Central and Eastern European countries are very heterogeneous in terms of cannabis laws and general acceptance of the plant in the society. The most striking example is the differences between two countries that used to be one for most of the 20th century: former Czechoslovakia and present Slovakia and the Czech Republic.
The Czech Republic (or “Czechia” as it has been called internationally for about one year) and its people have pretty liberal attitude towards cannabis, which is reflected in decriminalization law – people caught with less than ten grams of dried buds or growing not more than five plants at home are subjected to fine (ranging from a few Euro to more than €500) instead of criminal prosecution. There is a catch, though, because it is enough to harvest just one plant and start drying it – and you are suddenly committing a crime of “drug production”. On the other hand, Czech judges don’t send people to jail for a couple of cannabis plants hanging in the attic (nor for selling a few grams).
From Paradise to Hell
However, be aware that once you cross the borders (you may not even notice, as there are no real borders anymore there) to neighboring Slovakia – or Poland for that matter –, you are suddenly entering cannabis user’s nightmare. Drug laws in these countries make no difference between cannabis and drugs like heroin or methamphetamine, with general public attitude deeply rooted in reefer madness myths and clichés.
Slovakian newspapers are informing on daily basis about passing harsh sentences for mostly young people caught possessing or selling a few grams. It is no surprise when nineteen year olds are send to prison for several years only for selling ten or twenty grams of cannabis to their friends. And the worst aspect of the whole situation in Slovakia is that no one really cares, no one is outraged by these incredibly severe punishments, which could basically destroy young lives. There is a handful of politicians and judges who support less repression and more prevention in regards to drug policies, however these are only isolated cases outside main political parties.
Slovakian cannabis fearmongering is so strong that it led to the prohibition of not only tiny amounts of THC (the allowed amount of THC in hemp has been recently moved to precise ZERO, while in the EU the limit is 0.2 percent), but also of non-psychoactive CBD (making Slovakia the only country in the EU with such restriction).
What is the reason behind such huge differences in attitude towards cannabis in Czechia and Slovakia? Many Czech cannabis activists and supporters point out the fact that Slovakia is a strongly catholic country with outdated views (all drugs are the same and all are equally bad), while Czechs are mostly atheists with a more pragmatic view of the world – if this plant doesn’t hurt anyone, why should we punish people for producing and using it? Let’s hope that Slovakia (and Poland, which is very similar to Slovakia in terms of draconian drug laws) would leave reefer madness lies behind and accept one simple truth: the most harmful thing about cannabis is its illegality.