is illegal. So if you are stopped by the police for whatever reason and are carrying some with you, but not smoking it, you could be subject to a fine and will at the very least have your stash taken.

Buying and selling

It is illegal to buy, sell, or import cannabis in Spain and all are potentially punishable by time in prison.

It is, however, legal to buy and sell seeds and smoking paraphernalia. 


It is legal, however, to grow your own cannabis plants on private property as long as they are – for some unexplainable quirk of the Spanish legal system – out of view. There’s a limit of two plants per household. 

Visitor look at products of a stand at the Spannabis Cannabis Fair in Cornellá, near Barcelona. The fair is a smorgasbord of stalls with products for smoking and cultivating cannabis. (Photo by Josep Lago / AFP)

Cannabis clubs and associations

One legal loophole that exists in Spain is that of its famous ‘asociaciones cannabicos’. These are private member’s clubs where you can buy and consume cannabis within the confines of the property.

In order to join, often you’ll have to be introduced by a current member, and pay a membership fee. These clubs operate somewhat similarly to coffee shops in Amsterdam, or dispensaries in the United States, in that you enter and there’s staff working who can explain and recommend the different strains, types, and prices on offer.

Cannabis clubs are usually set up to be like bars with music, and often have pool and foosball tables. It is worth noting, however, that these clubs are occasionally subject to seizure by police who try to exploit the legal grey area to their own advantage, and in Catalonia – the capital of cannabis clubs in Spain, where 70% of Spain’s clubs are located – Catalonia’s Superior Court recently ruled against them.

There the courts are trying to close the legal loophole by overturning a 2016 regulation approved by the Barcelona City Council permitting the clubs to operate in the city. It is believed appeals are in process.

Medical cannabis

Spain produces a lot of medical cannabis, but not for Spaniards. Medical Plants S.L.U – a subsidiary of a big Spanish agricultural company – are just one of several growers legally approved by the Spanish government to cultivate and export cannabis for medicinal purposes in other countries.

In Spain, there are still no fully-formed medicinal cannabis laws. Like in the UK, it is technically possible to get your hands on some legal, medicinal weed, but this is incredibly difficult and just a handful of prescriptions have been given out. In Spain, the very few prescriptions that are written are usually for nasal sprays.

There are no official laws on medical marihuana in Spain yet. Photo: Lluis Gené/AFP


Go to any big city in Spain and you’ll have probably seen CBD shops. CBD products are not illegal provided the product contains less than 0,2% of THC, the psychoactive component in weed that makes you feel ‘high’.

The future

As some court systems fight back against cannabis use and clubs, there’s also a burgeoning legalisation movement in Spain. It is, of course, very political. Last year the governing party, PSOE, voted against a motion introduced by minor left-wing party Más País (and supported by its junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos) to legalise recreational use. 

PSOE supports research into medicinal use, but are against fully-legalised recreational use.

This aligned PSOE with both PP and far-right Vox in the vote, and with a general election looming that the right seem poised to win, it seems the Spanish legalisation movement – whether medicinally or recreationally – has years to go before achieving its objective. 

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You can now be fined €2,000 in Spain for leaving cardboard in the street

Two stiff fines handed out to Madrid residents who left cardboard boxes next to recycling bins rather than inside them have brought to attention a new Spain-wide law against leaving waste on the street.

You can now be fined €2,000 in Spain for leaving cardboard in the street

It’s not uncommon in Spain to see large cardboard boxes sitting on the street next to the bins, instead of inside them.

Whether it’s as a result of the contenedores de basura (bins) being full and the boxes not fitting through the slits, leaving cardboard by the side of the bin is something that most of us living in Spain have probably been guilty of at some point.

The alarming news is that if you commit this misdemeanour in Spain, you can now actually be fined for it.

A law was passed by the Spanish government in April 2022, but it is only now coming to light following two cases of people being fined for doing exactly this.

Article 108 of law 07/2022 states that “the abandonment, including littering, the dumping and uncontrolled management of any type of non-hazardous waste puts people’s health at serious risk or is causing serious damage or deterioration to the environment”, and it is therefore an offence.

Article 109 of the same law states that the fine for minor infractions can be up to €2,001, for serious infractions penalties range from €2,001 to €100,000 and for very serious offences penalties go from €100,000 to €3.5 million.

In late September 2022, a man in the Barajas neighbourhood of Madrid received a fine from the Madrid City Council, for “leaving a box outside the dumpster meant for the disposal of cardboard”. The city hall decided that he should pay €2,001.

This is the second fine that has occurred recently, with another woman being fined in Madrid’s Aravaca neighbourhood for leaving a large cardboard box outside the bins, which contained baby nappies she bought on the internet.

She was identified because her name and address were on a sticker on the outside of the box, but she has claimed that it wasn’t her who left the box by the side of the bin but rather one of the building’s concierges who was responsible for taking out the neighbours’ rubbish. 

There is no evidence that towns and cities in other regions in Spain are currently handing out such large fines to their citizens, but Spanish law states they are now at liberty to do so, and municipalities can also implement their own laws and fines relating to incorrect waste disposal. 

Madrid City Council has defended its actions pointing out that it has recently drawn up its own new law for the Cleaning of Public Spaces, Waste Management and Circular Economy, and that those who are fined can reduce the amount by 40 percent if they pay in the first 15 days after receiving the fine.

The aim of this is to have a cleaner city by implementing measures that “enable the reduction of waste generation to guarantee the protection of the environment and people’s health, and to promote a greater collective awareness,” the council said in a statement.

The draft bill is set to be approved in December and includes new penalties for offences such as leaving large cardboard boxes outside their corresponding bin, with proposed fines of up to €750 for not properly recycling bottles or other glass objects.

Madrid also plans to hand out €3,000 to revellers who don’t throw away bottles and other waste from botellones (outdoor drinking gatherings).

Between now and December, when the bill will be approved, citizens can put forward their arguments stating whether they believe the sanctions are too high and if they are justified before it is voted upon by the council.  

Madrid city mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida said he was “surprised” by the high fines but explained that the final amounts will be enshrined in the new decree. He hasn’t indicated what will happen to those who have already been slapped with the higher €2,001 penalties.