Police in the Czech Republic have launched an unprecedented operation, evidently aimed at liquidating grow shops, i.e. shops with accessories for growing plants – despite the country's liberal drug laws.
Even though the Czech Republic is known for decriminalising the use of all illicit substances, an unprecedented police raid took place across the country in the early days of November. So-called 'grow shops' offering entirely legal products, mainly growing technology, substrates, fertiliser and plant seeds, were affected. During a state-wide raid, more than 50 such shops, legally in business for many years, were cleared out by policemen without prior warning. According to a press release from Legalizace, a Czech cannabis legalisation movement, the raid took place based on a questionable law concerning the spreading of toxicomania (non-alcoholic drug abuse) and a judicial decision of the Supreme Court from 2012, whereby the owners of a garden store were given a suspended sentence for spreading toxicomania.
Robert Veverka, president of Legalizace, stated that, “These events once again prove how easy it is to exploit dysfunctional and outdated anti-drug laws which don't solve actual drug issues, but only constitute a useful tool for the police to persecute citizens. It is absolutely obvious that this police raid is merely playing into the hands of the big fish of the marijuana black market and the forthcoming, state-licensed companies that are preparing to take over the legal trade in medical marijuana, Veverka added. Furthermore, the action of the police goes completely against the global trend to ease up on cannabis prohibition, and against both public opinion and the public interest, the organisation's statement continues.
In order to show support and sympathy towards grow shop owners, Legalizace helped organise a public demonstration in Prague's Old Town Square on the 9th of November, attended by several hundred people.
Supporters of the legalisation of cannabis sale and use are especially worried, because the grow shops were cleared out despite having restricted or removed from sale their range of products which might warrant a charge of spreading toxicomania (i.e. the parallel sale of cannabis seeds, growing technology, smoking requisites and printed material with information on growing) based on a decision of the Supreme Court and a suggestion from the Czech Police at the beginning of summer 2013. Even so, the prosecuting authorities did not take this fact into account, and decided to liquidate grow shops in a blanket operation.
“The Legalizace.cz citizens' association resolutely and firmly refuses to accept this monstrous manifestation of power-fuelled despotism that has caused dozens, maybe hundreds, of decent, upstanding and tax-paying businessmen to be totally pointlessly criminalised, with legal trade products worth millions of Czech crowns being confiscated. The association is convinced that the activities of typical grow shops in no case support a charge under the “elastic” article on spreading toxicomania, because each of their customers alone are responsible for the way in which they use the purchased products. Grow shops definitely do not entice nor encourage anyone to grow or use illegal drugs by selling flowerpots and fertilizer,” the organization argues.
“This case is an example of an absolutely unacceptable and scandalous infringement upon civil rights and freedom of enterprise, and at the same time a massive waste of public funds and Czech police resources, which are desperately needed to deal with real crime. Do the Czech Police have nothing better to do than to go after owners of garden stores?” Legalizace rhetorically inquires.