Tens of thousands of pot pros, cannabis connoisseurs, and hash hobbyists will descend upon Barcelona for the 2019 Spannabis Hemp Fair — one of the largest cannabis festivals and trade shows in the world, and arguably the annual hub of the European cannabis community.
For North American consumers who can't make it to Spain, Spannabis might seem a bit confusing: is it like the High Times Cup? MJBizCon? 4/20?
Look no further. Here's what you need to know about Spannabis 2019:
What is Spannabis?
Spannabis Hemp Fair — or Spannabis Feria del Cáñamo in Spanish — claims to be the biggest cannabis festival in the world, with more than 30,000 attendees each year, representing over 30 countries. It's definitely the largest in Europe, where it is seen as the annual coming-together for the European cannabis industry, which doesn't enjoy the same legal status that the industry does now in Canada and parts of the United States.
The most prominent cohort of attendees are growers. For them, Spannabis is a chance for them to show off their latest and greatest genetics, strains, and innovations. Others, like companies who make vaporizers and other equipment, are also prominent attendees. Generally speaking, Spannabis is a bit like the Consumer Electronics Show, but for weed: It's all about the latest and greatest innovations in growing and consuming cannabis.
“It's very cultivation-focused,” said Deepak Anand, vice-president of business relations with Cannabis Compliance Inc. For producers looking to expand their product offerings, Spannabis represents a major trading hub on the seed market, which could see more European genetics imported into North America.
It's also a lot of fun, too. When Sports Illustrated's Greg Bishop went to Spannabis to write a profile of former NFL star Ricky Williams (a profile, by the way, which should be required reading for anybody interested in cannabis), he called Spannabis “part trade show, part research conference, and 100 percent festival of copious cannabis consumption. This is Comic-Con for weed,” Bishop wrote.
Though officially, according to the Spannabis website, attendees are “not allowed to smoke inside the venue,” by all accounts this rule appears to be only loosely enforced when it comes to smoking weed, if at all.
Tickets aren't quite sold out, but if the last-minute urge strikes you, you'll have to get tickets at the venue, as online sales are closed.
When and Where is it?
Spannabis is taking place between March 15 through 17, 2019, at the Fira de Cornellà in Barcelona — a large event center with an iconic pyramid-shaped entrance, where the festival has been held since 2003.
Who Runs Spannabis?
This year's iteration of the festival will be the first under new ownership. In January 2019, High Times bought Spannabis for 7 million euros (about US $7.8 million). The deal is being heralded as a major turning point for the festival. “This deal is a game-changer for Spannabis. We've idolized High Times for decades, so to be adopted by this groundbreaking team is nothing short of extraordinary,” said Spannabis CEO Carlos Palomino in a press release.
Alongside this year's Spannabis festivities, the seventh World Cannabis Conference will be held. If Spannabis is heavily focused on advances in technology and genetics, the World Cannabis Conference will focus on medical and scientific research, as well as the legal and political developments in the cannabis world. For North American producers, of particular interest this year will likely be the opening of European markets and expansion of production facilities. Many Canadian producers, such as Spectrum and Aurora, have been making business moves in recent months to get a foot in the European market.
For those companies, Spannabis is a good way to get your brand out there. “Spannabis is the meeting point for the entire European cannabis scene,” stated Alex Rogers, executive producer with the International Cannabis Business Conference, which sponsors the World Cannabis Conference being held at Spannabis. “It is first and foremost a consumer event, however many folks who attend are also looking for a B2B element.”
Is There a Competition Aspect?
It wouldn't really be a cannabis event if there weren't some form of judging, would it? Like many comparable festivals, Spannabis includes a number of prizes for different products. Unlike other cannabis competitions, Spannabis tends to focus much more on the growers and their industry, rather than having different strains compete with one another. This year, there are eight categories, including Best Seed Bank, Best Nutrient, Best Cultivation Product, and Best Vaporizer.
One to watch: Will anyone be able to beat out Genehtik Seeds for the Seed Bank category this year? Genehtik, a Spanish seed company, has won that category every year since 2014 for its array of feminized, auto-flowering seeds.
What is the Appeal?
Why should someone go to Spannabis?
The answer: It's a conference that gives a cannabis user a sense of where the cannabis industry is heading, what it is interested in, and who is making some of the more exciting and interesting products that are either available or soon to be.
Plus, it's a party: You can avail yourselves of some of Barcelona's renowned private consumption lounges, where you can smoke with friends in a safe setting. (Many are members-only, but the general advice online is that during Spannabis, a little bit of social savvy and a bit of time asking around can easily get you in the door, where you should be able to sample some of the best products on the European market.)
Something that is often forgotten, too, is that European cannabis culture and North American cannabis culture can be different. Many people in Europe, for instance, roll spliffs — weed with a bit of tobacco in it — rather than straight joints.
Above all, though, it is a fair where the growing business of cannabis is on full display. “The fair is, however, about much more than cultivation and consumption; it brings together business people from various countries involved in the manufacture and marketing of cannabis products,” wrote Jessica Palm, a Swedish drug researcher, in a 2008 issue of the journal Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. “This was a regular fair, where companies try to sell you their merchandise. In this case mostly seeds, smoking equipment, breeding equipment and other hemp products such as clothes, medication, and so on. But it could just as well have been sailing equipment or mobile phones.”