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Czeched Out
March 16, 2013 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Czeched Out—the Czech Republic decriminalized possession of all drugs, from mushrooms to meth, in 2010.
posted by Jehan (39 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
So...despite claiming to talk about the "winners and losers of drug liberalisation" this article actually doesn't discuss the effects of the policy at all? A little frustrating.
posted by howfar at 12:01 PM on March 16, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, the subtitle of the article is misleading, which is why I didn't repeat it. The article is really just an impression.
posted by Jehan at 12:03 PM on March 16, 2013


Treating all drugs the same is an outdated policy.
posted by Brian B. at 12:04 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


But they don't treat all drugs the same: coffee shops are illegal!!!11
posted by JHarris at 12:10 PM on March 16, 2013


Eh, screw decriminalization, let's just go back to cough syrup!
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:17 PM on March 16, 2013


I've still got Czech neck from doing too much Cake in the 90s.
posted by acb at 12:18 PM on March 16, 2013 [25 favorites]


I've still got Czech neck from doing too much Cake in the 90s.

You poor custard gannet.
posted by howfar at 12:23 PM on March 16, 2013 [9 favorites]


M'kay.., this article is like a Reefer Madness about the day of three partyheads, one who is a small time pot dealer. Except nothing interesting really happens and the location seems rather coincidental, he could've found people like that anywhere.
posted by yoHighness at 12:43 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


The worst thing about Czech small time pot dealers?

Having to sit around for half an hour listening to Prague-rock.
posted by box at 1:13 PM on March 16, 2013 [40 favorites]


Critics see the new laws as a capitulation, and law enforcement agencies condemn the lax legislation.
I thought law enforcement was supposed to enforce the laws, not decide what they should be.
posted by delmoi at 1:16 PM on March 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


I've still got Czech neck from doing too much Cake in the 90s.

You poor custard gannet.


I heard it affects a part of the brain called Shatner's Bassoon, that deals with the perception of time.
posted by iotic at 1:19 PM on March 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Umm, I'm afraid this article looks spectacularly short on data. Portugal successfully addressed many social issues by liberalizing their drug policy, including "drug use among adolescents (13-15 yrs) and 'problematic' users declined." Any data exist on the Czech approach?
posted by jeffburdges at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


"...and the location seems rather coincidental, he could've found people like that anywhere."

The most relevant line in the article for explaining why it was written is: "The Czech interior minister is having troubles with authorities in the neighboring German states of Bavaria and Saxony, which are complaining about drugs being smuggled over the border."

This is Der Spiegel, the famous German news weekly, so it's probably the drugs being smuggled over the border that concern them most. This article is meant to show where those drugs come from.
posted by Kevin Street at 1:23 PM on March 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, as jeffburdges pointed out, Portugal did this more than a decade ago, and positive results have been reported. (previously)

Apparently the decriminalization in Portugal was coupled with a substantial investment in free treatment for addicts. Seems like the smart way to go about it. I wonder if their location on the outer edge of Europe also helps curb some of the unwanted drug tourism, which sounds like a bigger problem in Czech Republic.

Here in Holland there were plans to introduce a national "weed pass" which would allow only Dutch residents to purchase soft drugs in coffee shops (it was even a campaign topic during the elections), but that idea has now been ditched (although still in use in some border towns).
posted by sively at 1:32 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


sively, the impression I get is that The Netherlands would liberalize other substances as well if a certain UN treaty didn't make that difficult. How, I wonder, does the Czech Republic deal with this? It is also a party to the Convention on Psychotropic Substances, and none of its many reservations would seem to allow it to take a position of complete decriminalization.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:42 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've still got Czech neck from doing too much Cake in the 90s.

You poor custard gannet.

I heard it affects a part of the brain called Shatner's Bassoon, that deals with the perception of time.


I want to be a part of the summer of death!
posted by lumpenprole at 1:53 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Small amounts of pot are a misdemeanor in my state (not sure what the fine is, but it's less than 600 euro.)

It has not turned into a drug Mecca.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:57 PM on March 16, 2013


This is a particularly insidious sort of propaganda where they say there's problems, then quietly don't mention what they are. The result is that you come away thinking "oh, decriminalization/legalization bad!" without any real reason.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:07 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


People end up kissing in the street, apparently.
posted by dunkadunc at 2:08 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


I heard it affects a part of the brain called Shatner's Bassoon, that deals with the perception of time.

I've been waiting for someone to say that in this thread for two months, and I'm glad someone finally brought it up.
posted by aubilenon at 2:12 PM on March 16, 2013 [12 favorites]


The article is interesting because the slant appears to be negative, but anyone other than the most anti-drug person would say, "Well, they more or less decriminalized drugs, in the lamest and most irresponsible way possible, and nothing much happened except people don't go to jail for drugs any more."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:26 PM on March 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


nothing much happened except people don't go to jail for drugs any more.

All upside, really.
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on March 16, 2013 [3 favorites]


the Convention on Psychotropic Substances

I would probably attend this convention.
posted by brennen at 2:48 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ok, this is insanely dumb. For example, in the U.S.— hardly a bastion of liberal drug laws— we have the *same* rate of marijuana smoking they cite here, with about half of the young adults at least trying it. So, the implication that this has caused high use rates is absurd. There apparently is an inverse correlation, either because places with the worst drug problems try making harsher laws and they don't work or because harsher laws actually make things worse.

Second, why are they focusing on dealing while looking at a policy aimed at decriminalizing *using*? The point of decrim is to not waste your time and money and do harm by arresting users and presumably, to then provide treatment for users, as Portugal does. This article tells us nothing about treatment policies. If you simply make more drugs available, which this article suggests is happening (but does not prove), you will probably have more use and more competition and prices will go down. That is called capitalism and a free market. If you have an unregulated free market in potentially harmful products and do nothing about treatment and prevention, well...

And how on earth would liberalizing possession laws change dealing *in and of itself*? Presumably, one could shift the resources formerly used to prosecute and arrest users to go after more and bigger dealers— but this doesn't tell us if they did that or not.

If you want to change dealing and trafficking patterns, you need to either go to full legalization with regulation of markets and prices or you need to change laws related to dealing in the other direction. If you simply decriminalize, you will reduce harm to users by not messing up their lives with incarceration and records and you will save money, but it's hardly surprising that this in itself isn't going to solve problems related to use itself or problems related to sales.
posted by Maias at 3:01 PM on March 16, 2013


So, this article link originally said "winners and losers " and then "winners" was removed....
posted by Bwithh at 3:15 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


For the record, I'm very much against a free drug market. I want regulated drugs! I want to pay taxes on my pot consumption, I want to be able to get cannabis and psychedelics and even the occasional mild stimulant in known, regulated doses with guaranteed purity.

Drug addiction is a real issue, and you can't in some sense "blame" the governments of the world from cracking down on drug usage after they discovered that actual harm was being done. But it's been a century and more...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:20 PM on March 16, 2013 [7 favorites]


This article is pretty much worthless as to the effects--good or bad--on the Czech Republic as a whole. But one line,

"Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas has pledged to reduce the amount of meth tolerated by the authorities. Czech police say that it's currently the most dangerous substance in the country."

They should listen to the police on this. The author tries really hard to vilify cannabis but I missed the part on meth being really, truly fucked up and bad.
posted by zardoz at 3:22 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most Brass Eyeish lines?: "Ketamine was first synthesized in the US in 1962. Today, it's commonly used in veterinary medicine as an anesthetic. In Prague, the drug is sold in tablets, in powder form or as a liquid -- and it feels like concrete in your veins. It's a state just short of self-disintegration. People who take ketamine rave about near-death experiences. Jana says: "I like to destroy myself."
posted by Bwithh at 3:25 PM on March 16, 2013


Pfizer Kingpin Gunned Down In Ongoing Prescription Drug Cartel Turf War
posted by Drinky Die at 3:41 PM on March 16, 2013 [5 favorites]


This piece almost reads like a pastiche. There's the rotation of drug names, to show the writer is street-wise and knows that you can call cannabis grass, weed or ganja. There's the almost total lack of context - either in time or in place - which might otherwise let you compare what's being reported to other situations. There are so many fumbled passes: the Vietnamese are named by the small time dealer as depressing the market with low-quality mass-grown cannabis, and there's a mention of regular busts of ever-larger factories. What's going on there? No amplification, instead we get a gosh-Martha-drugs-can-fuck-you-up piece of reportage. Yes, yes they can, and I suppose there may be readers who don't know that, the same as they don't know that psychedelic mushrooms are called "magic", but they probably have trouble focussing on the print after fifty years in that cave.


Really: there are fascinating things happening with drugs and culture right now. There's no need to repeat the same formulaic bollocks from the 1950s. As someone said up-thread, this article could have been written in many other places. In London, we haven't had official decriminalisation, but effectively it's the same scene as that piece describes; small time growers and dealers, big factory outfits in a running battle with the law (At one point recently, large commercial operations set up in rented houses were being busted one a day in London for a year: they've all been driven out into suburbia and the ring towns), no particular official interest in users, coke and ketamine and meth causing more health problems than anything else I smell skunk on the street all the time (not that, being a forty-something middle class white bloke, I know where the kids are getting it. Damn kids.)

The legalisation or otherwise of drugs seems increasingly a practical irrelevance, except for the fact it sucks up resources and messes people's lives up much more than necessary. That perception is entirely absent from that piece, to the extent that it doesn't mention the fairly obvious observation that drugs tourism stops being a problem if everyone follows the same rules.

There's just no light on behind the eyes.
posted by Devonian at 3:58 PM on March 16, 2013 [8 favorites]


Based on the amount of heroin use I saw in broad daylight in Prague back in 2008, I didn't get the impression that the existing Czech laws were particularly effective or enforced to begin with.

As far as I can tell, this seems to be a "Fuck it, let's just codify the status quo" kind of action.

(Of course, I'm no expert on Czech drug policy. However, I've never seen so much unopposed open-air drug use elsewhere, so....anecdote.)
posted by schmod at 4:53 PM on March 16, 2013


anecdote anecdote anecdote editorializing anecdote anecdote anecdote. This article is crap. Somewhere there's a good article about the effects of decrim on the Czech Republic, but this ain't it.
posted by Afroblanco at 4:59 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, as jeffburdges pointed out, Portugal did this more than a decade ago, and positive results have been reported.

It is worth noting that "decriminalization" does not mean "legalized". Possession of drugs is still illegal in Portugal. It is just that the penalties are all civil. If found with a personal use amount of drugs in your possession, your drugs will be taken. Then, you will have a chat with the authorities. You can then be fined, lose the right to travel, have your professional license suspended, lose government benefits, or have your personal property confiscated. In other words, a lot of things that are usually criminal sanctions in the US without having to go through the trouble of a criminal trial with the commensurate burden of proof.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:58 PM on March 16, 2013 [4 favorites]


In other words, a lot of things that are usually criminal sanctions in the US without having to go through the trouble of a criminal trial with the commensurate burden of proof.

Except... if you get found to have drugs on you in the US, you're liable to end up in prison. Doubly so if you're black. I would assume many people with drug convictions in the US would prefer to have been in Portugal.
posted by hoyland at 6:41 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tanizaki, all of the things you mentioned happen in the USA as civil proceedings. Civil forfeiture is called that for a reason.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:50 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]


A Portuguese Comissões para a Dissuasão da Toxicodependência is "made up of three people: A social worker, a psychiatrist, and an attorney," meaning two people trained to help people and only one person who might profit politically from penalizing.

Yeah, it's questionable this bypasses the criminal courts. Yeah, the travel ban sounds weird, ditto the property confiscation. I'd imagine the licenses work out about like DUIs though, meaning, if they believe your usage impacts your sobriety in ways that endanger the public, then they revoke the relevant professional licenses. I'd expect the benefits revocation is linked to using benefits funds for drugs, the travel ban gets used only for suspected trafficking, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:00 PM on March 16, 2013


Tanizaki, all of the things you mentioned happen in the USA as civil proceedings. Civil forfeiture is called that for a reason.

This is not my area of practice, but I am curious to know what US civil proceeding can confiscate one's passport. At least in the state where I practice, civil forfeiture proceedings are proceedings supplemental to criminal proceedings and applies to contraband. If there is no primary criminal proceeding, there is no civil forfeiture proceeding supplementary to it. Federal civil forfeiture is also under the criminal title.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:36 PM on March 16, 2013


Tanizaki, the drug and prostitution-related forfeiture cases I've seen are actions in rem. The government sues the property, presents a claim that it was used in connection with or constitutes the proceeds of some criminal activity, and then the burden switches to the owner of the property, who must rebut the government's case. In both of the states where I am licensed, at least, no underlying criminal case is necessary. The passport thing was a st'nank on my part - in the USA there are very limited circumstances in which a passport can be revoked.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:00 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unable to stop the practice, the government decided it should at least regulate it.

What a . . . reasonable thing to do.
[...] law enforcement agencies condemn the lax legislation.
I thought law enforcement was supposed to enforce the laws, not decide what they should be.


Law enforcement everywhere has a notoriously skewed view of society (you would too if spent your life dealing with humanity at its worst) but it's still probably a good thing that the legislators get feedback from the people in the field. They don't have to listen.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:20 AM on March 17, 2013 [1 favorite]


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