In September 2022, Vobořil was tasked with creating a draft law for a legal adult recreational cannabis market, which is expected to be presented in March 2023, with full legalisation set for 2024.
Although concrete details are yet to be confirmed, in an interview in November, Vobořil confirmed that the new regulations would allow adults to purchase cannabis from licenced dispensaries and pharmacies. However, it would be down to local jurisdictions to decide if they would allow cannabis sales in stores.
The drug commissioner has also expressed interest in the Spanish ‘social club’ model, where cannabis appears to have been legalised without becoming commercialised. Under the ‘social club’ model, cannabis clubs are run as non-profit organisations where cannabis is grown and shared with only registered members. As there is no motivation for profit, the focus of the club is on public health and harm reduction.
In a facebook post Vobořil wrote: “My colleagues in Germany are talking about permitted quantities, and they don’t have the cannabis clubs that we foresee. I’m pretty sure I want to hold on to cannabis clubs until my last breath. I find this model very useful, at least for the first years”.
It is interesting to see the drug commissioner opt for this path to legalisation, given the approach taken by other European countries, such as Germany, which often includes set restrictions and permitted quantities.
Leading the campaign for legalisation in Czechia is the Pirate Party of Czechia (CPS), formed in 2009 as a progressive party focused on reforming copyright laws and legalising cannabis. They are currently the smallest party within the government’s coalition, winning four seats in parliament in 2021. They view that cannabis legalisation will bring with it a host of economic benefits to the country, estimating that cannabis products could generate up to €800m a year in tax.
Cannabis in Czechia
Czechia is known to be one of the most liberal European countries when it comes to cannabis. In 2010 the possession of cannabis under 10g and cultivation of up to 5 plants for personal use became decriminalised.
Three years later it became the first European country to legalise medical cannabis. Czechia is currently one of a few European countries to increase the THC cap to 1% when cultivating hemp for industrial purposes.
The introduction of a regulated recreational market also appears to be a natural path for a country with the highest rate of cannabis use in Europe. It is estimated that around a quarter to a third of adults in Czechia have used cannabis in their lifetime, and around 8-10% of the adults in the country have used cannabis in the past 12 months.
The European Context
The announcement of these plans means that Czechia joins a host of other European countries who are re-examining their approach to cannabis regulation. In December 2021, Malta became the first European country to open up an adult recreational market. Evidence has also emerged that Malta and Czechia, alongside Germany, the Netherlands and Luxembourg have met to develop a joined up approach to reform.
Vobořil has already expressed that he wishes to consult and coordinate Czechia’s approach with the German government whose legalisation plans are also set to be finalised by 2024. In a facebook post concerning the plans the drug commissioner said:
“We are in live contact with our colleagues from Germany and have repeatedly confirmed that we want to coordinate ourselves, even practically by consulting each other on our proposals. I will also want their expert assessment of our proposals, which we will prepare in the above mentioned working expert group”.
Germany is set to house the largest cannabis market in the world which is predicted to be worth $4.6bn a year. It is hoped that legalising recreational use in Czechia will provide the same economic boost, with the government’s National Economic Council (NERV) suggesting that the regulated recreational market could help to fight high public budget deficits within the country.
This piece was written by Volteface Intern Megan Townsend. Megan is a current MA Criminology student at Birmingham City University. Tweets @megant2799.