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Spain searches for `best high' in first marijuana competition

Wary of the police outside and hardly visible through clouds of smoke inside, 50 pot growers puffed on joints Saturday in search of the best high in Spain's first national marijuana competition.

Concentrating on the smell and, of course, the sensation, each of the growers tested 10 samples of marijuana from the 50 plants and rated their quality. The winner, to be announced Sunday, will receive a cup and a manual on marijuana growing techniques."I grow it, and I smoke it," said one of the participants, a 33-year-old waiter from the central city of Avila who would only identify himself as David.

"I don't bother anyone, and I don't buy or sell marijuana or hashish from anyone."

The event was part of a campaign in Spain for marijuana cultivation to be declared legal for private consumption. Although Spaniards legally can possess small amounts of marijuana or hashish, a concentrated form of the drug, for personal use at home, they can be fined for selling or cultivating it.

The growers, ranging in age from 25 to 45, puffed away and traded opinions about each other's crop. They showed no signs of paranoia even though three police officers stood outside and growers were warned they might be searched on leaving the tiny cultural club where the competition was held.

Besides one woman, who had to be taken outside for air after fainting, there were no reported incidents.

The competition, organized by the Madrid Association for Cannabis Studies, came while Spain's Supreme Court deliberated whether to permit cultivation for personal use. A ruling was expected any day.