On any given day in any of Prague’s lovely beer gardens the blossoming trees and season’s changes aren’t the only sweet smells in the air – young people smoke marijuana openly at the wooden tables or on the grass.
The Czech Republic has the most liberal drug laws in the European Union and possibly the world. Drug use has been all but decriminalized and drug possession and use is now considered to be a health issue rather than a criminal one.
Citizens are allowed to possess up to 15 grams of marijuana, five plants, or five grams of hash without worry of facing charges. This
is what the laws consider a small amount – although possession is is still technically illegal and could lead to a 15,000 Kc fine, and/or a misdemeanor charge.
According to the National Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction, the Czech Republic is Europe’s largest cannabis consuming country with 28.2 percent of the population smoking regularly, the majority of users aged 15 -35. It is no surprise that college students in any country are smoking marijuana and Anglo-American University is no exception.
Students from many countries and backgrounds admit smoking marijuana and speak openly about it. One difference from many
universities is that a large portion of the student body is only in the country temporarily and there seems to be a difference among these students in not only habits but also where they purchase marijuana and how much they pay for it.
Student users who live in Prague permanently usually have a stereotypical dealer relationship, buying from a coworker or friend of a friend. One student commented about purchasing marijuana from a friend of a sibling.
“We have a code that we text to the guy,” the student confides, “and depending on how many smiley faces we send means a different amount and the guy brings it to our flat after and hangs out to smoke with us.”
Study abroad students have said that they will typically buy from the street dealers in the Old Town Square, Wenceslas Square or at one of the pubs or clubs known for selling to tourists. They usually pay significantly more per gram than a local will, sometimes two to three times as much, and have also said that they have been dissatisfied with the quality, or have been given what they thought was a lower amount than agreed upon.
When asked if marijuana is easier to buy here than in the US, another student responds, “No, because I have my people I know to call at home and I don’t get ripped off. In a new city it’s hard to figure it out at first, Prague makes it pretty easy but it’s still not as accessible as California or Amsterdam, but it’s here.”
They student adds that the leniency towards pot use in the Czech Republic is one of the reasons they chose Prague for their semester abroad.
How does a temporary resident figure out how to go about getting marijuana? Apparently it’s not difficult.
“It’s an easy Google search,” says one semester abroad student. “I typed in ‘where to buy pot in Prague’ and I found bars, also instructions for what to do when you get to the bar. Chapeau Rouge is the one that comes up the most, but I also found Facebook pages for growers that will meet you anywhere.”
Growing marijuana in the Czech Republic is illegal but this soon may change. In January a senate vote of 60 to 7 made marijuana available in pharmacies with a prescription although it is not covered by insurance. Marijuana is currently being imported from Israel and Amsterdam, but local growers will be able to obtain five-year licenses to grow commercially in the future.
It remains far from being generally legal for recreational use; patients must have a chronic illness like cancer or Parkinson’s disease.
The relaxed attitude towards soft drug use seems universal. Even police walk past young people lighting joints, passing pipes and handing plastic bags to around, seeming to not notice or care.
When asked if they were worried about consequences, one exchange student says, “No, it’s like it’s accepted here. Like a turn-the-other-way type of thing. I’ve never had a problem and I don’t worry about smoking in a park or certain bars.”
As the Czech laws and public lean towards tolerance regarding marijuana, for better or worse Prague may soon live up to her unofficial title, “the Amsterdam of the east.”