Prague, the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, has been called the ‘Amsterdam of the East’. Tourists often see the city’s liberal laws and relaxed stance on cannabis as an invitation to light up, but what is the legal situation of cannabis in the Czech Republic?
Drug legality in the Czech Republic — a brief history lesson
Drug decriminalisation has been a key feature of Czech drug policies in the last 30 years or so. Czech lawmakers have strived to balance a modern and pragmatic rationale that focuses on public health and tough criminal justice for those who disobey the law. And their results have been good so far.
After the fall of communism in 1989, the possession of psychotropic substances and narcotic drugs has ceased to be a criminal offence in the Czech Republic. This led to an increase in drug use that reached fairly large and worrisome proportions in the 90s.
In 1999, the country’s lawmakers introduced criminal penalties for drug possession, but only if the quantity was ‘greater than small’. Since the law didn’t specify what greater than small actually meant, it was often interpreted differently, and the matter was generally approached on a case-by-case basis.
Then, in 2001, the Czech Ministry of Health and Ministry of Justice collaborated to group different drugs according to the risks they posed. They ended up creating two drug categories — cannabis and anything else.
In 2010, the new Czech Criminal Code set lower penalties for the unauthorised possession of cannabis and higher penalties for the possession of all other narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances. A decision of the Czech Supreme Court said that the possession of up to 10 grams of dry cannabis matter is not a felony but a misdemeanour.
Growing your own cannabis was actually legal in the Czech Republic. Now it’s illegal. Sort of.
Growing and selling cannabis are both considered felonies in the Czech Republic, but the laws surrounding cannabis production and distribution are downright confusing. According to the Czech Criminal Code, cannabis cultivation and distribution are criminal offences punishable by one to eight years of imprisonment, depending on the quantity, aggravating circumstances, etc.
Now, a governmental directive stated that Czech citizens could grow five cannabis plants for individual use. This directive was later abolished by a ruling of the Constitutional Court, but the Court did not specify the number of plants citizens can legally grow for individual use, or if they can even grow any.
And this is where things get complicated.
If Czech citizens decide to grow a cannabis plant for individual use, they are committing a crime — growing cannabis — that’s punishable with up to five years of imprisonment. But if they harvest the plant and are in the process of drying it, they commit another crime — producing marijuana — punishable with one to ten years of imprisonment.
If, after drying their cannabis harvest, they possess less than 10 grams of dry cannabis herb, they commit a crime that’s classified as a misdemeanour in the Czech Republic and risk a fine. But if they possess more than 15 grams of dried marijuana, they commit another crime — drug possession — and risk up to eight years of imprisonment.
The Czech Republic’s cannabis laws for tourists
Many tourists flock to the Czech Republic for its superb views, impressive monuments and thriving nightlife. And some of them might believe that it would be a good idea to light up since the Czech Republic decriminalised cannabis a long time ago.
But that’s the thing. Cannabis has been decriminalised for individual use, but it hasn’t been legalised. It’s still very much illegal to consume cannabis in public. And if you’re a tourist who lights up in the middle of the street, you’re also being a nuisance for those around you.
Now, some tourists might feel compelled to argue that they believed cannabis to be legal in the Czech Republic, especially since there are a lot of ‘helpful’ locals who openly sell dry herbs near popular tourist attractions. Cannabis has to be legal if they’re allowed to sell weed in public places, right?
Well, no. Cannabis is still illegal, and it’s true that the Czech police often ignore the street ‘weed’ peddlers. But the thing is: the police officers don’t do anything about these ‘dealers’ because they’re not really selling weed. Sure, their herb is dry and it has an aromatic smell, but you’re more likely to buy dried oregano or basil than real weed from them.
There are also a lot of cannabis shops in and around Prague. Some of these shops might advertise their products as weed to foreigners, but the truth is that you’d pay a premium for cannabidiol (CBD) cannabis. Everything that has a tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration higher than 0.2 percent is illegal, and you will not find it in a store.
The best thing you can do if you’re visiting Prague is to switch from cannabis to hops. The Czech Republic is home to some of the best beers in the world, so you can easily find one you will enjoy.
Is medical marijuana legal in the Czech Republic?
The Czech Republic legalised medical cannabis back in 2013. A 2015 law established the conditions for medical marijuana prescriptions, the distribution, preparation and supply of medical cannabis as well as individual therapeutic use. According to this law, medical patients can consume up to 180 grams of dry cannabis matter per month in the Czech Republic.
However, only patients suffering from specific diseases or conditions can qualify as medical cannabis users. Those who suffer from chronic pain, Tourette’s syndrome, spasticity, dermatoses, glaucoma and some other specific medical conditions might qualify for cannabis treatments, given that they have a prescription from a specialist doctor.
Specialist doctors can prescribe cannabis that has a THC concentration of up to 21 percent and a CBD concentration of up to 19 percent. They also have to use a restricted electronic prescription that’s directly linked to a governmental database.
As of the 1st of January 2020, 90 percent of the cost of medical cannabis should be deducted by insurance companies. However, the government directive that included cannabis on the deductible medicines list mentions that insurance companies have to cover the costs of only 30 grams of cannabis per month.
Medical cannabis is not very popular in the Czech Republic. The Czech Minister of Health mentions that there were only 447 medical cannabis patients in 2018. There are 57 doctors who are allowed to prescribe medical cannabis across the country and 41 pharmacies dispensing it nationwide.
Most doctors prescribe cannabis as a treatment for symptoms of serious medical conditions. But only a few patients can access it through legal means. According to KOPAC, a Czech organisation that represents medical marijuana patients, cannabis has been missing from pharmacies for periods of up to one year at a time. And pharmacies often sell cannabis that’s more expensive than what Czechs can find on the black market.
The future of marijuana in the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic’s relaxed laws regarding individual cannabis consumption have made it one of the go-to places for cannabis enthusiasts around the world. However, cannabis is still an illegal substance and tourists should abstain from breaking the law.
Considering the current legal status of cannabis and the popularity weed has around young people (19.3 percent of young adults aged 15 to 34 used cannabis in 2018), the Czech Republic might consider legalising weed in the near future.