Police stage mass raid on shops suspected of promoting cannabis
The Czech police have begun a mass raid on so-called grow shops, which sell equipment for indoor gardening, and often for growing marijuana plants. Authorities have already charged a number of people connected with these stores with distribution and promotion of illegal substances, but critics say they cannot be held responsible for the behavior of their customers.
Since Monday, the police have inspected at least 50 grow shops around the county and have charged at least three people, with dozens of others being suspected of distributing and promoting marijuana use. The police have also confiscated fertilizers and equipment from grow shops, closing a number of them down. The raid is supposed to continue for possibly another few weeks.
Police spokeswoman Ivana Ježková says grow shops have often been overlooked in the fight against marijuana distribution.
“Since 2007, we’ve noted a marked increase in cannabis farming and production of marijuana. This is inadvertently linked with the rise in the number of stores and online shops that sell the technology necessary for these activities.”
The Czech Republic is known around Europe as being one of the countries with more lax drug laws and enforcements. The law on possession of marijuana is relatively cryptic, allowing an individual to carry or grow the substance for personal use, in amounts not more than small. Selling, or growing and carrying the drug in large amounts is strictly persecuted by law.
Marijuana remains the most widely used illegal drug in this country. According to data collected two years ago by the European Monitoring centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, around 25% of adults claim to have used marijuana at some point in their lives.
Michal Otěpka, owner of one of the grow shops inspected, says that store employees cannot be responsible for what customers choose to do with the products they purchase:
The question of the burden of responsibility in cases like these remains to be answered. It will mostly depend on what the police will actually find in the grow shops. But authorities are reluctant to reveal the details about the evidence they have gathered so far, since the inspections and investigation are ongoing.