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Czech Republic’s Revolutionary Legislation to Regulate Psychoactive Substances Such as HHC Clears First Hurdle

The Czech Republic’s lower house has passed a proposal seeking to regulate ‘psychomodulating’ substances, which is likely to include synthetic cannabinoids such as HHC.

It comes just weeks after the government announced a temporary ban on HHC following a ‘media frenzy’ that blamed the substance for a number of child hospitalisations.

If the bill is passed in the Czech Senate (upper house) and approved by the European Commission (EC) in the coming weeks, the country would become the first in Europe to attempt to regulate the rapidly evolving market, instead of resorting to prohibition.

What happened?

Earlier this week, the Czech House of Representatives approved proposals for the regulation of so-called ‘psychomodulating substances’.

This is part of landmark legislation put forward by the Czech Republic’s National Coordinator for Drug Policy Jindřich Vobořil, who has been working on the bill for over a year in parallel with a separate bill to legalise cannabis.

Just as it is doing with adult-use cannabis, the Czech Republic is swimming against the tide with this bill, with policy makers pushing for ‘sophisticated legislation’ to regulate a broad range of substances that do not pose a serious risk to public health or that do not risk serious social impacts on individuals or society.

The bill was described as ‘revolutionary’ by Dr Tomas Ryska, Managing Director of Astrasana Czech s.r.o., a leading Czech cannabis company.

He told Business of Cannabis: “This regulation pivots away from the antiquated prohibitionist stance, opting instead for a rational regulatory strategy grounded in evidence-based insights into drug policy outcomes.

“Nontheless, as is often the case, the devil is in the details, and those specifics are yet to be revealed.”

It has now passed the first major hurdle towards being written into law, seeing the amendment to the Act on Addictive Substances receive 81 votes in favour in the Chamber of Deputies on Friday.

The psychomodulating substances will now need to be approved domestically in the 81-seat Czech Senate, but even if passed, could face sabotage by political opponents.

According to Mr Ryska, there are indications that some authorities may attempt to prolong the actual roll-out of the bill indefinitely, meaning that despite being passed politically, the details of its implementation could remain in limbo.

Furthermore, it will need to be approved by the European Commission, which has historically pushed back on other EU countries’ attempts to liberalise cannabis, as seen in Germany and Luxembourg.

This is because the legislation is non-harmonised, meaning it would not apply EU-wide but only in the Czech Republic.

Mr Ryska explained to Business of Cannabis that while the bill is likely to eventually cover substances like kratom and synthetic cannabinoids such as HHC, it currently does not specify which will be included.

“An important point is that although many people speak of certain substances this legislation covers, the legislation is empty at the moment; there is no list of substances that will be covered.

“It is very likely (these substances) will be covered, but they are not linked to the legislation. The specification was very broad and mentioned substances that are not too harmful to users. They will be regulated in stricter terms than alcohol, which is on the very extreme end of the damage it can cause to users.”

On this note, it is understood that the finer details of the legislation have also not yet been made public, and it is unclear whether these will be worked out before or after it has been approved.

HHC ban 

In March 2024, the Czech government moved to temporarily ban HHC and other synthetic cannabinoids.

Following the hospitalisation of what local press reported as ‘dozens’ of children in February after taking HHC edibles, the Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek proposed a temporary ban on the substance.

Business of Cannabis understands that, in the majority of cases, these hospitalisations happened when HHC was ingested alongside other drugs such as alcohol.

Following approval by the government, HHC was banned from March 01, with penalties for possession being brought in line with other substances, for example cocaine and heroin.

This saw the once prevalent substance disappear from high streets, and sellers were forced to destroy stock to avoid prosecution.

The ban on HHC is set to expire on January 01, 2025, with legislators expecting that by this time the psychomodulating bill will be passed, and HHC can be added to this new category.

On a separate note, while CBD is a non-psychoactive substance, plans are underway to potentially include the cannabinoid in this new category.

With the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) continuing to prevent any progress on CBD regulation in the EU, this would seek to regulate the industry and avoid the ‘nightmare’ novel food process.

 

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