People often confuse cannabis clubs in Barcelona with coffeeshops found in Amsterdam, but in fact the two of them couldn’t be more different. First, coffeeshops are open to the public, and generally anyone can walk in and buy weed (and ingest it in a manner of their choosing). Cannabis clubs in Barcelona are not open to the public, and marijuana cannot be purchased at one, even if you are a member of the club.

Club membership is difficult to obtain too; most clubs only allow new applicants that have been sponsored by an existing club member. This ensures that clubs remain relaxed and calm (as opposed to the sometimes rowdy and loud coffeeshops found in Amsterdam). It’s more of a social club akin to those that the aristocracy in Europe were so obsessed with.

Further hampering ones ability to join is that cannabis clubs cannot advertise in Spain-meaning that most people don’t even know that such clubs exist (especially foreigners). Some clubs advertise in the form of flyers or simply people walking up to you and asking if you want to join, but it’s best to avoid these clubs; they may not be legal and the last thing you want to do is get caught doing something illegal in a foreign country.

A cannabis club is more like a cooperative than a bar, with each member being responsible for growing and distributing marijuana to embers. This means that when you join a cannabis club, you need to purchase all the equipment that goes along with growing marijuana-and learn to cultivate it. You are responsible for all of this paraphernalia and your membership fee also takes into account building and utility costs. Most of the time, this membership fee is collected on a yearly basis.

Although there are no residency requirements for membership, Spanish laws are rapidly changing, meaning you should use caution before joining a club. The 200 or so cannabis clubs in Barcelona are currently operating under business statutes that allow for a lot of loopholes-and weren’t designed to cover marijuana based businesses. In order to seal up these loopholes, officials are instituting health code standards and are even introducing laws at the local level to regulate these businesses. Keep abreast of these laws, especially if you are a foreign member of a cannabis club.