Europe: Czech Lower House Passes Drug Reform Measure, Including Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession and Personal Grows 12/9/05

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The Czech Republic's lower house last week approved a penal code revision that will decriminalize simple marijuana possession and allow for growing for personal use. The measure is likely to pass the Senate and be approved by President Vaclav Klaus, reports Czech activist and journalist Bushka Bryndova.

Czech marijuana reform demonstration
courtesy Michal Vlk
The proposed new law draws a distinction between soft drugs (cannabis and psychedelic mushrooms) and hard drugs. While penalties for hard drugs remain practically unchanged, possession of small amounts of marijuana or a limited (the number is yet to be set) number of plants will no longer merit prosecution.

Potential sentences for larger quantities of marijuana would be set at up to one year in prison, while the penalties for "very large" amounts would be set at up to five years. Marijuana or mushroom growers cultivating quantities larger than those defined as personal use face maximum sentences of six months and one year, respectively. Growers of "very large" amounts could face up to three years.

Under the old law, while small time marijuana possessors faced only a fine, those caught in possession of amounts larger than 20 joints faced up to five years in prison. "Thus, the new legislation will considerably reduce sentences for cannabis," writes Bryndova. Similarly, the old law treated any growing of marijuana or mushrooms as a serious offense punishable by years in prison.

The reduction in marijuana sentences and the ability for people to grow their own are the primary benefits of the drug law reform, writes Bryndova.

While the experience of drug law reform in Russia, where law enforcement attempted to sabotage reform by insisting on ridiculously low definitions of "personal use" quantities, leads to questions about whether the same thing could happen in the Czech Republic, Bryndova told DRCNet that would not be the case. "Unlike Russia, the effort to achieve decriminalization is sincere here," she said. "Cannabis use is becoming so widespread that the government has no other choice."

The vote in the lower house came just a week after the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) released its annual report on drug use on the continent. In that report, the Czech Republic was found to have the highest rates of marijuana use among young adults in all of Europe, with 22.1% reporting past year use.

According to proposed quantity guidelines now being considered, people would be allowed to grow up to three plants without penalty, while between three and 30 plants would be considered larger than personal and 30 to 300 plants would be considered "very large" and punished more severely. Likewise, personal use quantities of mushrooms would be up to 25 pieces.

The guidelines are not set in stone, but decriminalized home growing is certain, Bryndova writes. "These quantities still might be subject to change, but one plant is for sure!"

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Issue #414 -- 12/9/05

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Update and Appeal: DRCNet in 2006 | Feature: Vancouver Keeps Leading the Way on Drug Reform, Despite Bumps in the Road | Feature: Seattle Conference on Drug War Exit Strategies Gets Down to Nuts and Bolts | Feature: Washington Legislature to Consider Bill to Examine Alternatives to Prohibition | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Marijuana: Denver Man to Challenge Pot Arrest After Legalization Ordinance in Effect | Chronic Pain: South Carolina Pain Doctors Lose Appeal, But Get New Sentencing Hearings | Medical Marijuana: Judges Growls at More Possible Prosecution Misconduct in Bryan Epis Resentencing Hearings | Medical Marijuana: San Diego County to Sue to Overturn California Law | Latin America: Prison Sentence for Dying Woman, 79, Sparks International Appeal | Australia: Australian Government Goes After Rave Ecstasy Testing Group | Europe: Czech Lower House Passes Drug Reform Measure, Including Decriminalization of Marijuana Possession and Personal Grows | Canada: With Elections Looming, Conservatives Talk Tough on Drugs | Europe: Dutch Political Parties Call for Regulated Pilot Program to Supply Marijuana to Coffee Shops | Web Scan: After I-75 in Seattle, re-launched web site from Bolivia's coca country | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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