Poland is not a safe haven for cannabis enthusiasts. It’s currently illegal to possess or use cannabis for recreational purposes in Poland, but the county has adopted a ‘tolerance’ policy regarding cannabis in 2011.
What is this tolerance policy, and how does it affect tourists that want to enjoy cannabis while in Poland? Can you enjoy a spliff in Poland without getting in trouble with the authorities? Read on to find out.
Drug laws in Poland
According to Polish law, any kind of drug possession, including possessing a small amount of drugs for personal use, can be penalised with up to three years of imprisonment. Minor offenders may be fined or ordered to serve a sentence of up to one year of deprivation of liberty.
However, in 2011, the Polish government adopted an amendment that would give prosecutors the option of not charging offenders who are caught with small amounts of drugs. The amendment does not decriminalise marijuana or any other drug, but it gives first-time offenders the possibility to retain their freedom in case they get charged with drug possession.
Courts can also compel drug offenders to undergo treatment, suspending their prison sentences while they undergo treatment.
Drug trafficking is penalised with up to 12 years of imprisonment, depending on the gravity of the offence. In the case of a minor offence, the culprit may be fined and subjected to a limitation of liberty or an imprisonment sentence of up to one year. If the offender is addicted to cannabis and the amount of cannabis trafficked is not large, he or she may be offered treatment instead of a sentence of up to five years of imprisonment.
However, if the amount of trafficked drugs is substantial, the perpetrator may be condemned to a prison sentence of up to 12 years.
Cannabis in Poland
Marijuana is by far the most popular psychoactive drug in Poland. In 2018, 15.4 percent of the male population aged 15 to 34 admitted to using cannabis at least once in the previous year. About 31 percent of those entering drug treatment facilities in Poland, either voluntarily or ordained by courts, are cannabis users.
Poland is considered a transit country for the cannabis drug trade. The cannabis in Poland is usually produced in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany or Czechia and passes through the country on its way to Eastern Europe and Russia.
But Polish organised crime groups also grow cannabis in large-scale cultivation sites. In 2017, Polish law enforcement agencies dismantled more than 1,200 cannabis plantations, confiscating more than 1,000 kg of herbal cannabis and 1,200 kg of cannabis resin produced there.
Cannabis growing is illegal in Poland, regardless of the scale of production. Growers can receive sentences that can vary from six months to eight years of imprisonment, depending on the number of plants they grow.
But, despite the tough laws, cannabis plantations continue to pop up across Poland. In 2018, Polish law enforcement agencies confiscated over 2,500 marijuana plants, with an estimated black-market worth of 9 million PLN (about €2.1 million) in just two raids.
Medical cannabis in Poland
Poland legalised cannabis for medical purposes back in 2017, when the parliament showed its overwhelming support for a medical cannabis bill. The law was passed after a period of heated public debate.
In 2015, a Warsaw doctor was forced to suspend his activity after he was caught administering cannabis products to epileptic patients without having the authorisation to do so. Even though the test he was running was a success and managed to reduce the frequency of the epileptic seizures his patients suffered by up to 90 percent, the authorities decided to pull the plug because the doctor did not file the right papers to get the authorisation.
Medical cannabis starred in another heated public debate a few months after, when a man who campaigned for the legalisation of medical cannabis treatments for terminally ill patients died of a brain tumour.
A poll showed that the Polish general public supported the legalisation of cannabis for medical purposes, with 68 percent of the respondents saying that they would back a legalisation policy.
The legalisation act passed in 2017 enabled Polish pharmacies to import and process cannabis, as long as they reported their activity to the county’s Office for Registration of Medical Products. Polish lawmakers estimated that about 300,000 patients would qualify for medical cannabis treatments.
Doctors could prescribe cannabis treatments for a variety of ailments, including epilepsy, chronic pain, nausea caused by chemotherapy and multiple sclerosis. But one thing that makes the Polish medical cannabis legal framework stand out is that medical practitioners are allowed to prescribe cannabis products for any condition, as long as they present clinical research proving that the treatment can be beneficial.
But, as Strain Insider reported in February, Poland has been facing supply problems ever since it passed its medical cannabis laws. Access to cannabis is extremely limited. Only a handful of Polish medical professionals prescribe cannabis medication, and the average cannabis treatment costs about €500 per month.
Non-governmental organisations and politicians are currently trying to change and improve the existing laws by making domestic cultivation possible. Domestic cultivation would lower the production prices of cannabis medication, making it more accessible for patients.
But they are facing fierce opposition from conservatives who see the legalisation of domestic cannabis cultivation as a gateway toward the legalisation of recreational cannabis.
Hemp and CBD in Poland
Until about 70 years ago, Poland was a large grower of hemp. More than 50,000 hectares of hemp were cultivated in the country before the crop was banned in the 1950s. That being said, even though only 100 hectares of hemp were grown across the country in 2014, the trend is changing, and more farmers started growing again.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is legal in Poland, but producers are not allowed to advertise it as food. The substance can be sold as a nutritional supplement, and all the products have to contain up to 0.2 percent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to be considered legal.
The future of cannabis in Poland
Hemp production is slowly picking up in Poland, and that, together with the medical cannabis legal framework, might help change the cultural taboo around the plant.
But Poland is nowhere near cannabis legalisation at this point, and the immediate future doesn’t seem to hold any surprises in this regard. At the moment, some Polish entities are trying to improve the country’s medical cannabis system, and even those attempts are facing serious opposition from conservatives.
As things stand, the legalisation of recreational cannabis in Poland is nothing but a pipe dream.