Source: Radio Prague
Date: March 14 2008
Author: Daniela Lazarová
Although drug abuse is a criminal offense in the Czech Republic, the existing legislation does not distinguish between hard and soft drugs, merely drawing a line between what it calls “a small amount of drugs” and “anything over that amount”. But what exactly is “a small amount” of drugs? The law fails to specify that and it has been up to the police to decide. Now the government has proposed an amendment to the penal code which would let offenders know when they are on dangerous ground.
The phrase “bigger than small” which was introduced into the Czech penal code over a decade ago has been the butt of jokes for years. It even appeared in the lyrics of a popular song. However for the police it was no laughing matter and failing to get an answer as to how big “a small amount of drugs” actually was they established their own norms pertaining to various drugs. So for instance a small amount of drugs was anything under twenty marihuana joints, 25 hallucinogenic mushrooms, 10 ecstasy pills or ten doses of heroin. Anything under that amount is punishable by a fine; anything over it could put the offender in prison. The proposed amendment to the penal code which, the lower house started debating this Friday, largely corresponds with the norms the police are already using. But the amendment goes further. The head of the National Drugs Monitoring Centre Viktor Mravčík says he is particularly happy about the fact that, if it is approved, the authorities will finally start making a distinction between hard and soft drugs.
“The present legislation does not make this distinction. The law now being discussed in Parliament should introduce a distinction between hard and soft drugs and I think that this is a step in the right direction. There can be no doubt at all that there is a difference between say cannabis and other drugs. Cannabis does not pose such health and social risks as other problematic drugs like heroin or methamphetamine which in the Czech Republic is known as pervitin.”
A recent survey among Czech teenagers indicated that a third of them occasionally smoke marihuana – some as many as four joints a day – and that many of them start before age thirteen. This has shocked parents and elicited calls for a complete ban on all drugs. Viktor Mravčík says this wouldn’t do any good at all and argues that there is no need to go further than the proposed amendment.
“I think that this is the legal framework you would find in most European countries – that possession of drugs for one’s own use is not punished harshly. There are no benefits, no advantages to be gained from punishing drug users. It actually does more harm than to de-criminalize it to some extent. That is the way to go and that is what we have now.”Republish