I love cannabis. I also love travelling. Therefore, when I was invited to go and visit a cannabis farm in southern Spain, I jumped at the chance.
I’d only ever seen one grow operation before – this gorilla outdoor grow which I stumbled across while exploring the Surrey countryside – so I was stoked to finally see a professional cannabis farm in its full glory.
While the plants being grown on the farm are a CBD-rich variety of so-called ‘industrial hemp’, they were actually very high-quality and indistinguishable from regular high-grade THC-rich plants. And they were only a few days from being ready to harvest, so were in their glorious prime.
The trip was organised by the guys at HempElf, one of the UK’s best CBD shops and who I’ve been getting my CBD flower from for ages. Joining us on this trip was also a group of esteemed cannabis activists: Simpa Carter, Chairman of Durham County Cannabis Club; Callie Blackwell, Author of ‘The Boy In 7 Billion’; Deryn (rarekid) Blackwell, Callie’s son and the boy in 7 billion; as well as his 15-year-old brother Dylan, a Norwich City fan and future England goalkeeper.
Southern Spain, Morrocan hash
After meeting up with Simpa, Callie, Deryn and Dylan at Gatwick Airport, we landed at Malaga in the darkness of late evening. We were met by the HempElf team and whisked out of the city on long winding roads, heading inland to the town of Ronda.
The farm is located in the province of Malaga in Andalucia, the southern-most territory on Spain. The landscape is dominated by mountains, gorges, and farmland – fields of olive trees line many roads.
The people of the region have a rich culture and a strong identity, as well a real fondness for cannabis. A large percentage of locals even grow their own weed – both for personal use and for financial gain as employment is difficult to find in the rural areas.
Thanks to its close proximity to Morocco – Europe’s biggest supplier – Andalucia is also the gateway to the European market for Moroccan hash producers.
When it comes to growing high-grade hemp outdoors, Andalucia has the ideal conditions for cultivation. It’s on the same latitude as California’s famous cannabis-growing Emerald Triangle region.
Arriving at our rented house, we were gifted some fine fudge-like Moroccan hash and some hemp buds that had been picked and dried a week or so beforehand. It was our first experience of the hemp grown on the farm, and was a smooth accompaniment to the hash.
We also got the chance to play with a yet-to-be-released dry herb vapouriser called Poda, which really impressed us all. Needless to say, after a long day of travelling followed by an evening of consuming and conversing, we slept like babies – very stoned babies.
The following morning was perfectly bright and sunny. We had breakfast, coffee and hash joints and made our way to the farm, a twenty-minute drive away.
As a group of cannabis lovers, the whole convoy was spilling with excitement as we entered the farm gates. Swaying fan leaves soon lined the dirt road we were travelling on and the smell of fresh cannabis filled the air.
We drove well into the farm and the plants just got bigger and more beautiful. We finally came to a halt and were released to explore the huge swathes of weed plants (250,000 in total).
The genetics that had been planted earlier in June were Super CBDx X Gelato 31. CBDx is derived from an EU-approved hemp strain called Tiborszallasi, making this an ‘industrial hemp’ variety legal to grow in the EU.
There was nothing industrial about these plants, however. They had buds as big as rounders bats, coated in white trichomes and smelling out of this world. Additionally, each plant had been topped by hand.
Four phenotypes had been identified growing in the fields. A green, a purple, a black and a rainbow! Each was impressive, but the rainbow really caught my eye.
Later that day we would meet some of the expert growers who were working on the farm and have a smoke with them. I smoked a pure joint of just the black pheno. Apparently it had tested under 0.2% THC, yet I was definitely high for a good two hours afterwards.
With harvest soon approaching, this farm would employ some 40-60 local residents to help chop the plants by hand. Some of these plants were to be sold in Europe for premium hemp flower, while the rest was to be made into various CBD products.
Cancer, cannabis, and gratitude
That evening, I spoke with Deryn about his illnesses. For those of you that don’t know, Deryn was diagnosed with Leukaemia at the age of 10. Then, 18 months later, he developed another rare form of cancer called Langerhan’s cell sarcoma.
Only five other people in the world had Langerhan’s cell sarcoma at the time. And none of them were fighting it alongside another cancer, making him one in seven billion.
After exhausting all treatment options, including multiple bone marrow transfers, Deryn began planning his own funeral. Moments before death, however, his mother Callie gave one last roll of the dice – she administered an illegal preparation of cannabis oil to her son.
Miraculously, Deryn avoided death and began to recover – something his medical team said was impossible.
That night as I sat listening to Deryn’s story, I truly realised just how important cannabis is. I’ve heard countless stories and read hundreds of scientific studies about the therapeutic power of cannabis, but to experience someone sat in front of me – someone who should be dead by western medical standards – explain how it saved their life, I had a newfound respect for the plant.
I also understood that this was more than a cool trip to see some weed plants for Callie and Deryn. This was a pilgrimage of sorts. A chance to thank the cannabis and to pay respect.
I thought long and hard about my decade-long relationship with cannabis that night.
Our second (and last) day began as did the first. Breakfast, coffee and hash in the sun – something I could get used to.
We again visited the farm to do more filming and take more photos. The plants lost none of their impressiveness over night. In fact, I’m sure they had grown at least an inch and the aroma was even more powerful.
By the way, the smell of cannabis still growing is a bit different from dried and cured buds. It had more of a fresh twang to it. An organic fruity smell. It smelled alive.
Once we had said our goodbye to the plants – and been covered in resin by walking through them – we went for lunch at the nearby old town, nestled within a giant cave.
We then went and played laser tag, which was awesome, before catching our evening flight back to London.
On the flight home, I sat next to Simpa. We shared stories and ideas and discussed everything from home grows to cannabis events to microdosing psychedelics.
I felt the passion in his voice and realised that this was a man who was prepared to give everything for his cause. It was clear that cannabis had saved him too, although in a different (and perhaps less obvious) way to Deryn.
As I sat in my taxi on my way home from the airport, I was left infused with even more belief that cannabis and the culture it has inspired will change the world, on a massive scale, for the better.
I have little doubt that the people I shared this experience with will go on to do great things. And I have been inspired to ramp up my efforts to do all I can to spread knowledge about cannabis and to help people access and use high-quality and reliable products to improve their lives.
You can follow the farm on Instagram here.
For a curated selection of only the very best CBD brands, as well as the best hemp flowers in the UK, check out HempElf.
Also, keep an eye out for their new brands, The Goods, EQL, and CBDrive.