Over the past year, the Czech Republic has emerged as Europe’s most exciting prospect for cannabis reform and potential commercial legalization.
In the first in a series of articles dedicated to in-depth study of the market, focusing on everything from progressive hemp laws to supply chains and investment potential, Business of Cannabis looks at the current political climate in the country.
With majority public support for the proposed regulatory changes, the Czech Republic has one of the most promising political landscapes in Europe when it comes to cannabis reform.
While obstacles undoubtedly remain on the path to legalization, the Czech Republic should have an easier path than other European countries such as Germany, which must overcome the lack of a majority in the upper house as well as the inevitable resistance international.
The Czech market
In September 2022, the country’s national drugs coordinator and former anti-communist activist Jindřich Vobořil announced plans to implement comprehensive cannabis reform by early 2024.
The first version of this bill was submitted by members of the Czech Republic’s current five-party right-wing government coalition, the Pirate Party, and focused not only on reducing risks, but also on benefits economic potential of regulation and taxation.
“Through taxation we will obtain billions of crowns per year while avoiding unnecessary spending on law enforcement. Furthermore, if we manage to launch a regulated market at the same time as the German market, our economy will benefit from considerable opportunities in the field of exports,” stated a press release from the Pirate Party in October 2022.
Indeed, if the Czech government succeeds in establishing a commercial adult-use cannabis market, projections suggest that the market size per capita could be larger than that of Germany, if it succeeds.
According to the report European Adult-Use Cannabis Report of Prohibition Partnersthe Czech Republic, which has around 10.5 million inhabitants, could see its adult-use market reach 158.65 million euros by 2027.
If the same adult-use market were launched in Germany, whose population is around eight times that of the Czech Republic, its market is expected to reach 259 million euros during the same period.
Last year, the Czech National Observatory for Drugs and Drug Addiction (NMC) found that around 800,000 people used cannabis in the Czech Republic and that almost a third of the country’s adult population had at least tried it. this substance.
Dr. Tomas Ryska, general director of Astrasana Czech sro, one of the leading Czech cannabis companies, told Business of Cannabis that this figure is likely much higher, as the study only considered people who use cannabis for medical purposes.
Since the bill received the green light in April, expert groups have been hammering out the details. The bill proposes the authorization of domestic and commercial cultivation of cannabis and the creation of Cannabis Social Clubs and licensed sales in stores for persons over 18 years of age. Czech citizens will be able to buy up to five grams of cannabis flowers per day, but will have to register in a “register of special users”.
Mr. Voboril explained at the beginning of the year: “The customer will only be able to purchase a limited quantity per month in order to prevent him from doing his own business. Sellers would then have access to the register through a specific code and could check the quantity already purchased.”
Different government departments are giving their views and comments on the bill before it is presented and put to a vote.
Mr Vobořil is understood to have been in regular contact with the European Commission, his European counterparts and the various parties in his coalition.
Although no definitive timetable has been given, Mr. Ryska believes that after the summer break, “the most important part of the process will now take place during the fall, and a final decision should be made before the end of the year ” .
Of the five political parties that will form a coalition in 2021, four would support Mr Vobořil’s proposals.
The plans are also backed by Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who leads a five-party coalition with 108 seats, and thus a majority in the 200-seat parliament, and by the country’s newly elected president, the former NATO general Petr Pavel, who publicly supported the proposals.
Last July, Mr Vobořil met with the leaders of the Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL), the only coalition party opposing the proposals, to explain to them that regulating cannabis would be the best possible method to protect the youth of the country and society as a whole.
A few weeks ago, the party organized a round table in the Chamber of Deputies with doctors, drug addicts and other experts, during which a number of participants expressed concerns about the possibility of ” adding another addictive substance to the current portfolio of legal drugs.”
However, according to Mr. Ryska, this is just part of the long-awaited reaction from the opposing side, which he had been warned about in a separate meeting at the government office a few weeks earlier.
“I attended a meeting at government headquarters and one of the things that was mentioned was that we should expect a negative campaign against these planned changes. In fact, this is already the case. We can regularly read articles against the draft regulation,” he declared.
He explained that this roundtable was only attended by doctors and experts who had already expressed opposition to the proposals, and that it was an orchestrated part of this negative campaign.
Despite this growing opposition, it is important to note that the KDU-ČSL is not entirely opposed to the proposals. The party generally supports self-cultivation and decriminalization to some extent, but is specifically opposed to the deployment of a commercial market.
More importantly, many believe that the support of the KDU-ČSL will not even be necessary for the bill to pass.
“The Christian Democrats have such a weak preference that if the elections were held today, they would not even enter Parliament,” continued Mr. Ryska.
However, they are still part of the coalition, so their opposition could potentially “unbalance the government if they oppose it”.
Even without their support, other opposition parties should be able to vote freely on the legislation, meaning the numbers could be found elsewhere.
Although nothing is definitive, Mr Ryska suggests that “technically it is possible that the Christian Democrats’ vote is not necessary.”