While the Czech parliament discusses the amendment to the Criminal Code that would effectively decriminalise drug use, the Constitutional Court has repealed part of the law concerning small amounts of cannabis and ‘magic’ mushrooms.
An important amendment to the Substance Abuse Act is being debated in the Chamber of Deputies, which is very important for the whole area of drug policy. However, three of these amendments, if adopted, can mark a positive breakthrough in the field of drug policy and addiction care in the Czech Republic.
These are amendments laid by Mr Tomáš Vymazal, member of the Pirate Party, which would allow the creation of supervised consumption rooms for controlled use of drugs, would allow for testing of the chemical composition of drugs in, for example, dance clubs and would get rid of unnecessary criminalisation for the processing of small quantities of cannabis. On Thursday, May 13, the amendment was debated by the House Health Committee.
According to Jiří Richter, Director of SANANIM, the largest treatment and harm reduction service provider in the country, “Mr Vymazal’s amendments can significantly help our work with people who use drugs and create a safe environment for people who don’t use drugs. Surely no one is comfortable with the sight of syringes lying on the ground in the street or, unfortunately, sometimes on children’s playgrounds. Amendment No. 8212 allows injecting drug users to inject their dose under the safe supervision of medical personnel, without having to worry about criminalisation. The adoption of this proposal will also facilitate contacts between assisting services and the at-risk population. The result will be a safer public space for all.”
“Another advantage that this proposal (No. 8212) has is that it provides an opportunity to check drugs used by young people at dance parties,” said Jindřich Vobořil, the former national drug coordinator and the director of the Helping Hands Association, which has been working with drug users for more than 30 years. “For many it is morally appalling to see that young people go to dance parties and use drugs, but this will continue to happen despite their emotions. If we want this behaviour to have the least negative consequences for all of us, it is desirable to allow the testing of drugs for adulterants and concentration of psychoactive substances.”
Matej Hollan, the director of the Association of Non-Governmental Organisations, explained the benefits of another amendment proposed by the government. “Amendment No. 8222 would decriminalise the processing of cannabis for personal use by those who cultivate the plant. Many people who grow cannabis end up in prison because even if cannabis cultivation itself is an administrative offence, processing the plant is a crime.” According to Mr. Hollan, “this nonsensical law criminalises people despite the original intention of the legislator, which was not to imprison people for personal use.”
The amendments proposed by the government come at the same time as the Constitutional Court has repealed a part of the Criminal Code concerning the cultivation and storage of cannabis. According to the Constitution, only a law can determine what constitutes a criminal offence. But the Criminal Code renders the definition of “greater than small amount” to a government decree. According to the Constitutional Court, this is unconstitutional. From now on, the courts have to make a decision on the amount of seized drugs case by case, with experts.
According to civil society organisations, the government amendment would improve the clarity of the law, because it would once and for all remove the disparity between the cultivation of cannabis and its processing for personal use.
“All of our organisations and their members are asking MPs to support these amendments,” emphasised Helena Rampachová, the President of the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, an umbrella for all civil society organisations working in the field of addictions. “These proposals have been drafted in cooperation with experts across the addiction treatment community. We unanimously support them as an umbrella organisation and hope that MPs will listen to the voice of experts working with drug users. By approving these amendments Czech drug policies would improve significantly. “
Peter Sarosi – based on the press release of Czech civil society organisations