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Czech Republic will decriminalize cannabis for personal use

This week the lower chamber of the Czech Parliament approved a new text of the Penal Code decriminalizing growing of psychoactive cannabis and of magic mushrooms (very popular in the Czech Republic) for personal use. The new law still needs to be approved by the Senate and signed by the President. It is almost sure that the Senate will vote for it and that President Klaus would approve it too.

The new law makes a clear distinction between soft (cannabis and magic mushrooms) and hard drugs, and stipulates different penalties for their possession and for the growing of cannabis and mushrooms, which have been since a long time demanded by drug experts and activists. The penalties for hard drugs remain practically unchanged.

Under the new law coming into validity in 2007 if approved, the possession of cannabis for personal use becomes subjected to the penal prosecution only from a larger quantity and would be punished by up to 1 year of prison. If the quantities were very large, than the penalty would be increased and would reward six months to 5 years.

Possession of a larger quantity of other drugs for personal use would be punished by a prison penalty of up to 2 years and in a very large quantity by six months to 5 years - practically the same as in the old version of the drug legislation.

Growing of larger quantities of psychoactive cannabis for personal use would be punished by six months and the same for the mushrooms would yield up to 1 year. Growing of very large quantities of cannabis and plants containing other psychotropic substances for personal use would be punished by up to 3 years of prison. All these penalties would be still more severe if the quantity of possessed or grown soft drugs were extremely large.

A government decree will fix the quantities and define the psychotropic plants and mushrooms in the category of soft drugs, in order to make a flexible legal disposition, which could be adjusted to the actual situation without having to change the whole law.

Similar practice of differentiation of small, larger and very large quantity was already included in the old law of 1999, at present still in force. This law conceived and promoted by the Christian Democrats Party introduced the principle of penalties for personal possession into the Czech law and did not make any distinction between different types of drugs.

Under the old legislation was the possession of small quantities of drugs including cannabis (established by a governmental decree to the quantity under 20 joints à 1,5% THC = 0,3 g of THC) considered as a misdemeanor and not punished by a prison sentence. It was only fined instead of being prosecuted, while the possession of any higher quantity of any drug including the cannabis even for personal use was punished by 1 to 5 years of jail. Hence the new legislation will considerably reduce the sentences for the cannabis, while keeping the old ones for other drugs.

Growing of cannabis or other psychotropic plants was also punished by severe prison sentences under the old law, independently of their quantity or purpose. Apart the differentiation between soft and hard drugs, here is the main positive change brought by the new Czech legislation on illegal drugs. Nobody knows yet what quantities will be allowed by the future governmental decree (actually the proposed quantity is 3 plants), but Czechs can be almost sure already now, that from 2007 they will be able to grow at least one plant of cannabis for personal use without a risk of imprisonment.

Bushka Bryndova

published Friday 9 December 2005 20:19

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