Could Czechia become second EU country to legalise recreational cannabis?
Currently, only one EU country has legalised recreational cannabis – and despite popular misconception, it is not the Netherlands, where the sale of cannabis is tolerated at licensed coffeeshops, but cultivation, supply and possession of cannabis still remain criminal offences. In December 2021, Malta became the first EU country to legalise cannabis for recreational use – and Czechia may be well on its way to becoming the second.
If national anti-drug coordinator Jindřich Vobořil’s proposed plan comes into effect in 2024 as he hopes, Czechia could become the second EU country to legalise the recreational use of cannabis. And not only that – it would even go a step further, also making its sale legal. The anti-drug coordinator presented his plan for combatting addiction – which includes the proposal to legalise cannabis – at a press conference this week.
“At the moment, there is a political consensus for me to create this proposal for the regulation of cannabis, a substance which is illegal at the moment. We want to regulate it with the help of the market and we believe that this regulation will be more effective than the current ban.”
Mr. Vobořil is among the leading Czech experts on drug issues, with almost twenty years of experience in the management and development of health and social services programs related to drug addiction. On the homepage of his website, the first thing you come across is a quote saying that studies show that a certain proportion of the population will end up becoming hooked on an addictive substance at some point in their lives, despite society’s best efforts at prevention, and that the solution is not criminalisation, but rather the “controlled availability of less risky substances”.
At the press briefing, the anti-drug coordinator described the current legal status quo with regards to cannabis as “a big social experiment that is not working”. He believes that legalising and regulating the sale of marijuana will be more effective in dealing with the problem of addiction – and in addition, it will generate a large amount of tax revenue.
The three-year plan lays out proposals for the taxation not only of cannabis, but also of already legal addictive substances, especially tobacco products.
“There are no excise duties at the moment on e-cigarettes and nicotine patches, so a lower excise tax would be introduced than the one we have on cigarettes. As for taxes on cigarettes, at the moment they increase every year, and I expect that we will agree for things to continue that way.”
The state could gain up to 15 billion crowns a year thanks to the new tax proposal, which also includes fighting the black market in cigarettes, alcohol, and gambling, and more effective tax collection. Other proposals in the plan include increased spending on the prevention and treatment of addiction, and a new addiction agency which would be in charge of anti-addiction measures and their financing.
Petr Fiala’s government announced in its policy statement in January this year that it wants to tackle the problem of addiction on the basis of scientific evidence. It should receive Mr. Vobořil’s finished plan, complete with dates of implementation, by the end of the year.