Prague joins international protest calling for decriminalization of marijuana

The debate over the decriminalization of marijuana continues to rage between lawmakers, doctors and ordinary people the world over. However, laws banning the possession and use of marijuana remain in force in most countries. Martin Hrobsky reports on a protest in the Czech capital this Saturday which aims to change that.

This year Prague will take part in a global initiative to protest against the prohibition of marijuana. Marek Jehlicka from Million Marijuana March Czech Republic explains what the protest is all about.

"This Saturday on Letna plain in Prague we are holding the Million Marijuana March. The goal of the protest is to highlight the negative effects of repression of marijuana in the Czech Republic and how to go about realistically classifying its legality. Marijuana March is an international protest which is taking place in more than 170 cities around the world. Regarding the Czech Republic, in addition to Prague there will also be protests in Brno, Trebic, and Pilsen."

The law regarding the use and possession of marijuana is quite vague in the Czech Republic. It states that possessing "more than a small amount of marijuana" is illegal. What constitutes a small amount? Well, it would seem that this is up to the discretion of the police. The problem is that it is an ill defined law, perhaps on purpose, perhaps not.

I spoke to Dr. Ivan Douda from the Nadace Drop-in centre, Dr. Douda is a psychologist and has been working with drug addicts for over 25 years. He has been offering advice to addicts, recommending treatment and sending street-workers out into the field since 1991. I asked him what he thought needs to be done in the Czech Republic to improve the legal situation regarding drugs such as marijuana.

"I think that the Czech Republic needs some steps about drugs, especially to divide drugs into different categories, to decriminalize the use of marijuana for example. This is what I think our aim is now. I think that it is very good that young people want to say to politicians, we smoke marijuana don't charge us. That's the main message. I think that our laws regarding drugs now is not good and the worst thing is that too many young people are not satisfied with the law and their reality is too different from that which is now in place."

I also asked Dr. Douda what the situation was like concerning the use of marijuana today in the Czech Republic.

"The young generation is taking marijuana like a normal thing, something like alcohol, so experience with it is normal. We know that between 60 and 80 percent of 18 year-olds have experience with marijuana, it means that statistically its normal for the young generation. This difference, between the young and old generation, is too big now."