Czech Health Minister: ‘We Are Waiting For Germany To Legalize Cannabis’
One of the most active places on the planet right now for cannabis reform discussions is the Czech Republic. If you have followed our previous coverage, then you know that there is a strong push underway in the Czech Republic to legalize cannabis for adult use.
In October 2022 the national anti-drug coordinator for the Czech Republic, Jindřich Vobořil, announced his plan to pursue adult-use legalization.
“At the moment, there is a political consensus for me to create this proposal for the regulation of cannabis, a substance which is illegal at the moment. We want to regulate it with the help of the market and we believe that this regulation will be more effective than the current ban.” Jindřich Vobořil stated at the time.
Mere days after Germany’s Health Minister Karl Lauterbach held a historic press conference in Germany to provide an update about his nation’s legalization plans, news broke in the Czech Republic about some of the facets that may eventually make it into Czech law.
The model that made headlines back then (April 2023) involves the Czech Republic legalizing adult-use cannabis production and sales under a tightly regulated system. Consumers would be able to purchase up to five grams of cannabis per day according to domestic reporting, and consumers would be required to sign up through a government tracking database.
Meanwhile, running parallel to the reform push was the prosecution in the Czech Republic of a cannabis educator and journalist named Robert Veverka. Robert Veverka is the director of the Czech-based cannabis magazine Legalizace. Back in October 2021, we published an article about Robert being targeted by the Czech government over his journalism, with the government accusing him of “inciting and promoting toxicomania.”
Unfortunately, the Czech Republic proceeded with the indictment and in November 2021 Veverka and his media outlet were found guilty of the allegations, and Veverka was given a one-year prison sentence contingent on a probationary period of two and a half years as well as a fine of 50,000 CZK by the district court in Bruntál following two court hearings.
“The judge mentioned that he is not competent to assess the benefits of the current legislation, the benefits of cannabis products in healthcare, or the negative effects of cannabis use, but that he must base his verdict on the existing legislation which is binding for all. He stated that according to his judgement, Legalizace magazine evidently and factually constituted the criminal offence of inciting and promoting toxicomania.” Veverka stated at the time of the November 2021 verdict in a press release.
“He did not take into account the legislative provisions allowing for cannabis to be handled legally in certain cases or the comprehensive and educational nature of the information published in the magazine. On the contrary, the judge expressed his doubts as to whether the individuals who granted interviews to the magazine were made aware of its content and overall message. Personally, I consider the verdict to be very biased and severely restrictive of the freedom of expression, the right to express political opinion, and the right to information,” Veverka also stated.
Veverka must reportedly pay an administrative offense of €4.000 (as a defendant and a natural person) and €6.000 on behalf of his media outlet as part of an additional recent verdict. For anyone that is able to support Robert Veverka and contribute to his defense, bank details are below. If you are not able to contribute financially, please help spread the word on your social channels about his plight:
Fio banka, as, V Celnici 1028/10, 117 21 Praha 1
This month the cannabis reform discussion in the Czech Republic took yet another turn, with the nation’s health minister offering up a series of comments about the nation’s push to legalize cannabis for adult use.
Minister Vlastimil Válek’s comments seemed to fail to accurately describe where things are currently at in Germany regarding cannabis reform, particularly as it pertained to Germany’s discussions with the European Union. Per ZdraveZpravy.cz:
Nevertheless, Minister Válek expressed his opinion regarding the actual approval of the standard, which would open up the market for cannabis containing a high amount of the psychoactive substance THC from January next year. He said that he is waiting for his colleagues from Germany, who are also trying to take a similar step. However, they are worried about how the European Commission [EC] and other EU member states, which oppose cannabis, would accept the legalization of cannabis in Germany. At stake are impacts on the EU-wide legal and illegal cannabis trade and market. It is exactly this, along with other questions, that the Germans are dealing with with EC representatives.
“I’m waiting for colleagues from Germany who are trying something similar. And they are not at the stage yet, and they promised us that they will show us the draft of the law, which of course the EC must give a positive opinion on, because it will be a certain breakthrough in what is in Europe,” Minister Válek explained to ZdraveZpravy.cz.
For starters, Minister Válek’s comments seem to passively disregard the fact that Malta has already passed an adult-use legalization measure and that regional adult-use cannabis commerce pilot programs also are already in existence in Europe (albeit in a limited-scope fashion).
To be fair, legalization in Germany would presumably be performed on a much larger scale than what is going on in Malta and with pilot programs in places such as Basel, Switzerland. However, the basic principle of the European Union and member states dealing with modernized cannabis policies in some form in some nations is not a new thing. The ‘what will Europe do if laws are reformed?’ talking point died a while ago, and it’s obviously time for cannabis opponents to move on.
German Health Minister Lauterbach made it clear in his April 2023 press conference that while the European Union would not permit nationwide sales to anyone of legal age, many of the components of Minister Lauterbach’s legalization did appear to receive approval, or at least that the European Union would not stand in the way of them.
While there is nearly no way to know if Minister Lauterbach has personally sent a copy of the current version of Germany’s legalization plan to his counterpart in the Czech Republic, there is still a considerable amount of information out in the public regarding where things currently stand and what is involved, and that the legalization plan is currently working its way around political circles in Germany.
For Minister Válek to act so clueless about where things are at in Germany seems disingenuous to me, however, that is not uncommon in politics. Ultimately, as things move along in Germany the pressure will build in the Czech Republic and many other parts of Europe, and many of the talking points that are being thrown around right now will fizzle.