ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
THE WAR ON CANNABIS IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC WAGES ON
In November 2013, an unprecedented raid took place on growshops in the Czech Republic by the National Antidrug Squad which is led by typical hardcore “Reefer Madness” type of police officers. Since then, the situation has developed and recent news regarding trials and first judicial decisions is pretty disturbing. There were also significant changes in the decriminalization code and in the medical cannabis law – here is the summary of them all.
The Czech Republic has been always described as a heaven for tokers by almost every foreigner fond of cannabis who has ever visited this country in the heart of Europe. Although the drug laws have always been similar to other “liberal” European countries, the general atmosphere – a friendly attitude of the public and a lenient attitude of the authorities meant that people were growing cannabis at home and smoking joints on the streets. Nobody had problems with that and in most cases the police would just pass by and leave the tokers alone (the same when they accidentally saw some plants in the garden).
The government also issued an act in 2010 which stated amounts of all drugs a person could hold (and grow) without committing crime. Compared to other European countries it was pretty “generous”: 15 grams of dried cannabis flowers, 5 growing plants at home and for example in case of heroin it was 2 grams.
Vietnamese gangs and confused law enforcement
However, things started to change two or three years ago, because police was discovering more and more large scale grow-ops run mostly by Vietnamese gangs who moved to the Czech Republic especially from Canada and the UK during the past 10 years in order to produce huge amounts of cannabis and sell it to Germany and other EU countries.
In the past years we have also seen a huge rise in the number of small growshops that were selling legal goods ranging from books about cannabis, seeds, fertilizers, pots and lamps – everything that anyone could buy in any bigger supermarket. It was obvious to everyone that these growshops were visited mostly by people interested in growing cannabis, but they were still in most cases complying with current laws. Every expert on drug policies would confirm that the clients of these shops were in most cases small-scale growers and sick people who needed to grow cannabis for their treatment.
The current head of the National Antidrug Squad Jakub Frydrych repeatedly said that the police does not focus on small-time growers and individual users, but on the gangs who usually buy loads of equipment from other criminal sources and who would not go to the small growshops in town centers etc. This was the clever law enforcement Czechs were proud of.
However since the beginning of 2013 Frydrych started to spread the notion that the growshops and the whole cannabis community are a “significant threat to the society” and that the growshops are “spreading the toxicomania” (a very vague term in our criminal code), because they are selling everything needed to grow marijuana “under one roof”.
The Supreme Court sentenced two owners of one growshop in the beginning of 2013 for spreading this toxicomania and although our law should not be (and never has been) based on individual precedents (unlike the British for example), Frydrych and his men announced that this was enough for them to start action and raided about 80 of some 100 growshops in November of 2013. The public and drug experts condemned this as a waste of money and resources and destroying legitimate businesses that would not affect the huge mafia grow-ops at all.
The whole cannabis community was hoping that the justice system would conclude that the police could not create their own laws and that if they would start prosecuting shops for selling fertilizers and soil, they would have to charge all supermarkets in the country. Unfortunately the first judicial decision in February showed that the judges do not really understand the drug issue – so far nobody was put in jail, but the first four or five accused were given between one and two years probation and their goods were confiscated, which means their business was effectively destroyed.
Another ruling of the Supreme Court in April 2014 lowered the minimal amounts for possession of all drugs (cannabis is now at 10 grams of dried flowers and zero growing plants, heroin 1 gram etc.) and one of the judges interpreted the decision as an “important step against the spreading of drug use and production in the country”, which only shows his complete misunderstanding of the issue.
The situation of medical cannabis
Since April 1st 2013, the medical cannabis is legal under the Czech law. However, the former head of the Ministry of Health Leoš Heger and the State Institute of Drug Control did everything they could to prevent patients from getting any cannabis, because the minister considered the whole medical cannabis a hoax. Now it is more than one year and not a single patient received a single gram of cannabis. However, there is a new minister of health since February and he seems to be much more open to the idea to make the medicine available as soon as possible to every patient who might find proper relief in it.
Hopefully with the shift in the governmental position on medical cannabis, more common sense will arrive in the Home Office and the minister will look at the deeds of the National Antidrug Squad and its boss Jakub Frydrych will stop behaving like almighty God who knows better than doctors and drug experts how to tackle the drug problem. It seems that apart from him everybody in the Czech Republic and in EU knows that repression especially of cannabis community is not the step in the right direction – it is actually the opposite.
By Lukáš Hurýsek
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
In the elections for the European Parliament, 19 MEPs were elected who signed the Encod manifesto for Safe and Healthy Drug Policies in the EU. We will start contacting them in June and prepare an ongoing lobby campaign to promote reform initiatives in the EP from September 2014 onwards.
More details will be discussed during the coming Encod General Assembly in Slovenia in September
From June 1st, 2014, Encod secretariat will be hosted at a new office at Haantjeslei 213, 2018 Antwerpen.
We will be present at the Cannabis Liberation Day in Amsterdam on Sunday 15 June