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Summary

The Czech Republic is the only Eastern European country in the post-Communist era to have reduced punishments for some drug-related activities.  The production and sale of drugs have always been punishable under Czech criminal law.  The possession of drugs was decriminalized after the collapse of the Communist regime, but penalties were reinstated in 1999 for possession in amounts “larger than small.”  The new Criminal Code enacted in 2009 differentiates between cannabis and other drugs, and imposes less strict penalties for the use and cultivation of cannabis.  The use of cannabis for medical purposes was legalized in 2013.

Despite inheriting from the Soviet bloc a policy of harshly repressing drug users, today the Czech Republic has a drug policy that is described as “pragmatic, rational and sometimes too liberal.”[1]

The 1961 Criminal Law was the main piece of legislation on drug-related offenses until 2010, when the new Criminal Code came into effect.[2]  Articles 187 and 188 of the 1961 Law criminalized the possession, production, and sale of narcotic substances.[3]  After the collapse of the Communist regime, the possession of drugs for personal use was decriminalized in 1990.[4]  Instead, a new crime, “spreading addiction,” was included in the Criminal Law.  In 1999, a new section 187a was added to the Criminal Law that made it a crime to possess drugs in amounts “larger than small.”[5]

In 2009, the Czech Republic enacted a new Criminal Code that repealed the Criminal Law of 1961.[6]  The new Code established penalties of six months to five years of imprisonment for producing and distributing drugs,[7] possessing them “in an amount larger than small,”[8] cultivating plants containing a narcotic substance,[9] producing drugs and possessing items for their production,[10] spreading drug addiction,[11] and producing substances with hormonal effects.[12]  The sections in the Criminal Code on possession for personal use and the cultivation of plants treat cannabis differently from other drugs and provide for less strict penalties.[13]

The possession of drugs for personal use in small amounts is not a criminal offense, but rather a misdemeanor subject to a monetary fine of up to 15,000 Czech koruna (approximately US$612).[14]  A major issue in drug enforcement since 1999 has been that of determining what constitutes a “small amount” of drugs.  Initially, this was decided on a case-by-case basis within the judicial system.[15]  However, in 2009, the government issued a resolution specifying the “small amounts” for various drugs.[16]  This resolution, however, was abolished in 2013 by the Constitutional Court, which found that only a law, not a government regulation, could define what constitutes a criminal offense.[17]  Subsequently, the definition of “small amounts” was clarified in an opinion of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court, which mostly duplicated the government’s resolution, but set stricter rules for the most common drugs.[18]  In particular, the Supreme Court decriminalized the possession of 1.5 g of methamphetamine, 1.5 g of heroin, 1 g of cocaine, 10 g of cannabis dry matter, 5 units of ecstasy, and 5 g of hashish.[19]  The Court also stated that “the drug user’s possession of only one dose before using it is not illegal possession.”[20]

In November 2013 the police arrested a number of “growshop” owners after the Supreme Court held that the combined selling of cannabis seeds, fertilizers, flowerpots, and books for cannabis cultivation fulfilled the elements of the crime of spreading drug addiction.[21]  According to the police, these shops promoted drug use by offering the complete technology needed for cannabis cultivation.[22]

Those who cultivate cannabis for personal use may find the application of the various provisions of the Criminal Code confusing.[23]  For example, a person caught growing cannabis plants may be subject to penalties for cultivation,[24] but if the arrest occurs after harvesting and during the process of drying, the offense is qualified as production,[25] and if the plants have already been dried, the person is charged with illegal possession.[26]

Cannabis for medical use was allowed by law in 2013.[27]  An implementing regulation allows for prescription of 180 g of dry matter per month.[28]  There is a special electronic prescription form, and only specialized medical professionals are permitted to prescribe cannabis, not general practitioners.[29]  Growing or importing medical cannabis is subject to licensing.[30]

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Prepared by Nerses Isajanyan
Foreign Law Consultant
July 2016


[1] Tereza Filipková, Cannabis Policy in the Czech Republic, TNI (Sept. 25, 2015), https://www.tni.org/en/article/ cannabis-policy-in-the-czech-republic, archived at https://perma.cc/3LXC-NG8Y.

[2] Testni zakon [Criminal Law] No. 140/1961, Dec. 8, 1961, Sbirka Zakonu [SB] [Official Gazette] No. 65/1961, http://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/1961-140/zneni-0, archived at https://perma.cc/R6DT-KJ45, English translation available at http://www.coe.int/t/dlapil/codexter/Source/country_profiles/legislation/CT%20 Legislation%20-%20Czech%20Republic%20Criminal%20Code.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/4DZ8-BDB4.

[3] Id.  

[4] Zákon č. 175/1990 [Law No. 175/1990], May 18, 1990, SB No. 31/1990, http://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/1990-175/zneni-0, archived at https://perma.cc/6M53-45TG.

[5] Zákon č. 112/1998 [Law No. 112/1998], May 29, 1998, SB No. 39/1998, http://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/1998-112/zneni-19990101, archived at https://perma.cc/GT3F-AJT8.

[6] Testni zakonik [Criminal Code] No. 40/2009, Feb. 9, 2009, SB No. 11/2009, http://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/ 2009-40, archived at https://perma.cc/5V5K-JD76, English translation available at http://www.ejtn.eu/PageFiles/ 6533/Criminal%20Code%20of%20the%20Czech%20Republic.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/BLT3-V96W.

[7] Id. § 283.

[8] Id. § 284.

[9] Id. § 285.

[10] Id. § 286.

[11] Id. § 287.

[12] Id. § 288.

[13] Id. §§ 284, 285.

[14] Zakon o prestupcich [Law on Offenses] No. 200/1990, May 18, 1990, SB No. 35/1990, http://www.zakonyprolidi. cz/cs/1990-200, archived at https://perma.cc/RAT5-ZS59.

[15] Filipková, supra note 1.

[16] Nařízení vlády č. 467/2009 [Government Regulation No. 467/2009], Dec. 28, 2009, SB No. 148/2009, https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/209-467, archived at https://perma.cc/AKR3-PBK7.

[17] Nález Ústavního soudu č. 259/2013 [Decision of the Constitutional Court No. 259/2013], Aug. 13, 2013, SB No. 99/2013, https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/2013-259, archived at https://perma.cc/X4Y2-45NN.

[18] Stanovisko trestního kolegia Nejvyššího soudu č. 301/2013 [Opinion of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court No. 301/2013], available at http://www.policie.cz/clanek/mnozstvi-vetsi-nez-male.aspx, archived at https://perma.cc/XZ9T-QYAM.

[19] Filipková, supra note 1.

[20] Viktor Mravčík et al., National Report: The Czech Republic – 2013 Drug Situation 15 (Sept. 2014), available at http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_239732_EN_VZ_2013_EN_final.pdf, archived at https://perma.cc/4D4F-VEB4.

[21] Criminal Code § 287.

[22] Id.

[23] Filipková, supra note 1.

[24] Criminal Code § 285.

[25] Id. § 283.

[26] Id. § 284.

[27] Zákon č. 50/2013 [Law No. 50/2013], Mar. 4, 2013, SB No. 22/2013, http://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/2013-50, archived at https://perma.cc/9SRJ-FUWJ.

[28] Vyhláška č. 236/2015 [Decree No. 236/2015], Sept. 4, 2015, SB No. 98/2015, https://www.zakonyprolidi.cz/cs/ 2015-236, archived at https://perma.cc/V9Z5-5LGZ.  

[29] Filipková, supra note 1.

[30] Law No. 50/2013.