With a majority in parliament, it is quite possible that the right-wing ruling coalition in the Czech Republic will overtake Germany and become the first European country to create a commercial cannabis market for adults.
In September this year, the Czech national drug coordinator and former anti-communist activist, Jindřich Vobořil, announced that he planned a comprehensive reform of cannabis by early 2024. The proposed basic legislation for the introduction of a regulated cannabis market in the Czech Republic should be completed by the end of March, Jindřich Vobořil said last Friday after a meeting of experts.
He added that regulation of adult cannabis use should cover sale, production, recommended THC levels and licensing of manufacturers and retailers.
His plans have the backing of Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who leads a five-party coalition with 108 seats, and therefore a 200-seat majority in parliament.
Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy of Paris-based cannabis consultancy Augur Associates believes the Czech cannabis initiative will progress faster than that of its German neighbours.
He said: “There is a very strong possibility that the Czech Republic will finish before Germany. Besides protecting public health, the right-wing Czech government says it wants to ensure the economic benefits that the cannabis reform will bring. »
“He anticipates the export potential to the German market, depending on how it is legalized, and he welcomes the additional tax revenue that a regulated trade market will bring to public finances. »
“Germany must overcome the lack of a majority in the upper house, the Bundesrat, the problems caused by conservatives who are slowing down cannabis reform, while the current differences between members of the Traffic-Light Coalition should not be underestimated. »
The Czech Republic and cannabis
The Czech Republic, with a population of over 10 million, is one of the most liberal countries in Europe when it comes to cannabis.
The country allowed the use of cannabis for medical purposes in 2013, after decriminalizing the use and possession of cannabis three years earlier.
Earlier this year, the Czech Republic eased access to medical cannabis after seeing an increase in the number of patients to 4,601, up almost a quarter from 2021.
A first draft of an exit from prohibition in the Czech Republic was published by members of the coalition, the Pirates Party, last September.
The project emphasizes risk reduction, suppression of the illicit market and protection of public health. He recommends the establishment of licensed production and sale, as well as self-cultivation and the possibility of creating cannabis social clubs.
He also emphasizes the economic benefits, which he outlines in a press release, saying, “Reform, regulation, taxation – these are the three pillars with which we Pirates approach the regulation of the cannabis market. »
“Through taxation we will get billions of crowns a year and at the same time we will avoid unnecessary spending on repression. Moreover, if we manage to launch a regulated market with that of Germany, it will mean enormous opportunities for our economy in the field of exports. »
The proposals are similar in many ways to those of its German neighbors, with one exception: the recommendation that all cannabis users should register with the state.
This quirk – imagine if all drinkers had to register with the government – will no doubt be challenged during the drafting process.
An important issue that will need to be addressed is alignment with international drug conventions, which the Pirates’ proposals have attempted to address.
Mr Jeanroy believes that Mr Vobořil will address them over the next few weeks in a pan-European way, since the Czech Republic currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union until the end of 2022.
Evidence of a coordinated European approach to cannabis emerged earlier this year when a handful of countries – Germany, the Czech Republic, Malta, Luxembourg and the Netherlands – came together to develop a common approach. of reform.
It is not yet known whether this will help to clarify questions relating to the supply of markets. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has already said that to align with the conventions, cannabis cannot be imported.
And Germany, with a population of 83 million and a potential annual demand of 500 tonnes, will become a magnet for global cannabis companies. The Czech Republic currently sources its medical cannabis from a single licensed company.
Public health and the potential economic benefits of a booming cannabis trade sector – as seen in North America – are key drivers of European reform, and cross-border cannabis trade has the potential to align with the international treaties, says Jeanroy.
The Czech locomotive
He believes the complexities associated with cannabis reform are the legacy of over 100 years of prohibition.
He said: “There seems to be a tendency towards over-regulation, because governments still have the reflexes of prohibition. »
“Progressive governments will need to listen, debate and develop. This has never been done in Europe before, so there will be deviations and contradictions and it will take time, which might temper the desire to move quickly. »
“It may not be perfect at first, but we have the capacity and ability to develop a workable framework that can evolve as we progress. »
Stephen Murphy CEO and co-founder of Prohibition Partners identified the benefits of Czech reform, saying: “The Czech Republic has a unique opportunity to lead the EU in the evolution of drug policy, which is beginning to go to beyond the outdated prohibition of cannabis. »
“The Czech Republic has the highest prevalence of cannabis use of any country in Europe, which means that legalization is a big step forward for the industry but also for the protection of the country’s hundreds of thousands of consumers. . »
“What we need to see before we can really think about the industry in the country is the legal structure of the legislation and how it addresses the Czech Republic’s commitment to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The Pirates party has said its plan is in line with those commitments, but we’ve yet to see those details come to fruition. It is unlikely that the Czech Republic or any other country will proceed in violation of international and European law. »
“If the legalization efforts in Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands have taught us anything, it’s to give the process the time it needs and to expect delays. »
Regarding the progress of the Czech Republic, Mr. Jeanroy added: “This is largely due to the incredible efforts of Mr. Vobořil. He is the locomotive of the reform and this one would not be done at this speed if he was not the engine. »