As an American living in Europe whose job is to test cannabis across Barcelona, Soft Secrets interviewed Russ Hudson about his role as a cannabis consultant, asking his expertise about the social club scene and to give more clarity on the laws in Barcelona. Involved with Cannabis from an early age, we ask Russ his thoughts on the modern day canna scene and what his thoughts are on correctly grown cannabis.
SSUK: How did you begin your work as a Marijuana consultant?
I’ve always worked with cannabis to some degree, since I was about 12. I was a street kid then, selling small amounts of pot to make just enough money to eat and find warm places to stay during the winter in Portland, Maine. Over the years that small-time gig got bigger; I eventually began growing and moved my way up the black market “ladder” until I was a middle man instead of the retail dealer. In time I found myself brokering large deals between parties. I moved large quantities of cannabis between parties in the Northeast for years, and then for a time was bringing cannabis from Mexico to New England in a truck I custom built for this purpose. In addition to this work, I also held regular jobs, and as I aged that morphed into mostly writing jobs. By 2007 I was a full time freelance writer and editor. Clients began to ask me for content about cannabis, and that is where my legal foray into working with cannabis began.
When testing a strain of Marijuana, what are the tests and the procedures you perform?
The test always begins with an investigation into the background of the strain; I need to know as much about the genetics and history of the strain as possible. This generally includes an interview with the developers, growers, or other party responsible for the strain and/or its marketing. Once I understand that background of the cannabis, the first thing I do is examine it closely under microscope, looking for a variety of different contaminants. If none are found, I proceed with the review. This includes detailed analysis of the look, touch, smell, taste, potency and duration of the high. Each review requires around 5 grams that I smoke over the course of about a week, taking notes the entire time. After the week I use my notes and other data to write a full-feature review if the piece is for posting on my site or for a client. This is the process for reviews. For clients who want me to evaluate strains prior to purchase, post-harvest, etc., the process is generally the same, but does not require the 7 day use period.
The information that is gained from the testing is then used how?
Testing of cannabis strains is for 2 general purposes; for full feature reviews on my sites or the sites of clients and to evaluate strains for clients prior to purchase, post-grow, post-treatment, to evaluate the strains of competitors, etc. I am also often called by clients to evaluate strains that are in development or strains that have recently been stabilized or a nearly stabilized.
How has the Social Club scene progressed in Barcelona in recent years?
The social club scene in Barcelona has been largely the same since about 2012. In 2014 police launched Operation Sativa, which saw the forced closure of 60 clubs in just one 24 hour period. Since then, a new city government has taken control in Barcelona. The leader of this government, Ada Colau, has “grandfathered” in existing clubs for 5 years, provided those clubs aren’t in violation of any city ordinances. The administration also set requirements for the clubs, which our engineering experts confirmed in June left space for about 40 new clubs in Barcelona. Since then around 10 new clubs have officially opened. However, the general way that clubs operate has not changed.
Many social clubs operate without a license. Is that true and how does that work?
A license was never required to open a cannabis club. Then back in 2014 the city issued ‘Cannabis Club’ licenses for a period of about 8 months. Then the city stopped issuing those licenses and put a moratorium on new licenses for one year, then extended that period for an additional year after the first year expired. The latest moratorium expired this year and so new licenses have been issued. Clubs that were opened before this license became available are operating with licenses, but not a cannabis club license. Some of these clubs are registered as bars and restaurants, some as offices, and one or two as religious organizations. Until we get some proper legislation in this regard, this practice will probably continue unabated, especially by clubs that were grandfathered in.
What are the best social clubs that someone visiting Barcelona should join and why?
A person visiting Barcelona should go to the club that is right for them. Some clubs are medically-oriented, some specialize in extracts and concentrates, some are focused on raw flower, etc. Some clubs are busy, some are not, some for young people, some for locals only, some for partiers, some for professionals, etc. Of course location is also important; if you’re staying near Sagrada Familia, you probably want to join a club near there and not in Raval. This is one of the reasons that I review clubs; so that people can choose what it best suited to their personal needs.
In comparison to the Marijuana available in the States, what are the differences in your opinion?
The United States is a massive country. The weed in one place is vastly different than the weed in another, so this really isn’t a good comparison. Where I live in Maine, the weed is good but somewhat amateur. 3,000 miles away in California, the marijuana is considered by many to be among the best in the world. People forget that the US is huge, has 50 States with different legislation on the books; some states are medical cannabis states, some are outright prohibitionist, some are recreational, etc. There’s just no way to accurately compare. In the US there are places with professionally grown cannabis, and places with homegrown dirt weed. The same is true in Spain.
Germany have recently made CBD a legal medicine. What are your thoughts on the CBD movement and how do you think it will progress over the next 5 years?
I’m not convinced on CBD only medicine yet. We still need a lot more research, but my experience is that you can’t fool nature. THC is just as important as CBD, and I suspect that in time we will confirm this to be true. However, for now, if people are scared of THC and CBD medicines work for them, that’s great! But my suspicion is that the real power is in whole plant medicine. If we keep pushing the CBD angle, what will probably happen is that world governments will say “Okay, CBD is a legitimate medicine, but it must be ‘medically’ extracted from cannabis. Therefore, only pharmaceutical companies, USDA, etc. will be permitted to safely make this medicine.
You have a short documentary on VICE . What other media are you working on?
Right now I am working on a larger documentary with Canal+ that will take place in Morocco, after the release of their most recent documentary on cannabis, which featured my work for 2 segments. An article about my work will soon be published in the largest Russian culture magazine, and I’m in talks with other large media to produce some television programs featuring yours truly.
From all of the strains that you have tested to date, what is your personal favorite and why?
Right now my 2 all-time favorite strains are Yuzu and Zombie Kush. Yuzu is a sativa developed by Club Choko in Barcelona using Chocolope genetics. It’s the best tasting, hardest-hitting sativa I’ve ever sampled. Among connoisseurs in Barcelona, this is widely accepted as the finest marijuana in the city. Zombie Kush was developed by Ripper Seeds in Sabadell, Spain, which is a suburb of Barcelona. Zombie Kush is the most potent indica I have ever had.
Many users of Marijuana use for medicinal use. Do you use for medicinal use also and how does using Marijuana benefit you personally?
In the State of Maine I am a certified medical patient using marijuana to treat symptoms of PTSD. I also use marijuana unofficially to treat anxiety. The autobiographical article I referenced in this document explains this more, and also discusses how I use marijuana to aid in long distance running; 16km every other day. Concerning PTSD, my major symptom is hyper-vigilance and trouble staying asleep during the night. Cannabis helps me to relax, easing my need to always be on alert, and allows me to sleep peacefully through the night.
What tips do you have for growers who want to be connoisseurs and learn to test their homegrown buds, as professionally as possible?
The best piece of advice I have in this regard is to always use a microscope. If you cannot see your cannabis at a microscopic level, you’re not doing your job correctly. And considering that so many growers cheat, this is just as vital for end-consumers. In fact, I am in the middle of a project that seeks to put portable, powerful and inexpensive microscopes in the hands of the majority of cannabis users. I feel strongly that this will help to clean up the industry and force growers to be more responsible, and users to be more educated.
You can read more about Russ Hudson’s work online at http://marijuanagames.org/ as well as find an article detailing the top 5 social clubs in the city in the web address below.
Good luck becoming a connoisseur with your flowers and extracts and remember detail is everything!
Text: Stoney Tark