Friday, 20 October 2017

Prague high

By Tomasz Sokołów | Prague Daily Monitor |
24 August 2010

The freshly appointed National Drug Coordinator Jindřich Vobořil, who assumed his post on 1 July, has his hands full. Although the partial decriminalization of cannabis at the beginning of this year didn't transform the capital into the new Amsterdam, as some headlines suggested, the accessibility of soft drugs, Vobořil says, has secured the Czech Republic one of the highest rankings in Europe regarding cannabis use.

According to a 2009 report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, for the third time in a row, Czechs rank among top four heaviest cannabis users in Europe, and almost half of those aged between 15 and 24 have used marihuana at least once.

"To buy a narcotic in a small village you need to know phone numbers, dealers," Vobořil says. "In the capital going to Wenceslas Square is enough."

Praguers know well that it takes as much as asking a bartender, or heading to spots like Chapeau Rouge or Můstek after dark.

For those not well-versed in the city's green scene, there are ample online forums where willing individuals offer help with supply, share links and emails, including, for instance, http://prague.tv/qa/visitors-and-tourism/cannabis:2570 or http://www.techno.cz/forum/forum.php?f=29.

Tomáš Gřivna, PhD expert in criminal law at Prague's Charles University, emphasizes that despite partial decriminalization, marijuana is still illegal in the Czech Republic.

"The only change in law that occurred, is such that possession of some amounts of certain drugs is a minor offense now, and not, as yet, a crime," he explains.

The possession of more than the allowed 15 grams of cannabis is subject to a fine of up to CZK 15,000, or imprisonment of up to one year.

That's theory. In reality, not many drug users care about the margins of legality as punishment for cannabis use is rare. According to the mentioned EMCDDA report, 87 % of all drug law offences in the Czech Republic were related to supply; less than 10 % concerned use.

"The police doesn't pay any attention," says Josef Kavka, a student at Charles University. "Among my friends 50% use cannabis once a month, 20-30% once a week, the rest avoids it."

According to Vobořil, due to lack of resources, the drug squad of 150-200 is forced to mainly focus on riskier drugs like methamphetamines and heroine.

To curb the number of soft-drug users, he suggests law changes that would also penalize club owners, not just sellers, as well as tougher punishment for suppliers. He mentions that, currently, the law doesn't distinguish between a regular dealer and one who supplies the underage.

A key ingredient to remedy the widespread use of cannabis, though, he says, is greater public awareness. "What we need is closer communication with local communities and social services, like in United Kingdom where BAP teams adjust antidrug policy to particular areas."