The memory of the first (and last) drag that I took of a joint takes me back to a smoke-filled room in a three star hotel in Palma de Mallorca. I am surrounded by spotty school kids on their seminal end of year trip. A joint is passed around from hand to hand, mouth to mouth, until it reaches me. As soon as I inhale the smoke, I begin coughing and retching and think that I am going to die. I turn lots of different colours. My friends are laughing their heads off, including the good looking girl that I will never be able to seduce. That experience traumatized me and kept me away from marijuana for almost two decades. That was until, a few weeks ago, a poster in a Malaga street really called out to me. Spannabis was coming to the city, it is hemp fair, and the memories, laughs and mockery all pass through my head. Then a sweet voice reveals a secret to me: I will go to Spannabis, I am going to make up for the past; I am going to get high.
I arrive full of prejudice, but with an open mind. Before entering the enclosure of the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos de Málaga, the smell of weed hits me and I begin to fall under its spell. I scrutinise the people who are coming to the fair and I do not see as many dreadlocks as I had expected. Once inside, I am surprised by the neatness and look of the stands attending, the quality of the logos, the creativity of the headings and slogans, the pleasant colour and lighting. What on earth was I thinking: What was I expecting? The Bronx?
As I feel something jump inside me like a child about to open their Christmas presents, I walk around and have a good look. I want to see things. I see, I see lots of things. What do I see?
I come across an association that is called Energy Control which is dedicated to providing information on the consumption of drugs. However, this is not intended to prevent drug taking, but rather to teach people to take drugs well, carefully and responsibly. They provide consultation to reduce the risks of consumption. They explain what you should not mix, they have a website where you can check if your consumption of such or such a drug is excessive, they have leaflets about mushrooms, alcohol, speed, MDA, Ketamine, trippy drugs, women and drugs….It seems really useful to me as well as a kick in the balls to general hypocrisy. Bravo.
I see that there are various stands selling seeds and that there is so much variety that their catalogues remind me of the Pantone colour charts in Paint shops. Also, some have names that are almost like Pokémon characters; Purple Afghan Kush, Santa Sativa, Shark Attack or Moby Dick and Bubba Kush, which is apparently the "best indica cannabis in the world". The amplified photographs of seeds make them look like tropical fruits or something out of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers".
At another of the exhibition stands there is a chrome machine buzzing. It looks like the engine of a Second World War plane. I ask what it is and they tell me it is a machine for peeling buds. I immediately think of some baby lettuces that are like little buds, with anchovies and oil. However; this machine cuts marijuana buds. "Twenty kilograms an hour", the seller tells me like a proud father.
It all seems very interesting, but it is now time to try a little something. Where is the pot?, I ask myself looking suspiciously at the bored security guards who walk around the enclosure as they look after the roof beams. I decide to start with something light and have a Cannabeer. It is delicious and the leaflet they hand me explains that it won Best Hemp Product at Spannabis 2015. A prize? Yes, there are annual cannabis prizes such as categories such as Best Seed Bank, Best Nutrients, Best Growing Tool and Best Paraphernalia Product. How did I not know about all of this?
While I wait for the beer to take effect on me I try to find out what feminised seeds are or I entertain myself reading about cannabis applications or beauty products. There are creams and oils for skin, wrinkles, joints, acne and psoriasis at a few stands.
At one of the stands I take the chance to try a little piece of bread with cannabis olive oil, to see if it strengthens the effect of the beer.
It seems that I am now beginning to note a few things. One section of the fair is like Leroy Merlin, with all of the gardening plants. Another has everything you could want for your marijuana plant(s). There are electronic pH measurers, fertilisers, books about hydroponic growing…Another section is more about industry and technology.
In that section they are promoting digital vacuum furnace, presses to transform plant extracts into paste, lamps for urban growing, odour neutralisers or machines that look like parabolic antennas and I do not know what they are used for.
Another section is more social. There are talks about cannabis and science, documentaries are shown, and there is hemp crafts, paper filters, glass pipes, bongs…
Out of the blue, a crazy Serbian with a South American accent invites me to try his medicinal beer with marijuana. He shows me the photo of the master brewer who created it, a Bavarian. I try it; it is very cold and really hits the spot. He gives me a glass and tells me that I should come and visit his restaurant-hostel for backpackers in Malaga.
I begin to feel very relaxed, but that means nothing. That is when I almost fall flat on my face into the stand of some Dutch people who sell glass vaporisers as they announce the arrival of pure, medicinal puffs with no residue.
I grab one of the ingenuous vaporisers like a baby goat at its mother's bosom and I inhale the vapour as bubble rise inside it. It stings a little, I am about to cough and I remember my school friends, sitting around in a circle, laughing their heads off when I was about to cough my lungs up in that grotty hotel in Palma. I hold the air for as long as I can and then I let it go. I have not coughed. I inhale again. This time I let out a little cough, but only a few times. Who cares about them, I think.
It is time to go home, to have a good siesta, to be a husband and father, and write this article. As I leave the hall, I get into a bit of a singing mood. I sing songs from the 80's and 90's one after another. Spannabis no longer smells of marijuana to me. It smells of freedom, and I am really starting to get hungry.