Police: methamphetamine and marijuana remain top drug-related issues

The Czech Republic has been dubbed the drug haven of the east because of its liberal legislation and generally tolerant attitude to drugs. But according to the annual report by the Czech anti-drug police squad, released on Tuesday, the country also remains Europe’s biggest producer of methamphetamine. The police also warn of the availability of purer and cheaper cocaine and heroin, while law enforcement agencies are planning to crack down on the users of the most popular drug among Czechs: marijuana.

Methamphetamine, known among Czechs as pervitin, and its increasing availability is the country’s biggest drug-related problem, according to the Czech anti-drug police whose annual report has just been released. Last year, the police discovered more than 340 pervitin labs in the Czech Republic: the number dropped by nearly a hundred, but the police say this is due to a changing trend – these labs now tend to be smaller, and serve smaller communities of drug users. Jakub Frydrych is the head of the anti-drug squad of the Czech police.

“We consider the trend of smaller labs in Czech territory to be very dangerous for two reasons: all those who participate in the business get more and more qualified for production. Also, the final product is perceived as increasingly available in places where it’s produced, which really means everywhere.”

Pervitin, or methamphetamine, is usually produced from pharmaceutical drugs that contain pseudo-ephedrine. Czech authorities made an attempt last year to restrict the accessibility of such drugs by registering all customers who bought them. However, the measure was cancelled over concerns about data privacy.

But the most popular drug among Czechs has long been marijuana. According to the 2007 ESPAD study, 45 percent of Czechs have used the drug at least once, which is the highest number in Europe. The Czech Republic also recently adopted more liberal legislation which – contrary to popular belief – does not make growing and possession of marijuana legal, but qualifies it as a misdemeanour, punishable by a fine of up to 15,000 crowns (or around 800 US dollars). And Jakub Frydrych says they will to enforce the law, liberal or not.

“For 2010, we will primarily focus on law enforcement in the drug area; this concerns small growers of cannabis and people who use drugs publicly. Working together with uniformed police, traffic police and municipal police, we will at least try to achieve some European standards. Only an extremely small number of these offences get processed, and people generally tend to think that they don’t have to observe these laws. And that’s something we’d like to change.”

The liberal Czech drug laws came into force in January 2010 and it’s now impossible to evaluate their effect on the country’s drug scene. But even the police admit that the demand for marijuana in the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe is steadily growing.