Croatia is home to some of the most beautiful Mediterranean landscapes. The Croatian coastline has over 1,000 islands that attract millions of tourists each year. And, unbeknownst to many, Croatia is also home to one of the more relaxed cannabis legislations in Europe.
As a tourist going to Croatia, you might now be wondering: ‘Is marijuana legal in Croatia? Can you smoke pot without being arrested?’ Read on to find out.
Drug laws and penalties in Croatia
Croatia passed its Drug Abuse Prevention Act (DAPA) in 2001 and has been updating it since. The DAPA and Croatia’s Criminal Code regulate the conditions for drug manufacture, possession and trade.
The current legislative system in Croatia prohibits unauthorised drug cultivation, possession and trafficking. Those who break the law are prosecuted under the Criminal Code. But the DAPA also outlines a framework for the prevention of drug use and the rehabilitation of drug users.
Thus, the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use has been relegated from a criminal offence to a misdemeanour in 2013. Nowadays, the possession of small amounts of drugs is punishable by a fine. The fine varies according to the quantity and type of drug involved and ranges from €650 to €2,600.
Illegal drug cultivation, production and processing with no intent to sell can lead to prison sentences of up to five years. If the prosecutor proves that the individual had an intention to sell the drugs, the prison sentences can go up to 12 years.
Aggravating circumstances, such as previous convictions, being part of a criminal network, involving children in the drug trade or provoking serious harm to others may further increase the sentences to 15 to 20 years of imprisonment.
Cannabis drug laws in Croatia
The 2013 DAPA update created a distinction between the various illegal substances, which are now separated into two categories — heavy drugs and light drugs. Cannabis is considered a light drug, and the possession of a small quantity of marijuana for personal use is considered a minor offence in Croatia.
Even though possessing a small quantity of cannabis can lead to a fine of up to €2,600, most cannabis fines range from €650 to €1,300.
But here’s the thing. The current legislative system does not specify what qualifies as a ‘small’ quantity and what doesn’t. If you’re caught with cannabis in Croatia, one of two things will happen, depending on the quantity of cannabis you’re caught with.
If you’re caught with a visibly small amount of cannabis in Croatia — a spliff, one or maybe even two grams of fresh or dried cannabis flower — you may receive a fine directly from the police officer who caught you. If this happens, you will be forced to pay the fine on the spot, but you won’t face any other legal problems.
If you’re caught with a larger amount of cannabis or if the police officer who catches you suspects you planned to sell the weed, you’ll have to go to court.
Now, since the law doesn’t define the maximum amount of cannabis one can possess for personal use in Croatia, the arresting police officer and the judge presiding over your case have the liberty to decide your penalty based on a variety of factors and circumstances. The amount of cannabis in your possession, your age, your criminal record and other factors weigh in on the verdict.
Every case of possession is unique, and Croatian judges can be forgiving or tough. Realistically speaking, even most of the harsh judges will pass a relatively small quantity of cannabis as a personal possession and let you off with a fine, albeit a larger one, but there are no guarantees that they will.
Penalties for breaking the drug laws in Croatia
One of the good things about the DAPA 2013 update is that it encourages lawmakers to seek alternative measures to imprisonment for those who were caught with small amounts of drugs and would otherwise receive prison sentences of up to six months.
Croatian judges might recommend fines, community service, probation and treatment for those who are charged with drug possession. Sometimes, the offence might even be dismissed if the judge considers it ‘insignificant’. Some lawbreakers might have to attend a compulsory drug treatment for up to three years.
Medical marijuana in Croatia
Croatia legalised medical marijuana back in 2015 after a man suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS) was arrested for growing weed to keep his symptoms in check. His arrest angered the general public and a medical cannabis law was quickly passed.
Patients over 18 who are suffering from MS, cancer, AIDS and epilepsy can enter the Croatian cannabis program. Patients who are under 18 can still enter the program, but they can benefit from cannabis treatments only with the approval of their legal guardian.
Nowadays, the Croatian medical cannabis program allows citizens to buy cannabis medication straight from the pharmacy with a digital prescription. Cannabis prescriptions expire in 30 days and they limit the patient’s purchase to 7.5 grams of cannabis per month.
All the medical cannabis in Croatian pharmacies is currently imported from Canada.
The future of cannabis in Croatia
Croatia’s drug legislation is somewhat relaxed, but cannabis users are still stigmatised. However, that might change in the near future.
In February 2020, Mirela Holy, a Croatian MP, announced that a cannabis law will go to public debate. The bill proposes the full legalisation of the cannabis plant for economic, medical and recreational purposes.
The law proposes a hybrid model of administration where the state would partner with private entities to maintain the high-quality of product in the market. The bill would also allow every adult citizen to cultivate up to nine female tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-rich cannabis plants for personal needs.
Holy mentioned that cannabis farming would help in the fight against climate change, but she also mentioned the plant’s great economic potential. She also added that the Croatian public changed its view on cannabis in recent years and that the public’s understanding of cannabis has grown, which helped with the prejudice against marijuana.
Croatia’s cannabis laws are already somewhat relaxed and permissive, and it’s encouraging to see that the country is taking decisive steps toward full legalisation.
But, at the moment, drug trafficking is still a problem in Croatia, and drug users are still stigmatised. If you’re travelling to Croatia, keep in mind that cannabis still has a bad rep, and it’s sometimes viewed as a gateway drug. So, act accordingly and do not consume cannabis in public in Croatia if you don’t want to face legal problems.