Robert Veverka is editor in chief and publisher of a Czech Republic publication called Legalizace, which has been publishing since 2010. According to Volteface, it often contained content relating to how to obtain cannabis illegally, how to grow the plant, and how to process and use it. It would also occasionally contain seed packets, as sale and possession of cannabis seeds is legal, as well as advertisements for fertilizer or seed banks.
It began five years ago when a local Czech grower was caught growing 38 cannabis plants using seeds contained in Legalizace. Although the grower intended to use cannabis to make a topical cream for himself, law enforcement began to look more closely at the Veverka and his magazine.
Veverka was taken to court starting in summer 2020. By November 2021, the District Court of Bruntál fined Veverka 50,000 Kč (or Czech Koruna, which equates to approximately $2,200 USD). According to presiding Judge Marek Stach, Veverka was guilty of producing more than 200 articles, published between 2010-2020, which could tempt readers to conduct illegal acts relating to cannabis. Stach added that “even one single article with the potential to incite readers is enough for the Legalizace magazine to constitute the crime of inciting and promoting toxicomania,” according to a press release from Legalizace and covered by the International Cannabis Business Conference.
Veverka chose to appeal that initial ruling, claiming that he was sentenced under a “rubber law.” “It is very flexible, [and] includes a paragraph that says that the promotion of illegal substances, with the exception of alcohol, can be considered a crime,” he said in an interview with CannaReporter about the law.
Most recently in March, Veverka was convicted in a regional court in Ostrava, the third largest city in the Czech Republic, for “inciting the abuse of addictive substances” and “spreading drug addiction through his magazine.” The next step would be for Veverka to appeal to the Supreme and Constitutional Court. “I will try to take this further to the highest courts to protect not only myself but any other media outlet that chooses to write about cannabis,” Veverka told Prague Morning.
In an interview with Cannabis Therapy on March 13, Veverka spoke about the most recent verdict. “I feel branded, damaged, and personally disgusted,” Veverka said. “Unfortunately, the verdict lends credence to the prosecution’s case, which reflects an ignorance of cannabis legislation and is based on a general repressive view that positive information about cannabis is unacceptable to the establishment. Moreover, according to my three-year prosecution and the court’s verdict, publishing is even an illegal activity.”
“The court’s judgement refers to a section in the law on the propagation of “toxicomania”—toxic addiction—a Bolshevik relic from the days of the totalitarian communist regime, which also prosecuted and punished people for inappropriate opinions,” he continued.
The current verdict leaves Veverka the choice to either pay CZK 250,000 (approximately $11,000 USD) or go to prison. “I definitely do not agree with the verdict: I consider the punishment for disseminating objective and comprehensive information—even on such a controversial topic as the regulation and use of cannabis—to be a systemic error of judgement and punitive bullying,” Veverka said.
However, he ended the interview by stating that this won’t stop him from advocating for cannabis and eventually publishing his magazine in the future. “I still have commitments to my readers, so I am not giving up on the idea of relaunching [Legalization] magazine,” he said. “Therefore, I sincerely hope that I will read in the reasoning of the judgement exactly what the facts are regarding where and with what I have committed said crime of ‘dissemination of intoxication,’ so that I can avoid any unlawful acts in the future. Otherwise, continuing to publish will be a very difficult thing, because one cannot do business within a cloud of legal uncertainty.”
Next, he plans to attend the 2023 Million Marijuana March demonstration that is being planned for the end of May.
Cannabis has been decriminalized in the Czech Republic since 2010, and medical cannabis became legal in 2013. Recreational cannabis use and possession is not legal, but the Czech government is drafting a bill to regulate the industry, which was originally expected to be presented in March 2023, according to Forbes. In October 2022, Czech Republic drug commissioner Jindřich Vobořil explained that the Czech Republic is coordinating with German officials to create a similar approach to adult-use cannabis legalization.