True Story: How I Bought Cannabis in Europe
By Julene Hoff – Aug 19, 2016
I was in the ladies room when I found the cannabis vapor pen at the bottom of my bag. This was not an ideal time for such a revelation; I was in Stockholm’s international terminal, which meant I’d unwittingly snuck it through customs twice so far.
To be fair, this particular brand’s vapor pen looks more like an e-cig than a cannabis product. (The all-caps “MENTHOL” label affixed to the tube probably didn’t hurt either.) There wasn’t much to be done upon discovery except check to see how much was left. I held it up to the light: almost empty. No problem – I’d just finish it off before my next flight in a few hours. I retreated into the nearest bathroom stall and proceeded to get quite high, bundling my scarf, coat, and sweater to create a makeshift sploof to diffuse the vapor. Needless to say, this wasn’t quite how I’d envisioned my first foray into international marijuana consumption.
When I stumbled across half-price tickets to Europe on an airline that still checks the first bag free, I couldn’t supply my payment information fast enough. Having listened to a lot of people wax poetic about the benefits of international travel, I know it’s one thing to talk about and quite another to actually take the plunge. Two weeks abroad would give me plenty of time to jump between museums and enjoy the local flavor, from what I could tell.
Julene Hoff’s view right before she found the cannabis vapor pen in her bag in Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Before traveling, I did the requisite Googling to assure myself that I wasn’t entering any weed-free zones. The wisdom of strangers did not disappoint: my first stop, Barcelona, is fast transforming Spain into the “Holland of the South’ – and I could hardly fancy myself a 420 enthusiast without sampling the city’s cannabis club scene, right? While the city sounded marijuana-friendly in a low-key way, similar to Seattle, the finer details of procurement posed a bit of a problem – namely, my lack of Spanish identification. The clubs that would allow me to join with a foreign passport, provided I supplied a Spanish address, had a much steeper membership fee than any of the highly recommended clubs listed on the internet. Not that I had a Spanish address, but I knew it was just a wink-nudge to jot down something residential (not your hotel) that the club won’t ever send mail to. I figured I stood a good chance of figuring it out upon arrival—there had to be some app that would help me sort things out.
Once in Barça, a generic weed app confirmed my suspicions about the cost versus quality of the fare in foreigner-friendly clubs; anywhere known for the quality of their product requires Spanish identification to become a member. Finding a local sympathetic to my plight proved difficult—bro ex-pats are apparently as cool overseas as they are on their home turf. The only offers of assistance had less to do with purchasing a few grams than with me coming over to their flat; I wouldn’t trade being a conventionally attractive woman for anything in the world, but these overtures grow tiresome. Had none of these men seen Bob Saget’s cameo in Half Baked? Considering the abundance of easily acquired flower back home, I couldn’t convince myself to jump through hoops to get it while on the road. If nothing came up, I’d just hold out until getting stateside.
A week later in Prague, after my travel companion noted that I’d been “rather grumpy” in a way he could “handle exactly one more day of,” I decided to give it another go. Back to the internet, which offered up the following options: buy from the dealers in large city squares (not advised), asking your bartender (iffy, might get you kicked out or overbilled), or email one of the handful of people positing themselves as Prague pot blogs. The last option probably sounds sketchy—and it was—but that’s never kept me from following advice found online before.
Julene Hoff’s view after she finished the cannabis vapor pen in the bathroom at the Stockholm Arlanda Airport. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
The first email I sent yielded the name of a bar I could get to via public transit and the confirmation that the barman would be “helpful,” though there was no mention of the price. A swift visit to Google revealed this to be one of two bars commonly suggested to travelers trying to pickup; it also revealed that the bathrooms were known to be gross, the bartender might be an asshole, and that there was probably a host of junkies just waiting to steal my purse.
One German visitor had this to say of The Club:
“Very bad drinks at very high prices. The only reason that they have so many recommendations is cause they sell Marihuana illegally. You always have to expect a raid (happened several times). If you don’t want to experience Czech jails, just don’t go there… AVOID.”
I admit the last line made me raise an eyebrow, but reviews of the only listed alternative suggested I would be purchasing from the same variety of sketchy characters in the bathroom – and that’s a line I’m just not willing to cross.
Email number two connected me with a service that delivered only to hotel rooms or apartments and required a good deal of information prior to scheduling a drop-off time. Three grams would run me 900CZK (or $37) surprisingly close to what I would pay in Denver, so this seemed the most logical option. Except the same friend that complained about my mood, a known excessive when it comes to alcohol and cocaine, was dismayed by the mentioned of a delivery drug deal. Considering I asked permission instead of begging forgiveness after, it was a tough point to argue. Besides, “I went to Prague and had my weed delivered” does not make for a particularly interesting anecdote.
Her view from the St. Charles Bridge in Prague. (Photo provided by Julene Hoff.)
Left with one (possibly) viable option, I opted to head out at 10pm on a Wednesday for the bar mentioned in that first email. It took a few convenience stores before I found one selling transit tickets. The bar was in Žižkov, a neighborhood known for parties and bars filled with locals and ex-pats alike. The most difficult part of getting there was finding a corner store selling transit tickets, honestly. I took the subway several stops and found the bar without problem — this is the era of mobile GPS, after all. (Not to mention reasonably consistent and affordable service from Project Fi.)
Following the email’s instructions, I knocked at the door and waited to be buzzed in. After taking a seat at the bar and ordering a beer, I took some time to case the joint. The first thing I noticed was an abundance of people under the age of 23 at the tables surrounding me. The second was that the fog filling the room had a 3:1 ratio of cigarette smoke to weed. The scent of herb was faint by comparison. Granted, there is a lot of tobacco being smoked in Czech Republic in general; everyone smokes at the bar, in restaurants, and abundantly throughout the streets. Czech Republic is also, much like the rest of Europe, a big fan of the spliff. (I am not.)
The barmaid was indeed friendly when I asked if she happened to know where I could buy weed, encouraging me to see and smell before purchase as she handed me a nondescript dimebag. The weed was plush with good color, red hairs and a light frosting of trichomes. I’m sure that could’ve crystallized into something even more audacious, but this weed was still a week or two shy of being appropriately cured and dried. But let’s be real: it’s not like I hauled my cookies across town to say “no” upon finding the verdant grail, even if it could’ve used another week or two to cure. I paid 500 CRK (or $20) for two grams – only slightly more than if I’d gone delivery, sans delivery fee and the tip no dispatcher ever mentions. She was also quick to sell me packs of oddly sized Prague-branded papers and filters, a swank-looking set of local goods in gold foil packaging. The bartender loaned me her grinder and I set about rolling myself a proper Yank joint of the all-green variety. I’m sure you can imagine how cool I felt borrowing some guy at the bar’s lighter to light and re-light that damn damp thing.
Most conversations I overheard were in English, and I struck up several as I sat there: about drum and bass with the Eastern-block hot bartender who claimed she was 40; a Yank that took advantage of dual citizenship to move to Canada after George W. got his second term – the only one I’ve ever heard of; and two Italian guys that managed to annoy everyone by loudly asking after the weed’s quality, and the bartender when one asked “for the pot” without buying a drink first.
At this point I was pretty high on that foreign supply, hadn’t eaten in 10 hours, and was battling it out with the growing awareness of my dry eyes and smoke-hazed contacts. I became very wrapped up in dealing with this, but heard enough to know that the language barrier was not doing the Italian guys any favors. I can’t remember if they even got their weed, but I do remember being self-conscious about the awkward amount of time I spent rubbing my eyes. I wasted another hour bullshitting with the aforementioned characters before the bar closed and kicked everyone out. I made it back to the apartment by tram without incident, the micro-stash lasted the final few days, and I was pleasantly surprised by my significantly lower tolerance upon returning home. This marked a successful trip and initial foray into international pot tourism, though in the future I’ll stick to finding my hookup after landing. Store-bought pot may be more convenient, but there’s something to be said for the entertainment value of a digitally-assisted cheeba chase.