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Czech Republic Looks To Overcome Remaining Obstacles To European Cannabis Reform

AS the Czech government prepares to unveil its proposals for an adult-use cannabis market it faces one major remaining obstacle, says a leading pro-cannabis politician.

The handbrake was pulled on Germany’s efforts to deliver comprehensive cannabis reform last month when the continent’s bureaucratic overlords expressed reservations about the proposed speed, and nature, of reform.

This leaves the Czech Republic as the primary mover, and one of its leading politicians believes the main obstacle it now faces is the 1995 Schengen Agreement which enshrined into law an obligation to permit free movement across the 27 member states.

Speaking to Business of Cannabis Mikuláš Peksa, Chairperson of the European Pirate Party, said: “Any country wishing to legalise cannabis faces obstacles making legislation compliant with international agreements.

“However, this is achievable particularly for countries outside the European Union, but the biggest obstacle for countries in the EU is the Schengen Agreement.”

He went on to say that while legalisation is a question for individual member states, the Czech Republic will look to amend the Schengen Agreement.

He added: “Our aim is to make legalisation possible for all member states.”

Pathway To Progress

The Schengen agreement came into effect in 1995 and in doing so created a single market to guarantee the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people.

While it is difficult for member states to opt out of the obligations of Schengen there have been cases where exceptions are made.

Pathways which allow EU member states to press ahead with the creation of an adult-use cannabis market have been outlined in a recent paper.

The EU Presidency Policy Brief: Treaty Compliance Options for Cannabis Regulations in the EU’ analyses the obstacles to reform.

Co-authored by leading European cannabis researcher Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli and Benjamin-Alexandre Jeanroy of the Paris-based Augur Associates it concludes such reform is permissible within the confines of Schengen.

It stipulates non-medical cannabis products are ‘goods’, and as such are subject to the general rules of the internal market and, like any goods, are permissible for unhindered trade across borders.

However individual States can rely on article 36 of The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) to restrict imports.

Mr Riboulet-Zemouli contends that a neighbouring country to Czech Republic, which prohibits the sale of cannabis, would be in a position to block imports.

2024 European Elections

While the nature of the discussions between Germany and the European Commission have yet to be revealed, Business of Cannabis has previously reported that Germany agreed to change its proposals due to EC concerns over the proposed speed of reform.

Instead of introducing a regulated, adult-use cannabis market it has agreed to permit the consumption of ‘home-grown’ cannabis and the creation of a number of scientific trial projects.

The trials are one of two ways in which countries and economic blocks, such as the EU, can align with their obligations under the International drug treaties, as previously reported by ourselves.

Mr Peksa went onto acknowledge it would be difficult to initiate such changes, in the short term, due to the ‘conservative complexion of the European Commission’, but with European parliamentary elections taking place in 2024 he anticipates change.

“The European Commission is conservative leaning and its policies towards cannabis are conservative so we need to change the nature of the commission to more liberal values.

“I believe the next European Commission will be better placed to support the liberal use of cannabis and I hope this will allow us to deliver on changes in cannabis legislation in the European Union.”

Czech Republic Conflict

However, with Czech Republic set firmly on a course for comprehensive reform it may well end up at loggerheads with the European Commission.

Czech Republic Federal Drug Commissioner Jindřich Vobořil has said it plans to press ahead with a legal, commercial, adult-use cannabis market

And while this may see the country end up before the European Court of Justice this would be lengthy, legal process over a period of years.

He contends that by the time of that ECJ determination the ‘industry will have established itself and will not be able to be shut down’.

Dr. Tomas Ryska, Managing director of Astrasana Czech s.r.o., a leading Czech cannabis company, told Business of Cannabis: “Over the last decade, the Czech Republic has distinguished itself as a paragon of progressiveness in Europe concerning the liberalisation of cannabis commodities.

“Notably, we stand as the exclusive European nation enforcing a legally stipulated THC threshold of 1%. Additionally, our regulatory focus transcends beyond conventional norms, favoring a regulatory framework over punitive measures, even extending to substances such as the HHC cannabinoid. Furthermore, the Czech Republic holds the distinction of being among the pioneers globally, as it introduced medical cannabis for therapeutic use as early as 2013.”

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