Marijuana Use Should Now Be Only a Misdemeanour
The Ministry of Justice is now penning out alternative punishments to recreational marijuana users, planning to modify penalties for possession so that it is no longer classed as a criminal offence.
The plan was announced by PM Robert Fico shortly after his landslide victory in the March 2012 elections and in the wake of demands from the Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS) for something to be changed in this area. At the time Fico said “Young people risk three-year sentences, five-year sentences. Everyone is getting stoned anyway, smoking marijuana, so what good does it do?”
According to TASR newswire, Fico’s Smer-SD party government claims that it did not get its inspiration from the SaS proposals. So far no specific draft revision to the Penal Code has been brought forward, but the Ministry has confirmed that the changes will include more lenient punishments and the reclassification of possession to a misdemeanour instead of a criminal offence. The changes will not decriminalise marijuana use, but with alternative punishments like community service, young people caught with the illegal substance will no longer get a criminal record and be classed as criminals.
Many countries in Europe close one eye to the issue of recreational use, while neighbouring Austria can still impose prison sentences for possession (which includes the act of smoking) of up to 1 year (option of alternative therapy and subsequent waiving of sentence). In the Czech Republic you can posses up to fifteen grams for personal use or cultivate up to five plants, which is classed merely as a misdemeanor, while selling it is illegal.
There is no distinction in Hungarian law between illicit drugs according to dangers, which means heroin use has the same consequences as cannabis use. However the Penal Code distinguishes punishments for sale and personal use, stating that “One cannot be punished for drug misuse; if a small, personal amount is produced, acquired, or in possession…” provided the perpetrator has undergone 6 months of therapy. Possession of larger amounts can lead to a 5-10 year prison sentence.
On 26 May 2011, Poland introduced legislation to terminate the prosecution for possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use. The law introduces the possibility when a person has negligible amounts of drugs for personal use and is not a dealer, while it is essentially still illegal. Ukraine has similar laws to Slovakia at present, with users facing the threat of 3 years in prison for possession, regardless of amount.