In a huge blow to legalization efforts, the Court of Appeal ruled that publishing a magazine about cannabis can be deemed illegal because of the so-called “spreading of toxicomania”.
Robert Veverka is editor-in-chief and sole publisher of magazine Legalizace, which has existed in the Czech media space without any problems for more than ten years. After over a year battling in court, he has been ordered to pay a fine of more than 250 000 CZK, and the court ruling effectively bans him from publishing the magazine in the future.
Bolshevik relics in the law
According to the court in Ostrava, the magazine offered instructions on how to illegally obtain cannabis, how to grow, process and use the plant. From time to time there were also seeds inserted in the magazine, since the sale and possession of cannabis seeds is completely legal in the Czech Republic, and there were disclaimers attached.
The court also didn’t like advertisements of fertilizer companies and seedbanks, although all the goods are normally sold in gardening shops and are all perfectly legal.
Veverka described the “spreading toxicomania” (or the ‘promotion of drug addiction’) section cited in the law as very flexible, sufficiently vague that it can be interpreted in many different ways so that it suits the prosecution, saying:
“It is a Bolshevik relic and a relic of totalitarianism. It allows for a loose interpretation of what constitutes incitement to substance abuse.”
He points out that it applies to all drugs but one – alcohol. The Czech media are full of adverts glamourising alcohol consumption, and promoting it even to kids. “But if you tell somebody they may want to try cannabis ointment on their knee, you can end up in court,” said the publisher.
The decision is definitive, his only remaining option being to appeal to the Supreme and Constitutional Court, which Robert Veverka intends to do– although nobody knows when (and if) these courts would take up the case, because they are overwhelmed.
“I will try to take this further to the highest courts to protect not only myself but any other media outlet that chooses to write about cannabis,” he said.
Furious experts and politicians
Throughout the court case, Mr. Veverka has had the support of prominent politicians from the Pirate Party, of which he is a member.
For example, minister of regional development and vice prime minister Ivan Bartoš wrote on his Facebook: “The Pirate Party will always protect free access to information. In my opinion, in the case of Robert Veverka, the courts are criminalizing the sharing of information that is completely harmless to society.”
Experts have also criticised the case. National drug coordinator and main figure behind the current legalization push Jindřich Vobořil expressed support for Robert Veverka on many occasions. And said of Legalizace:
“From my point of view, this is the only magazine that is openly trying to discuss the fact that the current cannabis laws are hurting more than helping,”
He also gave his expert opinion on the case in writing, but to no avail.
Robert Veverka stressed that he continues to push for the end of cannabis prohibition. “The most dangerous thing about cannabis is its illegality,” he said repeatedly. And the national drug coordinator Vobořil still hopes that regulation of cannabis will happen and that it will not only bring better control, but also billions in taxes to the state coffers.
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