The drug commissioner of the Czech Republic, or Czechia, has announced the country’s plan to begin the necessary work to open up a legal and regulated adult-use recreational cannabis market.
Jindřich Vobořil is a leading Czech drug expert and former drug coordinator who was appointed drug commissioner in September 2022. Vobořil has been tasked with drafting legislation for a lawful recreational cannabis market, which is expected to be presented to parliament in March 2023 and come into force by January 2024.
The move has been timed to coincide with Germany’s plans to legalise cannabis for adult use. Germany is expected to be the largest cannabis market in the world and is predicted to be worth $4.6 billion a year. Their plans to open up the adult-use market are in motion and are also expected to be finalised in 2024.
“We are in contact with our German colleagues, and we have repeatedly confirmed that we want to coordinate by consulting each other on our proposals,” said Jindřich Vobořil in a post on Facebook.
Czechia is known to have some of the most relaxed laws surrounding cannabis use. In 2010 the country decriminalised the possession of cannabis under 10 grams and the cultivation for personal purposes of up to 5 plants. Possessing or cultivating more can lead to a fine, the sale of cannabis is still illegal and can result in a prison sentence.
According to the website Statista, as of 2020 Czechia had the highest rate of cannabis use in Europe, with 11.1% of adults consuming cannabis in the previous twelve months. Data from the Addiction Report of August 2022 released by the Czech National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Addictions shows that there are 800,000 regular cannabis users from the total population of 11 million.
In 2013 Czechia became the first country in Europe to make medicinal cannabis legal. Continuing the trend of breaking from the norm, Czechia increased the THC cap for hemp and other cannabis products such as CBD oils to a maximum of 1%, joining Switzerland which has a similar limit. Other countries in Europe have capped THC levels at 0.2%, however, the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU is being adopted in January 2023 and this will lift permitted THC levels in hemp to 0.3%.
Leading the fight for adult-use legalisation is the Pirate Party of Czechia (CPS) which formed in 2009 as a liberal progressive party with the promise of reforming copyright laws and legalising cannabis. Their popularity gained momentum in 2019 and in the 2021 election won four seats in parliament in a coalition with independents and mayors. The CPS claim that legalising cannabis will bring economic benefits amongst others to the country. “Legalisation will make the Czech Republic a freer country. It will bring billions into public budgets that have so far been wasted on the streets,” said a party representative in a tweet.
Czechia is coordinating its legalisation plans with Germany’s, but other countries in Europe are also developing their laws surrounding cannabis. Malta became the first country in Europe to open up an adult-use cannabis market in December last year, and countries such as Luxembourg, Italy, Portugal and Spain are all re-examining their approaches.
In an interview with a Czech local news outlet Jindřich Vobořil stated that cannabis would be able to be purchased from licensed dispensaries and pharmacies, he added that he would allow local jurisdictions to decide if they allow cannabis sales.
When asked about cooperation with Germany, Vobořil said that he liked the Spanish ‘social club’ model and plans to use it for the benefit of Czech cannabis users. He wrote on Facebook, “My colleagues in Germany are talking about permitted quantities, and they don’t have the cannabis clubs that we foresee. I certainly want to hold the cannabis clubs until my last breath. This model seems very useful to me, at least for the first few years.” In an interview with the Dutch national broadcaster DW he said, “I will also try to ensure that as little cannabis as possible is consumed through conventional smoking because that is what is most damaging to the health.”