The Canary Islands are a small group of volcanic islands that lie just 62 miles west of Morocco and enjoy a subtropical climate with year-round mild temperatures. The people here have grown cannabis for decades, long before the central government of Spain decided to relax its laws to allow for the existence of cannabis social clubs. Now that they have a chance to legitimize the community, there are plenty of people keen to participate.
Here, rainfall is scarce and the wind can prove to be an outdoor grower’s worst nightmare, but the temperatures are so favorable that outdoor growing can occur year-round, and many growers state that January is their favorite month to crop! In the wetter, more sheltered parts of the islands, some of the biggest plants seen in Europe happily thrive.
It’s Carnaval (the second-biggest in the world after Rio) when we arrive in the Canaries, and Santa Cruz de Tenerife is crowded with locals and visitors from all over the world. We watch as miles upon miles of lavishly-decorated locals of all ages, shapes, colors, and sizes parade down Santa Cruz’s main beachfront thoroughfare, their bright colors contrasting somewhat with the overcast February sky. We’re looking out for signs of people smoking cannabis, but apart from the odd gaggle of teenagers sharing furtive joints, it appears that it’s not yet a widespread social activity—at least not one that’s out in the open.
An hour later, we’re headed to the small city of San Cristobal de la Laguna to check out the first cannabis social club, a small venue known as Entropia. Its proprietor Francesco (who hails from Italy, along with half of Tenerife’s cannabis community) greets us with a broad smile and ushers us into his club. It’s functional and sparsely decorated, populated by a small throng of local Canarians who are friendly, welcoming, and eager to tell us all about life on the Canary Islands.
Francesco tells us that the cannabis community really became established in the 1960s as the first waves of hippies came to settle on the islands and mentions that at first, there were issues with locals destroying or stealing entire crops.
Even now, foreign growers based on the island may pay a little baksheeshhere and there to grease the wheels and keep everyone on the island happy. Tourists should also be careful smoking openly here—it is unlikely to result in serious repercussions, but police may well decide to exact on-the-spot “fines” (which probably don’t end up in the official police treasury).
All-in-all, the laid-back attitude of the Canary Islanders extends to most things, and the cannabis community is now by-and-large an established fact of Canarian life. There’s a handful of clubs on each of the larger islands, and as long as they keep their paperwork in order, the local police are happy to let them exist.
It’s so laid-back there even by Spanish standards that it easily takes all day to visit one club. We spend the obligatory hours examining the cannabis varieties on offer (at that time, it’s pretty limited, but they have some great outdoor Lavender), as well as hearing the life stories of a couple of the assorted locals at the bar.
After what seems like weeks, we extricate ourselves from our hosts’ relentless (although much appreciated) hospitality and make our way back to la casa for a welcome night’s rest. We’ll soon be heading up the side of the world’s third-tallest volcano El Teide—the centerpiece of Tenerife—to visit a grower and extract artist friend of ours, so we’ll need to be well-fed, well-rested, and ready to dab.
The next day, we meet up with Julio, an Italian friend who’s taking us to meet Federico, the extract artist—yet another Italian. As a British person, I’m beginning to feel somewhat less ashamed of my country’s rampant infestation of these islands at this stage, now that there’s apparently a similar nationality to compare against.
Julio takes us up some seriously hair-raising mountain roads to get us to Federico, who simply calls his outfit “BHO — Made in the Canary Islands.” This straightforward approach is mirrored in his tools and his manner: Federico explains that he uses simple open-blasting equipment and that for him, the quality is all the starting material. He also stresses that his products get at least four days in the vacuum oven, which helps to ensure their smoothness. His plants are grown outdoors, with minimal additives, in the bright Canarian sun.
Federico takes us outside to show us some of his small plants, which are in full flower in mid-February and looking wonderfully purple due to the cold nighttime temperatures at this time of year. He explains that the average daytime temperature is between 70 and 75 degrees, but nighttime temperatures can drop to below 50, so there’s plenty of opportunity for purpling, along with some serious, frosty crystal development. He actually cropped his large plants just two weeks ago, so we don’t get to see them in flower, but we’re certainly happy to smoke their terpene-rich, herbaceous harvest.
Later, after another precarious drive down patchy mountain roads, we visit the second of Tenerife’s social clubs, the Association Medical Cannabis in Playa de las Americas. President Samuele (another Italian) greets us warmly, and we also talk to the club secretary Johan, who, to our endless surprise, isn’t Italian. He’s German, and he’s happy to talk to us at length about why he came to Tenerife three years ago.
Although he is involved with the club, it turns out that Johan’s main responsibility is none other than the mighty Seedfinder.eu, a massively popular website that religiously tracks and records strains from commercial seed banks. Johan has built up the site over the last eight years or so, and finds that it’s easier to keep track of things while living a worry-free life far from the restrictive laws of his home country—and much closer to the very ground that many big European seed banks now use to grow their big crops!
Samuele’s club is, without a doubt, one of the nicest we’ve ever been in, in terms of ambiance and atmosphere—not to mention the view, which looks out over a glittering blue ocean edged with black volcanic sand, the gray outline of La Gomera island off in the distance. It’s here that we truly begin to comprehend just what a paradise this place is, and why so many who come here never wish to leave. Our time here has been brief, but we’ve made some wonderful friends, and there is no doubt we’ll be back to investigate this budding community more closely.