The Global Initiative For Drug Policy Reform

Czech Republic


Legislative changes in the Czech Republic have made it the European country with the most liberal drug policy.

The Czech Republic’s drug policy has undergone major changes within the last two decades. Going from extreme repression to decriminalisation within the space of twenty years has been a major step forwards.

Unified with Slovakia as one country, Czechoslovakia, until 1 January 1993, the nation’s drug policy was typical of the extreme communist repressive approach to drugs. However, as the country began to emerge from the ‘Eastern Bloc’ and democratise, a humanistic approach to drug policy began; and in 1990 penalties for the possession of illegal drugs were abolished [1].

Conversely, towards the end of the 1990s, unsubstantiated claims began to appear in the media stating that the Czech Republic had become a hub for international drug traffickers[1]. Attempting to gain entry into the European Union (which it achieved in 2004), politicians declared the country’s obligation to “recriminalise” possession in order to gain EU member status [1]. On 1 January 1999 parliament implemented this law.

Unsure of the efficacy of the ‘recriminalisation’ reform, the Czech National Drug Commission requested a group of researchers to undertake a scientific evaluation of its impacts. These researchers were tasked with addressing five hypotheses, “After the introduction of the penalty for possession of illegal drugs: (1) availability of illegal drugs will decrease; (2) the number of (prevalence of) current drug users will decrease; or at least (3) the incidence of new users will decrease; (4) there will be no increase in the negative health consequences related to illegal drugs; and (5) social costs will not increase.”[2]

The study showed how the re-criminalising of drugs had failed, presenting “an unjustifiable (economical) expense for the police and the courts”. The conclusions of the study were as follows: (1) The availability of illicit drugs did not decrease as a result of penalisation of use; (2) There was no reduction in the increase of illicit drug use; (3) The number of new cases increased significantly in 2000 following penalisation; (4) There is insufficient data to comment on the fourth hypothesis; (5) In the first two years of enforcement of the penalty for possession of illegal drugs, the social costs of illicit drug abuse increased significantly.

     


The Czech Parliament began to consider re-classifying drugs according to their health risks in 2003 and on 14 December 2010 Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer approved new legislation that would decriminalise the possession of drugs for personal use. The law reform was aimed at differentiating between producers and users, in an attempt to clamp down on the Republic’s growing reputation as a narcotics factory (for example, recent years have seen the Czech Republic become Europe’s chief methamphetamine producer). [3]

Despite partial decriminalisation, marijuana is still illegal in the Czech Republic. Possession of more than the permitted 15g of marijuana is subject to a fine of up to CZK 15,000, or a prison sentence of up to a year [4]. However possession of quantities under the thresholds is generally only met by a police warning, but can receive a misdemeanour charge.

In 2012 a draft bill was introduced to legalise medical marijuana, with preliminary discussion suggesting a rare consensus in favour of the bill. However many details remain unclear, with the introductory procedure likely to take around 2 years and high prices for a prescription likely to make marijuana inaccessible to the majority of target users.

The reform states that the possession of the following amounts no longer constitutes a criminal offense: [5]

Cannabis 15 g or less

Hashish 5 g or less

Methamphetamine 2 g or less

Amphetamine 2 g or less

Heroin 1.5 g or less

Cocaine 1 g or less

Ecstasy 5 tablets or less

Hallucinogenic mushrooms 40 pieces or less

 

References:

[1] Jelsma, M, ‘ The Development of International Drug Control: Lessons Learned and Strategic Challenges for the Future’, Working Paper prepared for the first meeting of the Global Commission on Drug Policies, Geneva, 24-25 January 2011, p.10

[2] Zabransky, T., Mravcik, V., Gajdosikova, H. & Miovskù, M., Impact Analysis Project of NewDrugs Legislation, Summary Final Report, Secretariat of the National Drug Commission, Office of the Czech Government, October 2001, p.11

[3] ‘Drugs in the Czech Republic and Slovakia High contrast why are the Czechs more lenient on narcotic use than the Slovaks?’, The Economist, 26 August 2010

[4] Sokołów, T. ‘Prague High’, Prague Daily Monitor, 24 August 2010

[5] Cunningham, B. ‘New Drug Guidelines are Europe’s Most Liberal’, The Prague Post, 23 December 2009