Pirate Cannabis Campaign: What's the Situation and What's Next?
My name is Tomáš Vymazal and since October 2017 I have been a Member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, where I ran for the Pirate Party to legalize cannabis. At the end of May this year, we published information that our proposal to regulate the self-cultivation of small quantities of cannabis for personal use will soon be discussed in the Chamber of Deputies. Since then, you have contacted us very often with questions about whether this has already happened and how it turned out. I therefore decided to take the opportunity offered by Roots magazine to briefly write down what has already happened as part of the Pirates' campaign to legalize cannabis, what the situation is in the House now and what will happen next.
Cannabis regulation is a broad issue because, from the point of view of the law, cannabis is not like cannabis. Let's start with the illegal one with a THC content above 0.3 %. There are two ways to stop punishing ordinary users. We must either lift the ban or create a permit. However, both methods are associated with a different law.
The first case is a criminal code, the change of which is extremely difficult and twofold. Proponents of drug repression could easily propose an increase in criminal sanctions for violating the ban instead of lifting the ban. The second is the law on addictive substances, which is changed more often and much easier. That is why the Pirates presented its amendment in 2018, which would allow each adult to grow up to 5 cannabis plants at home. However, as we are in opposition and cannabis is a financially uninteresting, controversial topic for traditional political parties, the House has not yet begun to address our proposal at all. Therefore, it has been parked among other amendments to the opposition, the Senate, the regions, etc. for two years now.
In short, the government is always very careful to discuss its proposals in particular. However, the Pirates team dealing with addictive behavior has not lazed in the last two years and has used that time to at least put pressure on several other fronts, which has paid off in the end.
In mid-May, the Ministry of Health presented its own amendment to the Act on Addictive Substances, which concerns the availability of cannabis for medical use. I therefore took the opportunity to propose to the House that it combine the discussion of the two amendments to this law submitted. MEPs finally approved it, which was a great success for me. But during June, a lot of things appeared in the House that took precedence because they related to the coronavirus crisis. In the end, therefore, none of the amendments managed to be discussed. The next opportunity will be in July, but since we only have one week ahead of us, I do not expect the governing coalition to want to spend it discussing cannabis. So I can only wait in the autumn, when I will have to propose again that the discussion of the two amendments be merged on the agenda of the current meeting. But once it has passed, I believe it will pass a second time.
Don't lose your mind. This is how the House just works. However, all the time we will wait for the discussion of this amendment will have to be used to negotiate support. The first step is to persuade Members not to reject the law at first reading, thus allowing it to be discussed in committees. I am currently working on this with my latest reinforcement - MP Patrik Nacher from the YES movement. We have already organized a professional conference together and we are planning other activities as well. Most important of all, however, is to convince the Prime Minister that the regulation of cannabis is not just about "weeding", but about the safety and health of the individual and the maturity of our rule of law.
As I have already mentioned, the government amendment mainly deals with cannabis for medical use, ie the less available, albeit legal, variant of cannabis with a non-trivial THC content. The changes proposed by the government are going in the right direction, but sometimes only a small step and sometimes contrary to common sense. That is why we are preparing a set of proposals that would complete and refine the government's efforts. We will probably spend the whole parliamentary holiday, but if we want to move from the place, it is essential to enable the mass production of cannabis extracts, enforce faster granting of appropriate permits and introduce clearer definitions of mandatory parameters of growers. The chairwoman of the committee for health care, Věra Adámková from the YES movement, has already shown interest in our ideas, so they have a chance to succeed.
As for the so-called technical hemp, we also deal with it. We want to prevent the criminalization of farmers who have "very successful harvests" and allow a wider economic use of this versatile crop, following the example of Switzerland or Italy. We managed to find common ground with another important member of the YES movement - the chairman of their parliamentary club, Jaroslav Faltynek. Our goal is to raise the limit of THC content to 1 % and enable the processing of cultivated flowers into extracts and other products without special permits.
To sum it up. The long-term goal is clear. We strive to liberalize the use of cannabis for adult citizens of the Czech Republic. But before we can work on that, we will have to take all sorts of partial steps, which I described to you above. So before we reach legalization, you'll hear about cannabis many more times. Therefore, keep your fingers crossed for us and do not let us tell you that we are only announcing the legalization of cannabis "on the eye". We mean damn it. But it will still be a long struggle. Keep your fingers crossed for us, it will turn out well.
"Don't Fall On Your Mind"
Author: Tomáš Vymazal