Czech National Anti-drug is preparing a bill on setting the rules for buying and selling hemp in the Czech Republic. Photo Credit: Freepik.

Prague, Sept 8 (CTK) – EU countries should agree to establish a regulated market for hemp-based substances, with users protected from criminal prosecution, foreign experts told CTK at a meeting of EU anti-drug coordinators in Prague yesterday.

The experts say prohibition and harsh punishment for users have failed.

Czech National Anti-drug Coordinator Jindrich Voboril told CTK that he was preparing a bill on setting the rules for buying and selling hemp in the Czech Republic, adding that EU member states have not reached an agreement on regulation of the industry.

Regulation of this market and decriminalisation of users was one of the topics debated at the meeting of anti-drug coordinators and experts on addiction issues from the EU and other countries. The event was organised within the framework of the Czech EU presidency.

Voboril expressed his hope that attempts to regulate the hemp market will be coordinated, as this issue must be talked about at an EU level. As the prohibition has shown not to be effective, new control models must be developed, and the only solution is a regulated market, he said.

Voboril and his team are working on a bill for a regulated market in the Czech Republic, which he is planning to table by the end of the year.

“I am glad we are not the only ones in the EU,” he said. Germany, Luxembourg, Malta and the Netherlands are also preparing changes and the countries are cooperating, Voboril said. One option is to test the rules in a joint pilot project in selected cities.

Michel Kazatchkine from the Global Commission on Drug Policy said removing hemp from the register of illegal substances was also a priority, besides decriminalisation.

Kazatchkine said his organisation had been seeking this for over ten years, as there were many legal complications, but that he believed progress was possible in Europe and around the world, and that a regulated hemp market would soon be implemented. He added that thanks to the Czech EU presidency, the debate on regulation of the trade had reached the political level.

International Drug Policy Consortium chair Ann Fordham said the time had come for a change in approach, as repressive policies had failed.

Cat Packer, who participated in regulating the hemp market in California, pointed out that 19 American states had already legalised the substance. Although the U.S. federal stance remains restrictive and favours penalties, public opinion was supportive of change, she said, expressing the belief that more countries would agree on reforms.

Former Czech anti-drug coordinator Pavel Bem argued that Czech legislation was no longer up-to-date, and that the Czech Republic should replace the black market with a regulated system.

EU member states take varying stances on regulation, and some of them are biding their time, Voboril said. Some countries, such as France and Sweden, strictly oppose it. However, states mainly agree on decriminalisation, he said.

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