Czech holidaymakers under scrutiny in Croatia over cannabis use


Sun, sea and pot – that’s how many young Czechs envision their summer break. However the popularity of marihuana among Europe’s biggest consumers is getting many of them into trouble with the Croatian authorities where all drugs are strictly banned.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
When Czechs choose their holiday destination the vast majority of them opt for a seaside resort – and for many years now Croatia has been top of the ladder. Affordable for middle-class holiday makers and near enough to reach by car, Croatian holiday resorts are packed with Czech tourists –so much so that some places have started selling Czech newspapers and Czech Radio has news broadcasts there on FM in the summer months.

While many older Czechs head for Croatia with the boot of their car packed with food supplies in order to save money – young people are more likely to pack a few joints and they are increasingly getting into trouble with the Croatian authorities.

Recently the media reported long queues were forming at the Croatian border since border guards were doing a thorough search of every Czech vehicle entering the country. Some disgruntled tourists complain about harassment but Croat officials say they are only enforcing the law. The Czech Foreign Ministry last week confirmed the detention of at least 25 Czechs over soft drugs since the start of the season warning holiday makers they could get into serious trouble.

Photo: Suradnik13,  Creative Commons 3.0
Pavel Bednář, the Czech consul in Split said the country’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs was being strictly enforced:

“We have been informed about several dozen cases in which Czech tourists were detained. The vast majority of them had soft drugs for their own personal use which is strictly prohibited. In such cases they are charged and their case is heard at a fast-trial within a matter of days, resulting in a hefty fine.”

The fine for being caught with even a small amount of cannabis is 300 euro and more and anyone carrying soft drugs for their own use is at risk of being detected not only at the border but basically anywhere on Croat territory.

Young people travelling to that country –or those recently back from holiday – are now swapping experiences on Facebook and other social networks where a lively debate has developed on the issue.

On home ground cannabis smokers are far less at risk. A recent overhaul of the penal code drew a line between hard and soft drugs, making growing of marihuana and possession of a small amount of the drug for personal use a misdemeanor rather than a crime. The offender can be fined and the drug confiscated but the growing popularity of marihuana among young Czechs shows that law-enforcement officials are focusing on the big fish in drug trafficking rather than on small-time users of soft drugs.