The Czech Republic is the latest EU member to adopt a softer approach to drug use. Matthew Kerfoot investigates how new laws are changing drug culture in one of Europe’s most picturesque cities.
In a bustling bar in the hub of a European city I find myself lazily contemplating this very article while casually smoking a sizable joint accompanied by an excellent glass of beer and I have to remind myself I am not in Amsterdam but in Prague.
As the joint decreases I strangely find my nerves put on alert as I secretly expect a small army of Polize to burst in and start billy clubbing the fine patrons of this establishment and making arrests, though they never arrive.
I even begin scanning the crowd of the bar wondering how brazen they all are rolling, smoking and passing into circulation many large joints. Is this a special occasion, a national holiday for such enthusiasts, maybe people in bars all around the world have burst out in spontaneous opposition to oppressive cannabis laws? Somehow I doubt it, Prague is just a special place.
How can this be? Luckily the two guys sat opposite each other at the table next to me have just dropped their last rolling paper in a small pool of Pilsner Urquell froth and turn to me in their native tongue to see if I can solve their problem. However, my tongue is not so native as theirs, so I rely on the staple of good old English, the saviour of many from tourist to traveller.
Over the course of a few hours they enlighten me not only with background on Czech drug law reform and the smoking culture, but also with some excellent Hash and Ganja that was cultivated in one of their own homes.
So here’s how it goes; small amounts are de-criminalised to carry around and also smoke, and you are allowed to grow up to five plants at home for personal use. The Czech government has adopted a soft attitude to the possession of small amounts of drugs as a broad scheme covering also Magic Mushrooms and other illicit drugs. Concerning Cannabis, it is very important to keep a respectful attitude with it while smoking in public places to maintain a good relationship with all.
What’s going on in Prague and the whole Czech Republic is defiantly a more logical and modern view on drug laws while preserving the individual’s rights to choose for themselves However before you head here for a smoker’s weekend city break it is prudent to remember that not everyone is pro cannabis, and neither is every venue.
I would not recommend the fine restaurants of Prague as your first choice for smoking, well not until your appetite is appropriately raised then it is very important to visit them. As your instincts no doubt would tell you it is best to check with your waitress or waiter or to just keep your nostrils open to check out the situation. However, personally I drew no undue attention rolling joints in most places I visited from cafés to museums.
I highly recommend the Charles Bridge at night to indulge in this new freedom to get high in public and get a great view of the city and all the old tenements of Prague.