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Czech Republic’s proposal for a regulated cannabis market should be ready by March

Czech Republic’s proposal for introducing a regulated cannabis market should be finished by the end of March, the country’s National Drug Coordinator, Jindřich Vobořil said on Friday.

The legislation will outline the rules relating to producers, distributors and sellers, establishing and functioning social clubs and small-scale cultivation. Vobořil has been advocating for the relaxation of the country’s cannabis laws for a long time. Outlining his three principles of regulation, Vobořil stated “In the field of cannabis, prohibition seems to be failing completely and the market has not only settled but is still growing. That is why we need to find better tools of control. A tightly regulated market can regulate what and who produces where to whom and how much is sold. This complete ban cannot. A regulated market has a greater potential for prevention," said Vobořil in a press release on Friday.

The preparatory group will consist of representatives from addiction services, police, customs, and drug experts, alongside members of the Senate. Smaller teams will focus on setting controls, health risk assessments and prevention, economic benefits, and quality monitoring. The substantive plan should be created by March 20233 which will then be passed to Government for the proposals to be discussed. It is predicted that the full legal market could be implemented as soon as January 2024. The group is due to meet again in December.

The current government states in its program statement that it wants to tackle addictions based on the most recent scientific findings. It promises to provide enough money for prevention and services. The regulation of addictive substances should correspond to the degree of their harmfulness, which should also be considered by consumption taxes. The Czech Republic has also stated they will work alongside Germany to coordinate and consult each other over their proposals for cannabis reform.

Currently, tourists and locals can buy a range of hemp/CBD products across the Czech Republic, from flowers, oil and topicals. Cannabis was decriminalised (with administrative sanctions) in 2010, with medical cannabis becoming legally available in 2013. At present, the possession of up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of cannabis, hashish, or hemp oil or the growing of up to five cannabis plants is an offence with a fine of up to €500. Around 20,000 Czechs are fined each year. However, possession of larger amounts is a criminal offence punishable by up to five years in prison. At the same time, cannabis and other hemp products have been available in pharmacies since 2017 to people with a doctor's prescription showing a medical need to consume cannabis. All other consumers must resort to the black market. As hemp cultivation is also illegal in the country, pharmacies receive their goods from countries such as the Netherlands, and cannabis for the black market is illegally cultivated.

Although against the law, consumption of cannabis is widespread, with around 30% of the population having tried cannabis and 8-9% using cannabis regularly according to the Addiction Report released in August 2022 by the National Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Addiction. That’s an estimated 800,000 people in a population of 11 million.

"We are one of the countries with the highest rate of people who have had at least one THC experience in their lifetime," Pavla Chominova, head of the observatory, told Pravo daily. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), the Czech Republic ranks first among all EU countries with 23% THC users in the 15-34 age group. When it comes to hard drugs, on the other hand, the country is somewhere in the middle of the European rankings.

In the future, they would be considered similar to alcohol or cigarettes. "Despite the previous decriminalization, we still have a black market, there is no official production and no quality control, just as there is no control of sales to young people under 18," Jindrich Voboril, the Czech drug commissioner, told DW.

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