MADRID — Aitor Hernandez has been looking to buy a new glass pipe to smoke cannabis since June but waited for an annual cannabis fair which got underway Friday near Madrid to make his choice.
"You can see all the types of pipes that exist, the newest styles, in one place, it's great," the tattooed 23-year-old said, carrying the box with his new pipe at the fair held at a bullring in the Madrid suburb of Leganes.
EXPOcannabis -- now in its seventh year -- features 150 stands that sell a wide variety of items for growing and consuming cannabis, from seeds with names like "Amnesia Lemon" to rolling papers and mini-scales.
Also on display are clothes made from the fast-growing cannabis plant as well as a beer and an energy drink that contain cannabis alongside booths offering information on the dangers and health benefits of smoking marijuana.
"The goal is to provide information, clarify misconceptions and move towards a greater normalization of cannabis use," said fair spokeswoman Aura Canon in an office set up in the stands of the bullring that overlooked a giant, orange inflatable lion with a joint in its mouth.
Growing cannabis for personal use is legal in Spain as is consumption of the drug in private. But transporting and selling cannabis is illegal.
Cannabis is the most commonly used drug in Spain with 27.3 percent of those between the ages of 15-64 reporting having consumed it at least once in their lives, one of the highest rates in Europe, according to the Lisbon-based European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
"Cannabis culture has a long history in Spain because of its proximity to Morocco, which is a major cannabis growing region," said Rail del Pinon, the editor of Cannabis Magazine which has a monthly circulation of 20,000 copies.
The fair drew 16,000 visitors last year and the organisers hope to at least match that number this year, despite Spain's economic downturn.
The entry fee is 15 euros ($20) for one day or 40 euros for a pass for the entire three days of the fair.
Most of those who attended were young men. Some took breaks from visiting the booths by smoking marijuana in the stands of the bullring while listening to the reggae music that blared from the booth of a cannabis seed seller.
"The crowd has changed over the years. At first it was mostly people interested in consuming for recreational reasons, now there are more people who come because they are interested in the medical uses of cannabis," said Cano.
Among the novelties on display at this year's fair was an industrial strength odour neutralizer spray which promises to replace the smell of marijuana with that of freshly washed linen.
"It can also be used to mask other scents, like that of a dog for example, or it could be useful at a nightclub," said Mark Goodwin of British company Easy Grow which has the licence to distribute the product in Spain.