By / June 7, 2023

Will the Czech Legalization of Cannabis Be Enacted in 2024?

The Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, Vlastimil Válek, has cast doubt on the country’s ambitious project: to approve a legal, commercial market for adult cannabis and implement it by 2024.

Expressing his position to the local media outlet last week, Mr. Válek stated that he is waiting for “his German colleagues” to share their draft legislation, as well as to see how the European Commission (EC) responds to the German proposals.

This measured statement contrasts with those of the country’s drug coordinator, Jindřich Vobořil, the “reform locomotive” in the Czech Republic, who remains determined to continue implementing a commercial market despite Germany scaling back its ambitions in response to the European Commission’s refusal.

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Moving Forward

During a speech in May at Cannabis Europa London 2023 and a few weeks later at the Cannabis Summit in Prague, Mr. Vobořil reiterated his commitment to “launch a fully regulated market.”

In early April, the Czech Republic announced the approval of a new drug strategy until 2025, which includes the introduction of a strictly regulated cannabis market, with an “expert group” tasked with working out the regulatory details.

Mr. Vobořil, who is currently working on this strategy, stated that he hopes the Chamber of Deputies will approve the bill by the end of the year, which would allow for the establishment of the market in 2024.

Under the proposed Czech cannabis regulations, companies will be able to enter the commercial cannabis market through a conditional paid license, costing sellers 50,000 CZK (€2,200) per year. The same amount would apply to a cultivation area of 200 square meters.

Pharmacies will be able to sell cannabis without paying fees, while citizens will be allowed to grow a maximum area of 3 square meters for personal use.

A consumer registration system is also being considered, which would limit the amount an individual can purchase per month, although it is understood that the number of licenses issued would not be limited.

The Willingness to Take Risks

After Germany abandoned the creation of a commercial market, the Czech Republic is now “alone in its quest” to become the first country in Europe to do so.

The likely refusal from the European Commission, which prompted Germany to develop a different strategy, would have also encouraged caution from the Czech government.

Speaking to local media, Mr. Válek stated, “I am waiting for colleagues from Germany who are trying something similar. They are not there yet, and they have promised to show us the draft legislation, on which, of course, the EC must provide a positive opinion because it will be a certain breakthrough in Europe.”

According to Astrasana Czech’s CEO, Tomas Ryska, Mr. Vobořil is not as discouraged by the potential refusal from the EC.

“What Jingrich said in London, and what he told me in our private conversations, is that currently, the government is willing to take the risk because it is not even guaranteed that the EU will actually create problems related to this type of legal challenge.”

“They faced a similar situation last year when they prepared the legislation update regarding the THC limit, which increased from 0.3% to 1%.”

“There were rumors that the EU would intervene and there would be problems. That never happened. No one ever contacted the Czech Republic because of this increase.”

“So, they think that the situation could be similar, but at this stage, they are willing to take the risk.”

To clarify the reasons why the EC rejected Germany’s proposals and what guidance was provided, Business of Cannabis contacted the union, whose complete response is published at the end of the article.

Internal Opposition

In addition to external threats from the EC, there are potential internal problems. Mr. Válek emphasized that there is no consensus within the coalition of five parties regarding cannabis reform. Currently, the main objections to Mr. Vobořil’s project have been raised by the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).

Mr. Ryska continues, “Most members of the government are very supportive of these initiatives. They support them. However, a small group of members from the Christian party opposes them.”

“Their position does not reflect the entire party; it only reflects a small, influential group of two members who are expected to become party leaders.”

Business of Cannabis also believes that this opposition is likely motivated by the interests of a small number of prominent pharmaceutical companies. This influence is also seen as the main driving force behind the recent controversial efforts to restrict the sale of CBD products in the country, which the government later reversed.

Full Response from the European Commission to the Business of Cannabis

Could you shed light on the guidance given by Director-General Monique Pariat to Thomas Steffen on November 14, 2022, and January 18, 2023?

Director-General Monique Pariat met with Thomas Steffen, State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Health, on November 14, 2022, and January 18, 2023. She also met with Klaus Holetschek, Bavarian Minister of Health and Care, on November 16, 2022, to discuss the German initiative regarding the legalization of cannabis, based on the initial document on key points adopted in October 2022. As we have not yet received the official request for consultation from Germany, we cannot provide further comments at this stage.

What is the current position of the European Commission regarding countries like the Czech Republic that wish to legalize recreational cannabis use?

We cannot comment on specific national discussions. However, we are aware of and closely monitor the evolving situation in Member States, particularly to understand the impact of changes in cannabis policies. This includes considering the impact on health, crime, the environment, or social aspects.

It is important to recall the EU legislative framework on drugs. The European legislation (Council Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA) requires Member States to take necessary measures to ensure that drug-related offenses, including cannabis, are punishable.

This law establishes minimum criminal sanctions for drug trafficking. Personal drug consumption is not covered, and it is up to the Member States to decide how to address personal drug consumption, including cannabis.

Under European legislation, the cultivation of the cannabis plant is also prohibited, with a few notable exceptions. Cannabis can be cultivated either under specific rights/authorizations, such as for the production of plant-derived cannabis medicines or if it falls outside the scope of “personal consumption,” which is left to the discretion of the Member States.

Furthermore, the cultivation of hemp plants (cannabis varieties with low THC content) is permitted under the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (varieties selected for their tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content lower than or equal to 0.3%).

(Featured illustration by Matthias Zomer via Pexels)

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