First Malta fell, becoming the first EU country to allow some form of recreational cannabis legalization. Then Switzerland and Germany made companion announcements for new legal industries, both working on promised legislation. Now, the Czech Republic shows the domino effect that’s going on in Europe, as it too looks toward a legalization.
What’s the news?
The reality is, we don’t have a lot of specifics on anything, not even who made the decision in government, or whether it was a full decision, or just an idea that’s been put forward. We don’t have dates given for when any of the process started, or confirmations for any of what might happen. I want to point that out because it makes it hard to know if this is something we can now expect, or if it’s the next headline where nothing actually happened, or happened yet, and where the thing spoken about doesn’t have to happen at all.
So, here’s the minimal amount we do know. Germany announced it would legalize recreational cannabis via new legislation for which no date was given, and to open a market for which no formal information was provided. Germany’s announcement came on the heels of Switzerland announcing the same thing. In October, Germany released possible draft guidelines for its upcoming weed industry, and shortly after, the Czech Republic made its announcement to move toward a legalization.
In fact, it seems the Czech Republic’s idea is to try to coordinate its own legalization effort, with that of Germany’s. This makes a certain amount of sense as the countries are not simply right next door to each other (Czech Republic sits on the east side of Germany), but the land of the Czech Republic is actually poking into Germany, making them about as close a neighbors can get.
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The Czech Republic is run by a coalition government, which is said to be in the process of drafting a legalization bill. The expected presentation date given is March 2023, with the hope of a full market opening by early 2024. We do know that in September, drug commissioner Jindřich Vobořil was tasked with drafting this bill. Vobořil has subsequently stated his effort will be in tandem with Germany.
Via Facebook post he stated: “We are in contact with our German colleagues, and we have repeatedly confirmed that we want to coordinate by consulting each other on our proposals.” I expect as Germany gets farther with its own plans, we’ll see its companion partner in this, the Czech Republic, also acting accordingly.
Like most other countries considering legalizations, the government has already begun talking about tax revenue, and trying to stamp out the black market. It seems the oft touted lines we used to hear, espousing ideas of industries bringing in huge amounts of money, are no longer the norm. As cannabis has failed to actually be a big money maker (mostly because of those black markets, overtaxed legal product, and over-production issues), I no longer see big claims on this front for how lucrative it will be for a country, beyond collecting tax money.
How much does the country think it can make? According to smallest government coalition member the Czech Pirate Party – who act as one of the biggest advocates for legalization, about €800 million ($782 million) yearly. This assuming it can divert enough from the black market.
While we don’t know exactly how any decision was made, or how finite any of these statements are, (given the lack of legal change), its been posited by Forbes writers that the Czech Republic is following up on meetings held earlier in June between several European countries including Germany, Malta, Netherlands, and Luxembourg. The point of the meetings was in finding ways to collectively move toward the finish line with legalizations, possibly as a way of making sure upcoming regulations and laws can work between countries.
What else is expected from this possible? definite? upcoming legalization?
Without a change in law, or a vote of some kind, the idea that this has to happen, really isn’t a thing. Right now there’s a Facebook post that acts as an announcement, and a good reason to believe the country wants to do it for monetary reasons. But there doesn’t seem to be anything saying it must happen. This is something to bear in mind, as it means there’s no official decision, or at least, not one I’ve seen. The Czech Republic is a democracy, it doesn’t run off one official making a statement. It is quite possible we simply haven’t been made privy to the other changes that back this up, but that in and of itself, is a bit odd.
Regardless of whether this is something meant to stick, or is just a possible bill, that will possibly pass, here are a few of the other things that Vobořil says will be a part of it. In a local news interview, he stated that cannabis would be sold in pharmacies, both recreational and medical, so long as the pharmacy has correct licensing. And that sales would likely come from dispensaries as well.
He explained about the possibility of letting different municipalities decide for themselves if they want to be a part of the industry, or ban it from their locations. And mentioned the possible inclusion of a Spain-like social club model, though how this actually fits in, or if it would happen, remain – like most of it – unclear.
Of this, Vobořil said, “My colleagues in Germany are talking about permitted quantities, and they don’t have the cannabis clubs that we foresee. I certainly want to hold the cannabis clubs until my last breath. This model seems very useful to me, at least for the first few years.” This shows that though the country is working in tandem with Germany to a degree, that we can also expect it to go off in other directions as it sees fit.
He continued that he wants a partnership established with Germany in terms of supplying one another, but this already goes against the German draft guideline of not importing product. Perhaps he thinks Germany might change its mind, or create a deal solely with the Czech Republic. As Germany is still constructing legislation, this isn’t impossible. Perhaps Vobořil’s statement is meant to put some ideas in Germany’s head.
Vobořil said more about this impending draft bill, letting on to German state-owned international broadcaster Deutsche Welle, that he wants to “try to ensure that as little cannabis as possible is consumed through conventional smoking because that is most damaging to health.” This is interesting as it a) shows an understanding not often seen in US press that smoking of anything (not just cigarettes) is dangerous, and b) would easily promote vaping, something still demonized in the US.
Cannabis laws in Czech Republic so far
Right now in the Czech Republic, until changes are officially made, there is no cannabis legalization for recreational use, though the country stands as one of the more liberal EU countries when it comes to marijuana. For one thing, it maintains a decriminalization measure. According to the law which went into effect January 1, 2010, residents can possess up to 15 grams, and up to five plants. Possession of more than this amount, incurs a civil fine if what is possessed is still for personal use only. A person who is convicted of a possession crime can face a fine up to 15,000CZK ($617), but its usually not this much. Offenders with more than the allowed amount could also face a year in jail.
Trafficking is predictably illegal, and comes with jail sentences of 2-10 years. The two years is actually a minimum penalty. In the most extreme cases, these terms can go up to 10-18 years, with 18 years set as a maximum penalty. In some more minor trafficking cases, the offender might face only a suspended sentence, or some alternate punishment. This is usually if the traffickers are not actually making a significant income.
The country also has a medical program which went into effect on April 1, 2013, after votes in both the Czech Chamber of Deputies, and Czech Senate passed the legislation with pretty wide margins (Czech Chamber of Deputies voted 126 for and seven against, Senate voted 67 for and two against). The law allows the sale of cannabis in pharmacies via prescription.
For those able to access a prescription, the law provides for 180 grams of dry flower monthly, and that prescriptions must come from specialized physicians, allowable in electronic form. As per the bill, only imports were allowed for the first year to make sure standards were met. After that, the market opened wider, including domestic growing.
The Czech Republic does have one cannabis law that puts it at odds with the EU in general, and this regards hemp and maximum THC levels. EU mandate stipulates no more than .3% THC for industrial hemp; a limit that was raised in December 2021 from .2%. Technically, since this change doesn’t go into effect until the beginning of 2023, the limit right now is still at .2%.
Now, we know Switzerland has a higher amount, allowing up to 1% THC, but Switzerland, though considered part of Europe, is not an EU member country. The Czech Republic is, and it quite completely breaks with EU mandate by also allowing up to 1% THC. This 1% is applicable to “industrial, technical and garden purposes, including sales.”
We’ve now officially gone from waiting for bills to get passed, or votes to be made, to government officials simply making posts on Facebook. In such situations, this lack of legal definition can spell uncertainty. However in this situation, with such a strict trajectory set, I do think its safe to say the Czech Republic is moving toward legalization. Let’s just remember…it hasn’t happened yet and the old rules still stand for now.
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