Instead of being treated like criminals, users who are caught using cannabis for the first time could get away with a fine. That’s the big news from Slovakia, the country in the middle of Europe with draconian anti-cannabis and anti-drug laws. But the new proposition is causing a huge stir in the government, showing how backward the politicians in power are.
Trial, probation or even imprisonment for smoking one joint or possessing 0.1 gram of dried bud, no access to medical cannabis, the only European country with illegal CBD – that’s the current reality for Slovakian cannabis users and patients. Compared to the neighboring Czech Republic (you may know both countries under name Czechoslovakia, which existed 1918–1992), where small amounts of not only cannabis, but of all drugs are decriminalized, the difference in attitude of law enforcement and justice is shocking.
A Bit of Common Sense
The new proposal to ease the punishments for using and possessing small amounts of soft drugs has been drafted by the Minister of Justice Lucia Žitňanská from “MOST-Híd” party (inter-ethnic party promoting cooperation between Slovakians and their Hungarian minority). Žitňanská hasn’t introduced the bill in Parliament yet because of the controversies this topic arouses in the current ruling coalition. It’s ironic because the leading party “SMER” (Social Democracy) promised some kind of decriminalization measures a long time ago along with their current coalition partner “SaS” (Freedom and Solidarity Party).
“It’s not only about charts and penalties but rather about reforming the whole system,” described Žitňanská on her ideas about changes in drug policy to SME newspaper. Experts have already approved it, she added.
Under proposed rules, thresholds for amounts considered as “a single dose of drug for personal consumption” would be defined. This would mean, for example, 1 gram of dried cannabis flower, or 0.2 gram of metamphetamine.
Stern Refusal from Uneducated Politicians
However, Žitňanská has had to defend her proposal against many allegations (for example, that this would mean a complete decriminalization of drugs and it would encourage young people to take illegal substances). How absurd the conversation in Slovakian Parliament has become is demonstrated perfectly by one example of the current Minister of Economy Peter Žiga, who argues that “when we were young, we were drinking alcohol, not taking drugs. (…) I am a very conservative person I believe the punishments [for possessing small amounts of cannabis or other drugs] should be proportionate – and just giving fines seems not enough to me.”
Fortunately, there are more and more politicians in Slovakia who don’t agree with Mr. Žiga
“The possession of certain small amounts should be considered an offense when a person is caught for the first time. When the offender repeats it, it will be considered a crime and the offender will face one year imprisonment,” explains the Minister of Justice Lucia Žitňanská. And the fines are not marginal: If the police find a certain quantity of cannabis or other drugs for personal consumption, the offender will be penalized with a €165 fine, which is more than one third of the minimum monthly income in Slovakia.
As the younger generation of Slovakian politicians point out, this is only a very small first step towards more sensible drug policies in this country. “With our current state of knowledge, the punishments for using marijuana are untenable,” says Martin Poliačik from the “SaS” party.