The cannabis industry has a wide range of opportunities that many people don’t know about. This time, Tony Frischknecht takes a look at the coffee shop model of Spain’s El Capitan. Join in as Tony talks with Miguel Fersen and Mark Sanchez Cabrera from Spain about the benefits of cannabis and how to educate people who are in doubt to tip their toes in the water. In this episode, Miguel and Mark talk about a coffee shop in Barcelona operating in a very smooth way where you could only get in if you’re a member. They also share their personal experiences on how they started the business. Tune into this episode and learn that you could stay healthy and productive by using cannabis in the right way.
Watch the episode here:
Listen to the podcast here:
Recognizing Opportunities In The Cannabis Industry With Miguel Fersen And Mark Sanchez Cabrera
I’m super excited. We’re reaching across the ocean to some guests. They’re from Spain. We’re going to dip into the thriving cannabis economy over in Spain. Spain is home to some of the most experienced cannabis users in the world behind only Iceland and the United States in rates of consumption with 10% of the population using cannabis regularly.
Spanish Cannabis Laws reflect the cannabis friendliness in the country. Under the Spanish Penal Code, the sale of cannabis is illegal but consumption is not. Private possession of cannabis has been legal in the country for years. As long as your cannabis stays in your house on private property, it’s legal. In July 2015, a change in law also effectively decriminalized the cultivation of cannabis in private places as long as the cultivation is out of view of the public. This change in law has led to a surge in the opening of cannabis clubs.We have bars for people who want to get drunk. Why don't we have coffee shops for people who want to smoke cannabis? Click To Tweet
These cannabis clubs, which there are now upwards of 700 in the country, are places that will cultivate cannabis and provide a place for members to come and smoke in exchange for a membership fee. There are a wide variety of clubs, some are primarily recreational, others cater to specific groups of people and some catering to medical marijuana patients with doctors on staff to give recommendations. The clubs come with a catch, members must be over 21 years of age and be Spanish citizens to get memberships into clubs. Cannabis tourism won’t be booming in Spain until tourists are legally allowed to gain access to cannabis clubs.
The Spanish Region of Catalonia where Barcelona is located has legalized medical cannabis and patients will have to go to cannabis clubs to obtain and use cannabis. The legalization of medical cannabis in Catalonia has led to Barcelona as a hub for many cannabis clubs. Over 400 exist throughout the region. The Department of Health has also legalized Sativex for patients in Catalonia. It is a cannabis-based medicine for patients with multiple sclerosis and cancer. I am excited to have our next guest on. We have Miguel Fersen and Marc Sanchez Cabrera. Gentlemen, welcome to the show. How are you guys doing?
We’re doing good. Thank you very much for having us. This is a great opportunity. We’re super excited.
It’s great to have you on. Let’s share with the readers about how you guys got into cannabis and a little bit about yourselves.
My first step into cannabis was when I was a teenager. It’s when you, for the first time, start smoking and then some of your friends bring some hash or some marijuana and it’s like, “Look what I have.” I remember that time when I started and I liked it a lot. Somehow you also had that feeling you were doing something wrong. This was years ago. You had to do it in a park at night hidden. You had to watch out that the police wouldn’t be around.
For obvious reasons, at some point, I quit smoking marijuana. I started again when I was mid-twenty. For me, it was completely different. I was a bit older and more mature. I was able to then make my decisions in a different way. I wasn’t okay with this feeling of being a criminal or doing something wrong. That was the first time I started thinking of marijuana as something that could accompany my life without feeling bad.
That’s where I started growing a bit of a feeling for marijuana and thinking, “People tell you this is wrong. Why is it wrong?” For me, that is where it started on a private level to consume it in a way that I wouldn’t feel bad. After a few years, I also saw the chance to open a business in the cannabis world. For many years I’ve been an active consumer of marijuana. Maybe not an activist but I’m somebody who would defend the consumption and also the legalization of marijuana.
I’m a bit of a late bloomer. I remember when I was young, I was ambitious. I was working in sales. For me, cannabis consumers were always the lazy and laid-back guys. That’s not something I wanted to be near. When I was 25, I started trying it with my roommate back in the day. He introduced me to it. We started to go into one coffee shop in Aragon, one of the nicest for me in Barcelona.
You saw all these different people from bankers, people who came after work, people who had pains in a professional environment. That’s when I also had a change of heart and I started to see that cannabis consumers and everyone, it’s not a certain type. I got more used to it. Since then, I’ve been an active user. On the weekend, I like to enjoy THC. During the week when I work, I like to consume CBD to have a bit more strain and be fresh the next morning.
I work in sales. I was working for an American company for a long time, Verizon. We’re active in Spain, Germany, different markets and technology selling. With time, we came across the industry and said, “This industry is at 2%, 3% of what it will be in the next 100 years.” We got excited. We went into research and we looked at it. From there on, it didn’t stop.
We came to the conclusion that the train of legalization has left the station. It will come. It is invaluable. It’s 8,000 years of free trade of cannabis versus 80 years of prohibition. It’s a matter of time. We want to be there. We want to be in this market. It’s a market that helps people, takes away from big tobacco, from big pharmaceuticals. It helps people with mental health. It has all these benefits.
We want to grow in this industry. It came from a consumer relationship. I always wanted to be a founder. I was an entrepreneur. I said that I’m going to be founding in this space because it has so much to offer and it will grow over the next 100, 300 years. We can’t even imagine what other use cases can come out of it because we’re just at the beginning of the research. It was suppressed. This plant is a healing plant and it will help a lot of people deal with anxiety, getting perspective and getting more open-minded. I’m excited about it.Cannabis can accompany your life without feeling bad about it. You don’t have to feel like you’re doing something wrong. Click To Tweet
Pain, calming down or whatever. One of the biggest arguments for me is to decriminalize marijuana and also get away from all the stigma. What is bad about it? How many stories have you heard of a father who gets high, gets back home and beats his wife? I’ve never heard about that from a stoner. We’re okay with alcohol and I have seen people change their personality 100% when they’re drunk and nobody seems to attack that. We’re okay with it.
We have tobacco which causes 90% of lung cancer and we’re okay with it. We have alcohol which is not the best thing to drink. I don’t want to say we shouldn’t drink alcohol but we’re already accepting alcohol. What exactly is so bad about marijuana? That’s something that also drives me to start all this march towards legalization. There’s a lot of misunderstanding about the plant and people need some information about it.
How are the people of Spain beginning to take in cannabis being around? With all the clubs you guys have, it’s pretty apparent on many corners of your cities and towns at this point.
The thing is of the 700 clubs that might be spread around Spain, around 300 to 400 are based in Barcelona. We live in Barcelona. We could say that we are at the center of this growth. I have to say, it’s amazing. I still remember the time when we didn’t have clubs and you needed to find a dealer through some friends where you would end up meeting a super shady guy at night in a park. How is that better than going to a social club where you can walk in, get a gram of marijuana and sit down with every type of person. You’re sitting down with a guy who’s sitting in a suit.
I’ve seen older couples, probably around 80 years reading the newspaper and smoking a joint together. It doesn’t fit in my mind that it’s something bad. Everybody does it somehow. Why do we need to keep it a secret? We have bars full of people who want to get drunk. Why don’t we have coffee shops for people who want to smoke marijuana? It’s a logical step for me.
In Colorado, we had these same discussions over that period of understanding, “Are we going to legalize? Are we not? Are we medically legalized?” We’ve been fortunate enough to get past that. Those discussions aren’t happening anymore. It’s not like, “Is it worse for you than alcohol? Is it better?” These have all drifted away at this point. Do you guys see that happening more quickly now in Spain with the acceptance of large countries taking legalization like Canada and Mexico? Are you seeing more openness?
I also have to say that Spain itself is open to cannabis and it was already before the clubs were happening. First of all, we’re a country with a lot of sunlight so the crops grow well here. Also, Spain is a country where a lot of crops are grown. It’s an agricultural country. We’re close to Morocco. As you know, Morocco is the biggest producer and also the highest quality of hash. Hash was always the thing that is present in Spain for hundreds and hundreds of years.
People are open-minded to cannabis. Even before the coffee shops were coming, you went through Barcelona, it was pretty normal that you got a whiff of someone smoking weed on the street while drinking a beer. There is not a lot of big anti-cannabis sentiment in the market. Spain itself was already open to the idea. It’s no coincidence that the coffee shop idea is blooming and having so much success because Spania itself is positive for cannabis.
What’s stopping the country from legalizing cannabis at this point?
Even though there is a big change in how people percept marijuana and their consumers, there’s still a big part of the country which is a bit more traditional in the way of thinking and more conservative. It probably throws back to the time when you had to get your marijuana from a shady guy at night somewhere people wouldn’t see you. That is still stuck in some people’s heads. They compare it to some probably damaging drugs because you need to get it in the same way. The perception of the people still needs to change in a bigger way for it to become a political objective.
It’s not so much on the political agenda now. Also because there are clubs where people can go, there’s no pressure to change. Also, the laws are not conclusive. I’m going to give you an example. It’s legal. I can have a plant in my house. I can grow it in my garden as long as it’s not seen by anyone. I can grow it in my room if I want to and I can consume that.
The way coffee clubs work officially is they have members. Based on the number of members, they can grow an amount of cannabis. It’s illegal to buy and sell. The clubs cannot go and buy big bulks of marijuana. The process of buying marijuana is still illegal, which means a lot of the marijuana that is in the clubs gets there illegally. It’s not criminalized but it’s illegal. There is a bit of a loophole. There’s the question, “Is the police doing anything about it?” That is different from place to place.
In Barcelona, we’re open-minded to cannabis. No user gets harassed. The delivery guys that bring the marijuana to the clubs are not getting harassed. The police basically stand down. If you go to other parts of Spain, that changes drastically. For example, if you go to Majorca or Ibiza, which are islands and you talk to club owners there, they have visits from the police. They come in with gear and everyone needs to get on the floor with their hands behind their heads and some of them get taken to jail and have to spend the night in jail or stuff like that.
It depends on each region, the government, how conservative it is and how open it is to someone. There are cities that are open to it. For example, in Barcelona or the South of Spain, which is near Morocco, cannabis is also much more accepted and the police don’t go so much after the cannabis dealers as they go for the other dealers. It’s different from country to country, city to city and state to state.
The coffee shops themselves, what challenges are owners faced by opening them?
It is extremely challenging because nothing about it is illegal but it’s not 100% legal either. You get a license from the city and that’s the thing and that’s why it changes so much. There’s no National Law about it. Every city, every smaller town, which still belongs to a bigger city may still take their own action and decision towards marijuana.
Here in Barcelona, we have an open-minded party sitting in the city hall so they don’t mind and that’s why Barcelona is booming because everything around is a gray area. You get a license for a club in which in order to make it work, you already have to do illegal stuff like buying marijuana. It’s illegal but I have a license to have marijuana in my club. My question is, “Should I grow it all in my club?” I can’t because they’re also limited to square meters. You can’t have more than 250 square meters. You have a space limitation. You can’t plant enough there because you need space for your members.
They are already forcing you to do something illegal around your legal license. The next step is you’re not allowed to sell. As a member, you give free will charity payments, as we call it that and then you get some marijuana. In the end, you’re jumping over the law because you’re not allowed to sell but you call it different. You say, “I’m giving you charity.” At the end of the day, I’m still putting money on the table and I’m getting marijuana.
To clarify for the Americans, inside the club, there’s no money that changes.
Do they pay on a monthly basis? How does that work?Spain’s cannabis coffee shop model is just going to get better and it's going to get expansion. Click To Tweet
You have to charge your membership card or chip with money and you do that outside. Once you’re in the club, whatever you consume is taken off your credit. There’s no money transaction. I’m not getting something. I’m giving you money. You say, “You give a general payment to our club and now you consume whatever you want inside.” You can’t say, “I’m buying anything.”
You’re not allowed to say it. You cannot go to a club and say, “I want to buy something.” The club is going to say, “We don’t sell anything here. We are a members club and we share what we have with all the members. There’s a free willing fee that you give us to support the club.” They have to be careful with their language.
My guess is when you have tourists coming through, you get a lot of this mistaken like, “We want to buy some.” “You can’t buy it here. Sorry.” They’re then confused and like, “You have it right there. What do you mean?”
“What do you mean I can’t buy marijuana? That’s what I came for.”
There’s no transaction that takes place aside from the membership chip that you have. What products are being made available in these clubs? What are we looking at?
You have to imagine it like a bar in which you’re allowed to consume and get your marijuana. After Corona, not anymore but you could lend a bong. You could buy papers for your joints. You could get any accessories you need plus drinks, food, whatever you want. It’s a nice place to be. You’re sitting in a nice spot where you’re allowed to consume marijuana. That’s amazing about it.
You also can bring your own food to the club and consume it there. You cannot buy it there but you can consume your own food. It depends on the club, there are clubs that are bigger, more famous for the quality of the product they have, clubs where you go to hang out and for younger people. It always depends on the crowd and what the club’s intention is.
In good clubs in Barcelona, you have a vast majority of hash, dry sift, resin, CBD, THC, Indica, Sativa. Most of the stuff that we produce is produced in Spain. Spain has good growers. We export a lot to Amsterdam. A lot of the good quality products around Amsterdam come from Barcelona. Also, for example, there’s a lot of clubs that offer Cali weed. There’s a special segment where it says, “This is a weed from Cali. It’s California weed.” It normally has a high price or higher quality for people who are connoisseurs.
A popular strain and one of my favorites are Gelato 33. It’s an American strain. Either we get Gelato directly from Cali or we plant it here with the Gelato seeds. When it comes to quality, Spain is by far at a high level. It’s probably comparable to California when it comes to quality. A lot of people from Europe come here to enjoy quality. There are clubs that are known for their high quality of different varieties.
There are so many different strains, ways to do this. Sometimes, you can get maybe a strain from Cali but it doesn’t grow so well in Spain because of altitude and differences in the climate. With the growers in Spain, would you guys say that there is a large percentage of home growers that grow their own in Spain or no?
Home growers, I don’t think so.
There are some clubs. Imagine you’re a big grower and you already have been for a long time, you get the license for your club. You then get your friends, your people and your surroundings. Your customers come and they buy from you. There are clubs that only sell what they produce themselves but this is maybe 5%. Most clubs have different suppliers and it also depends on the season. They look at different qualities. Also, in competition, they’re close to each other sometimes. Barcelona is not a big city when it comes to size.
I’m glad you brought that up. What are some different business decisions these club owners are making to distinguish themselves from the guy two doors down? How are they handling that?
That depends a lot as well on which part of the city or your club is facing. If you’re in a more humble area, for example, your members are going to go for price. They are going to look for cheap marijuana. They don’t want to spend too much so you probably need to focus on pricing. If you’re in a touristy area close to the beach then it’s more spectacular. You need to focus on your club and how looks. You need to have special strains. You need to have special events. Some of them even have live music and DJs. They put an effort there. It depends a lot on your members.
Do you see the growth of clubs and big lounge areas? Are you seeing a growth into a new generation of cannabis at this point?
A hundred percent. It shifts the people that consume it. There are some clubs and people go there to work during the day. People that work from home especially now in quarantine and want to spend their time, go to the club. They bring their laptop and work there. They stay there all day. You have a lot of people coming from business after work.
I’ve seen the clubs in the evening, it gets full. If people come out of their offices, they may be stressed. Before, what you did is you went to a pub, drink your beer and get your alcohol. Now, there’s a shift of people coming and saying, “I can go to the club, relax, smoke a joint, calm down, go home and be chilled.”
Also, you have the younger generations. I remember when I was young, we were looking up to the people drinking alcohol because the cool kids, the older ones were all drinking alcohol and were in the clubs. This is changing if you look now at the younger generations. Understand that if I have to spend 10, 15, 30 minutes at a bar to get a drink for $12, $15, which then I drink in ten minutes or less and then I have to go back and I have spent all this money. I have a hangover the next day. I changed my character. Maybe I get my ego boosted because I’m drunk.
It doesn’t make so much sense if I bring to my home a gram of weed, a pre-rolled joint and enjoy the music and the drinks more. I will have a good time. I will be dancing. The next day, I wake up, I haven’t spent a lot of money and I don’t have a hangover. What I’m seeing is a shift from the younger generations that they see marijuana in a different life.
For them, it’s not like, “Alcohol is cool and marijuana is this.” It’s 50/50. This is what’s going to change in society. People are going to see cannabis as an alternative to alcohol, tobacco and all these things that we treat ourselves for anxiety and problems. The younger generations are going to come in and normalize cannabis to a point where the generations after are going to see it as something of everyday use and a plant that heals and helps.
We can see that in a direct example because Miguel has a younger brother. He’s quite young. Not only him but his entire group of friends are so much more into marijuana than alcohol, for example. It’s based on his life experience. He says, “We go to a club, spend €10 and I have marijuana for the whole night. I see my friends, we hang out, we have a great time and I’m fresh the next morning.” There’s some change in how younger people in what recreational activities they’re looking for.
It’s hard to beat that. I’ve noticed a shift here in the states with California especially kids turning to edibles instead of alcohol on their Friday nights. They’re hanging out with friends and that’s what they’re enjoying. Your right, I can see this normalization starting to happen. Of course, the alcohol companies here in the US are big and large. They’re keyed into this. Many of them are tying into the beverage side of this whole thing. Do you have any beverages? Do you have edibles? Do you have stuff that is able to consume on the black market that you’re getting into the clubs?
Yes. It’s legal the same as cannabis. We have a lot of edibles, a lot of gummy bears, brownies, all the things. What’s getting trendy are cocktails. It’s zero liquid and can be in THC form or CBD form. Instead of having vodka tonic, you’re going to have an orange juice with some THC, which is healthier and it also gives you a little bit of a buzz if you want to. We see this more and more in events that the coffee shops throw. There are a lot of events especially before COVID. There are DJs and live music coming.
We may be watching big football games together. Maybe there are brands that come together and present the products and give free samples. What we’ve seen in these events more and more are CBD or THC cocktails. It’s a trend that’s coming. I can personally see that in ten years’ time, you go into a club and you have the option of vodka cranberry or an orange juice THC with Gelato and another strain mixed. I see that coming and it didn’t make sense. It’s the same format. It’s cheaper to produce and much healthier than consuming alcohol.
Are clubs allowing alcohol with the THC at this point?
The is maximum beer and wine. They limit themselves to beer and wine, which is a good idea. Marijuana is a plant and we like it. We want it to be legal for everybody to be able to consume it. It still has its effects. Somehow, it’s still a good idea not to mix it with the effects of other things like alcohol or whatever you could take.
Also if you’re not used to it.
Especially if some of them are younger consumers. If you start smoking and maybe you’re not so used to it and then you have a strong cocktail with it, it’s probably not a good idea to mix it up.
Especially if you’re a newbie.
We all said that it doesn’t have a good outcome.
I’m curious, what are opportunities for business owners or investors that you see are happening or on their way to happening? What are you seeing out there that makes sense if you want to start a business, “I would do something like this,” or so on?
I’m not sure exactly what you should be doing.
We’ll particularly focus on Spain. You guys have a business. Interesting times are happening in the US. We have a lot of opportunities but it’s slowly drifting away to bigger business. There still is a lot, however, competition is getting stiffer because you’ve got these large corporations that are starting to be created in cannabis. It makes it tougher for the little guy. However, I know there’s a vast amount of opportunity in Spain especially where you guys are in place. What do you see that’s either on the horizon or happening now in Spain, particularly, that makes sense for entrepreneurs to work or they’re looking to?It’s never good to lack competition. When you have competitors, you always have to step up. Click To Tweet
The main trend I can see in Spain is growing of CBD. CBD firms are growing rapidly. There are a lot of companies coming in big. We have an ideal climb upwards and it’s getting more and more legal and CBD is booming at the moment in Europe. It’s getting more and more traction. It’s being less viewed as something dangerous and is more something healing
People are getting more education from it. It’s 100% booming here in Spain the CBD market and the production of CBD. The other point that I see and where our company is focused is if you remember the gold rush back in the US, everyone went to search for the gold. The guys who got rich were the ones who sold the accessories to help to find the gold.
The picks and shovels.
We saw the opportunity here to give people the opportunity to use and consume cannabis in the most healthy way possible. That’s where we see the opportunities. Of course, you have the clubs. The clubs have a limited amount of licenses. In Barcelona Center, for example, there are around 300 licenses and they are done. There are no more. The license cannot be in these schools, in police stations or in government buildings. You have to have a certain distance in between.
Also, the amount of space is limited. You have to have the ventilation right and so on. That means that the demand is going to keep growing but there’s always the same amount of coffee shops. The amount of these coffee shops that are here, every space that’s now a coffee shop will be a coffee shop in ten years. Maybe it’s not the same owners but it will be a coffee shop because it wouldn’t make sense to turn it down back into a restaurant. It will be a coffee shop. If you have a coffee shop in Barcelona, you’re going to have an asset that is going to increase in value over time more and more.
Compared to the US where you’re a couple of years far away in this and you have a big advantage when it comes to knowledge and everything you have on your market already, a big advantage for somebody who already has certain know-how would be the momentum. It is probably time now to start your business. Put a foot into the Spanish market because once it is fully legalized, which is just a matter of time, the big companies will come. Either you’re strong at that moment or you probably missed the train.
You guys have developed partnerships with some of these clubs. Some of the products that you have developed, I’d like to go into that a little bit. If you can’t have any more coffee shops, what else is there? Become partners with some of these coffee shops is the way I’m looking at it. How did you start down that road? What prompted that? Did you have some friends? Green Palace is one of your partners and you’ve got some other ones that you’re working with as well. What was the thought behind that?
We densely stepped into it when we discovered our first product, which is the Activated Charcoal Filters. What was special about them when we learned about them is it’s a filter that filters toxins as every filter does but you have a high percentage of THC, which still comes through, which most of the filters don’t have. When we found out about this, we’re amazed. It was logical somehow to say you roll yourself a cigarette in and you put a filter in it. If you roll yourself a joint and you smoke it without a filter, why? It’s still bad for your lungs, isn’t it?
When we found out about this, we started consuming it. There were some brands already existing and we looked for a collaboration with them and they weren’t interested. At that point, we said, “Let’s do this for us.” This is how we started becoming a company in this market. We found something and it made so much sense to us. This was a few years ago. From there on, we started developing some more products.
The coffee shop model that we have now here in Spain, first of all, it’s going to get better, it’s going to get improved with time. Second of all, it’s going to get an expansion. It’s going to go into London, Berlin and Paris. All these cities are going to come up with ways. If you compare to what happened in Amsterdam, it had a big hype and everyone went to Amsterdam to smoke weed and then Amsterdam said, “There are a lot of things that we don’t want. We don’t want this massive amount of tourists coming here just to get high.” There was a downside. A lot of coffee shops are closing.
Barcelona has more coffee shops than Amsterdam but that was not always the case. I remember Amsterdam had over 800 coffee shops and it statistically went down. They got some laws so the tourists can’t come and abuse this. It also created a lot of noise. Nowadays, if you go to Amsterdam, the coffee shops are more equal to a bar. You have all types of different levels and people coming there maybe also to abuse marijuana. It’s still something that gets you addicted. It has a negative impact on the crowd maybe that’s outside.
The coffee shop model here in Barcelona is much slicker. First of all, everyone is a member. You only can get in if you know another member. In the clubs, they give you a speech and they talk to you, “These are the rules that we have. Please, don’t disturb the neighbors.” The coffee shops themselves, if they want to open up, have to go to the neighborhood and ask for permission and say, “We’re going to open up this neighborhood. If you have any complaints, contact me.” It’s a smooth way.
Also, if you look, you won’t see it as a coffee shop. They are invisible. It’s a door. There are no signs or anything. If you don’t know that it’s a coffee shop, you wouldn’t assume that it’s a coffee shop. There are no people outside of the coffee shops hanging out, being loud or being high. That’s not something that’s happened. This model that we have here will be replicated in the other cities because it’s much more smooth and much better integrated into the economy
Let me ask you this. This might be a silly question. Do they sell coffee at the coffee shop?
Not all of them.
I’m a big fan of coffee so I was curious.
I’m not sure if we’re using the right term. We have always known it as coffee shops. This is how it started in the Netherlands. Being Europeans, it’s probably the closest we have been to this. If you translate it directly from Spanish, it would be more something like a social club. It’s not called a coffee shop but we call it a coffee shop because that’s what we call the clubs in Amsterdam.
Being in Amsterdam, they weren’t out in the open but they weren’t completely hidden to the coffee shops that were there. It sounds like the locals thought it was a negative effect on tourists, which is a beautiful place. It’s a great little city to walk around in, unique little neighborhoods but expensive. I can imagine, they’ve seen some deflation with this mentality. Have you guys been back in a long time to Amsterdam or no?
It’s a few years back already.
For me, it was over 2, 3 years ago.
Have you seen a big change? Have you seen it reduce tourism and a change in the culture around there?
I always assumed that Amsterdam had the number one quality when it comes to products. That was always my assumption. When I started getting into the Spanish market, I started to consume in Spain and went to different coffee shops. I went to Amsterdam, I said, “The quality in a lot of places is much better.” Also, there are some coffee shops that are nice in Amsterdam but there are some that weren’t so nice. They were not clean. The staff wasn’t nice. It was common, get your stuff and get out. It’s for tourists. That’s something we don’t have in Spain.
It’s unfortunate that I feel like they’ve missed their opportunity to not only transform their local economy with cannabis and the tax revenue and everything else that it generates but they’ve also missed a large entrepreneurial window because it was such hype for many years. I agree with you, I had the same experience. I went there thinking, “We’re going to have some great quality product.” It was shit. I was disappointed. I did not find the budtenders helpful at all. They were almost rude. That natural evolution never happens. We never had that step it up.
I’ve noticed that the business mind here in the US has stepped that game up even from when I started my first dispensary years ago. It’s almost night and day with the quality of the product. It keeps getting better and better. It’s pretty amazing. We had a beginning time here in the states especially in Colorado specifically, where you could sell anything that you could grow. It didn’t matter if it was the quality. Places like Amsterdam got stuck in that. They got lazy. They never stepped up their quality. They never had quality assurance put in place to create a better product. Are there true clubs that are taking this seriously?
Maybe the problem that Amsterdam had over the years is it’s never been good to have a lack of competition. When you have competitors, you always have to step up. Maybe Barcelona has that effect on other cities in a few years because some of the clubs focus on having all types of good quality strains and that’s their trademark.
It also exists in Holland. A lot of people from Holland say, “If you want a good quality of weed, don’t go to Amsterdam, go to Rotterdam,” for example. This is where the locals buy. It’s where the weed culture is. The Center of Amsterdam went for the tourist. In Spain, we also have the same. In the Center of Barcelona, the restaurants for the tourists don’t have good food because they don’t have to. They walk in and they don’t care.
Don’t go to the Las Ramblas and have a bite. It’s going to be awful.
We have to be fair to Amsterdam. They probably have the same level of quality in the right places.
I’m glad you brought that up. If anybody’s reading from Amsterdam, I’m not being hard on you. It’s just my experience in the Center of Amsterdam. That’s a great point, I’m glad you brought that up. The entrepreneurs that are reading this blog we have a lot of these types of discussions. Understanding how to start up some of this cannabis business, we have plant-touching businesses and we have ones that are ancillary.
It’s like what you guys are developing with the filter. You have a brand, El Capitan. You are building this momentum forward. What’s your vision now? When you started, you thought, “We can sell some of these filters. We like cannabis.” How have you guys shifted in 2020 or so in the direction where you’re growing your business?
The big word that could define our mission is change. There are three points that are related to our filters to an herbal mix that we offer instead of tobacco in case you want to mix it. Our papers are 100% hemp paper. There are no additional ingredients there. We try to make it somehow a bit healthier. We’re trying to change people’s way of smoking. We want people to smoke or to have that right to decide to smoke but we also want them to be a bit conscious. It’s still smoking. Try to make it as healthy as you can. That’s one of the changes we want to make.
There’s also a point of changing how people see us in Spain or Europe or how they see the marijuana consumers. As Miguel brought it up at the beginning, when he thought of marijuana back then, he thought of lazy people, people who lay around all day, don’t get shit together and don’t get shit done. We wanted to prove everybody wrong with our company.
We have four partners. We are stoners but we’re building a company and we work hard. Being a stoner or smoking marijuana doesn’t prevent us from getting shit done. That’s the other change that we want to produce in people’s minds, be less ignorant. The final change that we want to promote and want to be part of is the legal situation.
For me, what changed a little bit also is the focus on clients. When you start a business in cannabis, the first possible clients you look at are the people who are already smoking now. We want to understand that the best public for us is also people who are trying marijuana for the first time, who are hearing the first time from someone, “You should try this. Why don’t you smoke here with a filter? It’s not tobacco. It’s an herbal blend that doesn’t make you addicted. It’s a much healthier way. It doesn’t make you cough. The smoke is smoother. It’s okay.”
Our public for our brand is to educate the people who want to tip their toes into the water and try out cannabis but want to stay serious, hard-working, have a vision and are coming into the field. Not the ones that are already here that have been smoking for twenty years. We’re not going to change their smoking habits. If you use this as a way of consuming cannabis for X amount of time, you’re maybe going to stay with it. When someone new comes in, this is serious. We’re professional. We advocate for healthy consumption, a balanced consumption and consumption where you can have a proper life and also enjoy the benefits of cannabis.
We weren’t prepared for this question because I don’t agree I want to change them all.
One question that’s maybe a little bit easier to answer is with the filter or product like it, what acceptance have you gotten from your new users with filters? Is it logical to them? How did they take it?El Capitan gives people the opportunity to use and consume cannabis in the healthiest way possible. Click To Tweet
It’s more difficult for us to get people to try our filters than to get them to use them again. Here in Europe especially in Spain, people mix marijuana a lot with tobacco.
They’re making spliffs. That makes a lot of sense then for your Charcoal Filter.
Absolutely because it tastes different. In the US, you’re more used to smoking the plant. Especially coming from higher consumption of hash, you use to mix it with tobacco because you can’t smoke the hash.
You got to tame it down a little bit.
People took this habit. Now the plant is a bit bigger than the hash and they still have this habit of mixing it with tobacco. It’s a completely different experience.
Coming from the US, the health department is tied into testing. There are so many different pesticides that you can’t use on the plant. What’s been a revolutionary change from our black market into our legal market is we’re seeing the quality is getting better and it’s healthier for the consumer at the end of the day. In our world here, our local government is concerned about the health and safety concerns of cannabis consumption. I can see that as a big draw. I didn’t even think about the spliffs behind that. That’s incredible.
Americans mainly smoke pure. Here in Europe, it’s normal that you mix it with tobacco.
If you smoke a pure one, everyone’s going to be like, “You’re up for a party.”
You know it’s American if it’s all the way or no way.
I went to California every year. My family is there and my company was based there. When I started consuming, I smoked and I was super high. I was like, “What is this?” People told me, “The amount of THC here and some of the genetics are much higher than it used to be.” They are getting better at getting more THC into plants and that was surprising for me. I’m a seasoned smoker. I know how to smoke. In California, I had half a spliff and I’m out. I needed to lay down and rest. I was like, “What’s going on here?”
That’s why the testing has been important. I’m glad you brought up the drink part. I’d like to go touch back on that real quick because we’re seeing a similar uptake. There’s not a large number of drinks being sold now but we’re starting to see that climb. It’s interesting to hear that you guys are seeing the same there. That’s the evolution towards creating more drinks and opening that up to where you can potentially have one guy having a beer and another guy having a cannabis cocktail, you’re not even going to know the difference.
It’s a huge market.
I’ve talked to several drink manufacturers. They’re very hot on this. They see this as a big opportunity. I’ve done a few episodes where I’ve talked to people about drinks and the evolution and what we’re going to see from that. When you guys are talking about what we see in the next ten years, the drink market is going to be incredibly huge. I’m looking forward to that.
It makes so much sense to have THC instead of alcohol.
In the future, 5, 10, 15, I don’t know how many years, you go into a supermarket and you have all your ecological products in one area, the meat, vegetables and everything ecological. In the future, I see a corner for hemp products. If I was a food company, I would be developing this now because it’s going to come.
I could have another hour or two with you guys on hemp. That’s a whole different ball game.
Zara is the biggest retailer in the world for clothing. We know from people here in Spain that we met that they’re looking into clothing from hemp. They’re looking into this now. They’re traveling to Asia and looking for suppliers. They’re still having difficulties producing this on a mass level but this is what’s being done now. This is Zara, one of the biggest in the world. For sure, the others will follow soon.
I remember we have one blog on our website about the advantages of hemp over cotton when it’s used as clothing starting from the amount of water that’s used and so on. The world is getting more sustainable. The next logical step in evolution is that people are going to start using hemp as a product for clothing. There are all these other hundreds of thousands of use cases that hemp has. There’s a click that needs to be done in the general society. When that happens, we will see a wave.
You guys have some clever marketing. I enjoy the logo that you develop. Who knows? Maybe next time we talk, you guys will be in the hemp industry.
Everything is possible.
The sky is the limit.
I appreciate your time. It’s quite a bit later there for you guys. Thank you so much for being with me. I hope you enjoyed this episode, a little bit of a peek into a different land of cannabis and what’s happening there, talking with these guys and understanding their dispensary model. The coffee shop model has been thriving for quite some time.
I’d like to point this out but I also know there’s this big transitional gap that’s being created by not being legalized. Much is not happening. We have that same too here at a national level. I can see it now on this micro-level that gap where you guys are having to do a lot of stuff that is illegal. It makes it hard to perform as a true business. I hope that changes for you soon. I like to keep in touch with you and make sure we can understand and learn more about Spain and what you guys are doing. I’d love to keep that conversation going. Thank you guys so much for being on the show.
Thank you for having us. For the readers in the US, we’re looking for ways to expanding into the US and Canada as a company and as a brand. We would love to collaborate. If you have any ideas, get in contact. We always reply. It was a good time. That was a good conversation.
Thank you so much for reading. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. We will see you next time on Plant Problems.
- Miguel Fersen and Marc Sanchez Cabrera
- Green Palace – Instagram
- Activated Charcoal Filters
- Blog – How Hemp Could Overtake The Cotton Industry
About Miguel Fersen
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the Plant Problems Community today: