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Czech Republic is EU Cannabis Capital

Peter Hornung (tkw)December 3, 2005

Less than two years into its EU membership, the Czech Republic has already gained notoriety as the European frontrunner when it comes to beer drinking and dope smoking. It's a reputation the nation is not keen to have.

A joint is just a part of life in the Czech RepublicImage: Illuscope

A recently published report on the state of drug-taking across the European Union revealed the Czech Republic to have overtaken the Netherlands in soft drug consumption, but also showed a blurring of the lines between the use of cannabis and harder narcotics.

When asked whether they had consumed hashish or cannabis in the past year, more than 20 percent of Czechs between the ages of 15 and 34 confirmed that they had.

"Usage is very widespread," one school child said. "For some people it leads to the use of harder drugs, but for most people it doesn't cause any great damage."

Marihuana Pflanze
A firm favorite in the Czech RepublicImage: Fotofinder

Another pupil said she believes that although everyone she knows who smokes pot is aware of the dangers, nobody has the feeling that they're not doing anything out of the ordinary or that anything bad will happen to them.

Drugs versus drinking

Ivan Douda, a psychologist who founded a drop-in center for drug users in Prague fifteen years ago, said the high consumption of alcohol among Czechs has a lot to do with the rise in drug use.

"We have quite a high level of drinking here, and young people seem to be reacting by saying 'you have your alcohol, let us have our soft drugs,'" he said. "They genuinely compare one with the other in terms of risks."

He pointed out the irrelevance of having smoked dope in order to become a hard drug user, adding that most of those who end up with an addiction would have gotten there anyhow.

Haschisch Tafeln
Blocks of hashImage: dpa

Douda also said that youngsters who enjoy smoking a joint every now and then are most likely to be doing it as a reaction to their parents. He said they perceive their elders to have had bad experiences, and take it as a warning to do things differently.

Falling morals are "biggest problem"

While the Czech Republic is now taking part in a Europe-wide campaign to treat addicts and reduce the accessibility to drugs, Douda said it is important for the Czech government to show greater tolerance towards soft drugs, thus preventing young users from having to break the law.

"The fact that young people have to break a law, which they consider wrong, leads to falling moral standards," he said. "Those risks are greater than ones posed by the use of hashish or marijuana."