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16.05.2010

Impacts of the new Criminal Code to be analysed only on the basis of research into marijuana markets

Publisher: Ing. Mgr. Bc. Vendula Běláčková Ph.D. | Last update: 16.05.2010

PRESS RELEASE, Centre for Addictology, 17 May 2010 On 1 January 2010, the new Criminal Code entered into force, together with the Government Regulation setting the quantity of drugs that is still seen as “bigger than small” by the legislation. Both of these legal regulations represent the first historical attempt in the Czech Republic to introduce a clear legislative differentiation between drugs on the basis of their danger for society and health, as is the case in the majority of EU countries. The Centre for Addictology is currently performing a research study assessing the impacts of this legislative amendment on the Czech illegal marijuana market. The first outcomes of the research can be expected at the beginning of 2011; the study itself will be completed after its second phase with a final analytical report in 2012.

Current legal regulation: handling drugs is always illegal, and this applies to herbal drugs as well

The changes concerning the approach to handling illegal drugs in the Czech Republic have become the subject of interest of certain, mainly foreign media. As a result of an imprecise translation of ČTK, the Czech Republic repeatedly had to explain false presuppositions that it is legal to grow marijuana in the Czech Republic and to store precisely defined quantities of drugs.

The possession of any quantities of drugs, as well as the growing of any quantities of marijuana, is prohibited by law in the Czech Republic.

If the illegal drug is possessed for some other purpose than for personal use, it is always strictly prosecuted as a crime, regardless of the quantity. If the drug is possessed for personal use in a quantity that is bigger than small (the amount is precisely defined for each type of drug by governmental regulation), it also constitutes a crime; if the quantity is smaller, this represents a misdemeanour punishable by a fine of up to CZK 15,000. This also applies to the growing of psychotropic plants for personal use (including marijuana).

The definition “possession of a bigger than small quantity of drug for personal use) as a qualification criterion for unlawful behaviour (whether it is a misdemeanour or a crime) was introduced into the Czech Criminal Code in 1999 (until then, possession of any quantity for personal use was not against the law). Nevertheless, the specific quantities varied after 1999 and were defined only by the instruction of the General Prosecutor and the binding guideline of the police presidium. These were only internal guidelines for prosecutors and the police that were not binding for the courts, which led to divergence in the decisions of the courts. This situation was changed by the legislators with the objective of increasing legal certainty in this matter.

Another change in the new Criminal Code concerns cannabis drugs. Section 285 was introduced, which defines the crime of “unauthorised growing of plants containing narcotic or psychotropic substances” and also applies to the growing of cannabis. In a quantity up to five plants this represents a misdemeanour; from six plants up it is a crime. In Section 284, the sanctions for the possession of herbal drugs, including marijuana, were reduced in comparison to other drugs (heroin, methamphetamine – pervitin), while the sanction for the possession of a bigger than small quantity remained the same as in the “old” Criminal Code.

The proclaimed objective of the new amendment is to reduce the risks caused by the existence of highly organised markets actively enhancing the demand for drugs

Since 2005, the National Drugs Headquarters of the Police of the ČR has given information about increasing seizures of cannabis plants from industrial growing rooms in the Czech Republic organised mainly from abroad by members of the local Vietnamese minority, accompanied by a decrease in larger seizures of cannabis plants smuggled from other countries.

According to the promoters of the new criminal code amendment, this modern “European” drugs policy in the Czech Republic should help to separate the black market in cannabis from the highly commercialised and violent market in drugs that pose greater social and health risks. The final consequence should be better protection of public health and order as a result of lower availability of cannabis drugs for those that are not using any drugs and mainly for the youngest generation among them.

Currently, it is not possible to draw any conclusions on the success of the new drugs legislation

The Centre for Adictology concentrates in the long term on the scientific verification of drug interventions and comprehensive drug policies. The Centre has therefore been preparing a study of marijuana markets for a long time and is currently implementing it with the objective of assessing the change in legislation penalising the possession, growing, and distribution of marijuana (the most commonly used illegal drug in the ČR) by comparing the situation before and after the introduction of the new legislation. During the first phase of the study before the introduction of the new legislation, a population survey using a representative sample of 734 citizens of the ČR with at least one experience of using a cannabis drug during the past 12 months was organised, complemented by several dozen semi-structured interviews with people from both the demand and supply sides of the market.

Currently, the initial comprehensive analysis of the results is under way, using a standard scientific methodology that cannot be replaced by any speculations or assumptions on “expected efficiency” as we can sometimes see from both sides – those in favour of strict repression, as well as the promoters of the legalisation of certain or all drugs. The next phase of the field research is planned for the second half of 2011, when the criminal legal procedures will become stabilised in order to allow the objective assessment and analysis of the impacts of the amendment on the behaviour of actors in the marijuana market. The course and conclusions of the research are being closely monitored by numerous international organisations dealing with drug policy research.

The Centre for Addictology wants to stress that any conclusions on the efficiency of legislation are at this moment in the best case premature and cannot be based on any verifiable scientific facts or serious analyses as a result of the limited period of validity of the legislation[I2] in question.

Study supported by

- National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in the ČR

- Florida State University (College of Criminal Justice; College of Social Sciences and Public Policy)

- Drug Policy Programme, Warsaw

- Fulbright Foundation in the Czech Republic

 


Contact persons:

MUDr. Tomáš Zábranský, PhD.

Head of Science and Research of the Centre for Addictology, principal investigator

Member of the committee of the International Society for the Study of Drug Policy

twz@adiktologie.cz

tel: +420 603 451 103

 

Ing. Mgr. Vendula Běláčková

Project coordinator

belackova@adiktologie.cz

tel: + 420 721 818 692

Information sources:


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