From May, criminal consequences for personal use of marijuana have been reduced. An amendment to the penal law that just came into effect not only introduces milder punishments but also the option for so-called preventative treatment - rehabilitation.
Punishments for marijuana users have been a subject of discussion in Slovakia for several months. In some cases, possession of marijuana carried a harsher sentence than manslaughter.
The authors of the amendment were responding to such severe punishments. There have been repeated attempts to change the legislation since the beginning of 2021.
What are the changes
With the amendment comes a special factual basis for the possession of a narcotic or psychotropic substance from plants of the genus Cannabis for one's own consumption.
In this case, the maximum penalty is one year if the quantity corresponds to no more than three times the normal single use dose. The upper limit of two years applies to a quantity corresponding to a maximum of ten times one dose.
The authors also responded to the severe punishment for the possession of the drug in an amount over ten doses. Jail times are to change from three to ten years to three to seven years. In the case of repeat offences, prison time increases significantly compared to first time offences. The punishment decreased from ten to 15 years to the current five to ten years.
Slovak legislation does not distinguish between marijuana and other illegal drugs, so called hard and soft drugs. And for repeat offences, the law does not distinguish between user and dealer.
The changes concern only the case of possession and only in relation to the substance from cannabis plants. In relation to other substances the current regulation remains the same.
Rehab instead of prison time
The amendment also removed the lower limit of a penalty rate regarding storage of a drug-producing item that sometimes includes the cultivation of cannabis plants. It used to be one year. The idea was to allow courts to take into consideration all the circumstance of an individual case and to remove disproportionate strictness.
Moreover, if an offender agrees, a court can impose rehabilitation instead of imprisonment.