Slovakia is one of Europe’s top budget ski destinations and has a lot of great tourist attractions, several of which are listed as Unesco World Heritage Sites, and Bratislava is an underrated capital city that offers a little bit of everything for every visitor. But what about cannabis in Slovakia?
Related: The Legal Situation of Cannabis in Austria
As a tourist travelling to Slovakia, you might ask yourself if you would get into legal trouble for smoking weed. What is the legal situation of cannabis in Slovakia? Read on to find out.
Drug laws in Slovakia
Slovakia’s drug laws can be harsh for drug consumers. Unauthorised drug possession is a criminal offence. Possession can be punished with up to three years of imprisonment if the offender is caught with three times the usual dose for personal use and up to five years for possessing up to 10 times the single dose for personal use.
Offenders charged with drug possession may receive home imprisonment or community service sentences, but immediate imprisonment is still the ultimate measure. Possessing more than 10 doses for personal use can be considered trafficking and may attract penalties of three to 10 years of imprisonment.
Drug production, supply and trafficking sentences may lead to prison sentences of 10 to 15 years or 15 to 20 years, depending on the drug’s value and aggravating circumstances. Repeat offenders, members of organised crime groups and those who involve minors in the drug trade may be sentenced to up to 25 years of imprisonment. Offenders who are convicted three times for serious drug offences are automatically sentenced to prison sentences lasting from 25 years to life.
Cannabis in Slovakia
Cannabis is the most popular illicit drug in Slovakia. A 2015 survey revealed that approximately one-third of young people tried cannabis at least once, and approximately one out of 10 consumed weed in the previous year. Another survey showed that 9.3 percent of the population aged 15 to 34 admitted to using the drug in 2017.
Even though Slovakia has a small domestic production of herbal cannabis, most of the weed on the black market is smuggled into the country from the neighbouring Czechia by local or international organised crime groups.
Slovakian drug laws are harsh. The law does not differentiate low-risk drugs from high-risk ones, and the punishment for drug-related crimes can theoretically be anything from three years of imprisonment to life imprisonment, no matter the type of drug an offender is caught with.
Related: The Legal Situation of Cannabis in Romania
However, it’s worth noting that the legal framework takes into account the value of the drugs each offender is caught with, so cannabis users are less likely to commit a serious crime simply because cannabis has a lower street value than other drugs, such as cocaine or heroin.
The current drug laws are highly interpretable because of their ambiguous formulations. As a result, some courts only convict offenders who were caught possessing more than 0.5 grams of marijuana, while others convict offenders who were caught with just 0.1 grams of weed.
In 2017, the Justice Ministry brought forth a proposal that would have imposed equal penalties for possessing the same amount of drugs. The draft law would have considered the possession of specified tolerated amounts of illegal drugs a misdemeanour punishable with a fine of €165. The tolerated amount of cannabis would have been 1 gram, while users would have also received a fine for possessing 0.2 grams of amphetamine or 0.5 grams of heroin.
The proposal also wanted to focus on punishing dealers rather than recreational users and to prioritise prevention over criminalisation. And, in order to prevent drug use, the initiative would have allowed first-offenders to receive a fine and only suffer the full consequences of the law if they committed another drug-related offence within 12 months.
Unfortunately for cannabis enthusiasts in Slovakia, this draft proposal was not adopted, and things are now just as ambiguous as they always were. Some weed users might be lucky enough to get off with a fine when they’re caught with half a joint while others risk going to prison for the same offence.
Hemp in Slovakia
Slovakia has a rich history of hemp growing. In the Middle Ages, farmers across Slovakia used to grow hemp for multiple purposes, such as the production of cloth and ropes. Hemp was so popular in the region that a lot of villages can track their name back to the plant (Konopnica: konope = hemp) or the tools used to process hemp (trlica, trojma, klky, krosná = loom). Hemp growing fell out of fashion after the Second World War, was later banned and almost stopped completely after 1989.
Related: 5 Surprising Things You Can Make Out Of Hemp
The country legalised hemp growing in 2003. But even though farmers are legally allowed to grow hemp plants with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentrations lower than 0.2 percent, hemp plantations are still not very popular.
CBD in Slovakia
Cannabidiol (CBD) is currently not legal in Slovakia. Slovakia is the only EU member state that treats CBD as an illegal drug, despite the fact that the EU and WHO said that CBD is safe and shouldn’t be prohibited.
Things seemed to change in 2019 when the country’s lawmakers introduced a bill to amend the Psychotropic Substances Act and remove CBD from the list of illegal drugs. But the Slovakian Parliament rejected the bill and opted to keep CBD on the same list as opium, cocaine or heroin.
Medical cannabis in Slovakia
Slovakia legalised medical cannabis back in 2011. However, the country approved only a single cannabis-based product so far — Sativex. Sativex can be used as a treatment for multiple sclerosis and can be prescribed only if the patient has tried other medications without success.
Related: The 15 Best Countries for Medical Marijuana
Patients who want to access cannabis treatments can do so if they have a medical prescription. Only physicians who are specialists in a medical field related to the patient’s disease can prescribe this type of medication.
The future of cannabis in Slovakia
Despite the fact that around 10 percent of Slovakia’s young population has tried cannabis at least once, the country still enforces severe punishments for cannabis possession. This approach is totally different from what’s happening in the neighbouring Czechia, where cannabis has been decriminalised.
However, one of the most surprising aspects of Slovakia’s tough stance on cannabis is its attitude toward CBD. CBD does not produce any psychoactive effects and is considered safe by the EU and the WHO, but it is still included on Slovakia’s list of illegal Psychotropic Substances.
Related: United Nations to Improve Cannabis Laws, US May Not
Slovakian lawmakers should follow the EU’s directions and legalise CBD. They should also try to expand Slovakia’s list of approved medical cannabis drugs, as some of them can help those suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS or chronic pain.