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Cablegate: Behind the Numbers: The Changing Drug Situation in The

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPG #0380/01 1721110
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201110Z JUN 08
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0422
INFO RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS
RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA 0050
RUEHSL/AMEMBASSY BRATISLAVA 2942
RUEHVI/AMEMBASSY VIENNA 1732

UNCLAS PRAGUE 000380

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

INL FOR BROWNE, EUR/NCE FOR TRATENSEK, EMBASSY VIENNA FOR ISRAEL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR ETRD ECON PGOV EZ

SUBJECT: BEHIND THE NUMBERS: THE CHANGING DRUG SITUATION IN THE
CZECH REPUBLIC

REF: SECSTATE 00686
PRAGUE 00072

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Czech parliament is considering changes to
its drug legislation. The proposed changes and other recent
developments have raised concerns that official anti-drug efforts
are failing to keep pace with rising demand caused by greater
affluence, lower drug costs, and changing cultural norms. Indeed,
usage rates of some drugs are among the highest in Europe. The
country's recent entry into the border-free Schengen zone will also
likely hamper anti-drug efforts. Counter-narcotics specialists
maintain these problems will continue to grow unless the country
adopts stiffer drug penalties, cracks down on the sale of legal
pre-cursor drugs, and increases prevention efforts. END SUMMARY

THE PENDING LEGISLATION

2. (SBU) The proposed changes are part of a broader attempt to
revise the entire Czech criminal code, similar to efforts which
failed in 2005. The changes to the sections dealing with drugs are
based on recommendations of the government's Anti-Narcotics Council.
The Council consists of representatives from the Ministries of
Health, Labor and Social Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Education, and
Interior, and is headed by the Prime Minister. With regard to fines
and sentences for drug offenses, the proposed bill would draw a
distinction between so-called "hard drugs," such as cocaine, LSD,
and heroin, and "soft drugs," such as marijuana and
methamphetamines. The bill, which has been approved by the cabinet,
still faces several legislatives hurdles, but it could be considered
in final form by the full parliament sometime this fall.

3. (SBU) Under the proposed new code, an individual would be able to
grow a set number of marijuana plants (reportedly three) for
"personal use" and carry .5 grams of methamphetamine without
penalty; exceeding that limit would carry a maximum penalty of six
months in prison. Trading in other drugs would continue to be
punished by up to 5 years' imprisonment. The government's approach
reflects a growing trend among EU member states to reorient
resources away from so-called "social drugs" and focus on other
illicit drugs considered more dangerous. For the first time, the
use and sale of anabolic steroids would also be banned under the
bill.

RISING USE OF MOST DRUGS

4. (SBU) Embassy officers recently met the head of the Czech
National Anti-Narcotics Police Unit, Jiri Komorous, and his
deputies, to discuss the current drug situation in the Czech
Republic. Komorous confirmed the high rates of drug use reported by
the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction
(EMCDDA), the EU body that monitors drug patterns in member states.
Its 2007 statistics showed that the Czech Republic had the highest
rate of marijuana use (28%) and the highest rate of methamphetamine
use (12%) in Europe. Cocaine use, while low, was up sharply over
recent years. Conversely, heroin use had fallen due to a long-term
law enforcement campaign targeting Kosovar Albanian gangs, the chief
suppliers of the drug in the country. Komorous' unit has also
worked closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) regional
office in Vienna to support investigations of mutual concern.
Additionally, Komorous stated that personnel reforms instituted by
the current Minister of Interior Ivan Langer had not impacted his
unit (Ref B.)

5. (SBU) Much of the explanation for the continued prevalence of
marijuana, especially among young people, lies in how the current
criminal law treats usage. Owing to a vaguely-worded "personal use"
exemption legislators inserted into the current drug legislation,
which came into effect in 1999, individuals may carry an undefined
amount of the drug on their person without penalty. Without binding
guidance on what constitutes permissible amounts, arrests for the
drug's usage are rare and subject to challenge. Accordingly, there
is effectively no legal deterrent to engaging in small-scale use of
the drug.

6. (SBU) Professor of Education at Charles University, Jana Stara,
blames the media for marijuana's popularity. She stated that Czech
media outlets frequently portray marijuana as no worse than alcohol
and neglect to discuss the possible harmful health consequences.
She cautioned that marijuana seized today has been shown to contain
THC levels four to five times higher than what was contained in
marijuana available 10-20 years ago. This observation was confirmed
by Komorous. As a result, today's marijuana is much more dangerous.


7. (SBU) Statistics for methamphetamine (locally known as pervitin)

also represent the highest rates in Europe. Linkage between cold
medications and methamphetamine production was publicly laid bare
March 13, when the president of the Czech Pharmaceutical
Association, Stanislav Havlicek, stated that "more than 80% of cold
medications sold in the Czech Republic is being used for the
clandestine manufacture of pervitin." He blamed the combination of
high profits and lax regulatory oversight for the problem. Indeed,
according to the State Institute for Controlled Substances (SUKL),
just 12 pharmacies sold one quarter of the 4 million cold medication
packets sold last year alone.

8. (SBU) The head of the Ministry of Interior's Policy and Analysis
Unit, Marcel Wolgemuth, believes the bad publicity generated by
Havlicek's comments may finally force government action. He stated
that a subgroup of the Anti-Narcotics Council has been established
to weigh options, including limiting the number of cold medications
sold, requiring a prescription for more than one packet, and
establishing a searchable database for all transactions. Czech
police also appear to have stepped up enforcement. On June 5, Czech
police announced charges against a pharmacist in connection with
allegedly supplying up to 25,000 boxes of cold medications to a
suspected meth cook in Chomutov, a city in northern Czech Republic
near the German border.

9. (SBU) While cocaine use remains low, its popularity has steadily
risen over the last several years. Due in part to the appreciating
Czech currency, the price of a gram of cocaine has dropped in recent
years to 1000-1500 Kcs ($60-95), making it much more affordable to
buy. Cheaper air travel and the country's recent entry into the
border-free Schengen zone have also made the drug more widely
available. Factors retarding the drug's further reach include its
still-relatively high price and active cooperation between Czech
police and agencies from the drug-producing countries of the Andes.


PREVENTION

10. (SBU) Experts on drug treatment and prevention stressed to
embassy officers that primary prevention held the greatest promise
for reversing these drug trends. On April 28, Prevention Center
(Prev-Centrum), a drug treatment and counseling clinic in Prague,
released the findings of its own long-term study. The survey, which
used control groups and followed hundreds of students in Prague for
five years, found that primary prevention played a significant role
in deferring the first use of illegal drugs. In terms of students
from broken homes, prevention was the leading factor in foregoing or
delaying drug use. Surveys conducted by Professor Stara reached
similar conclusions. However, both Prev-Centrum and Professor Stara
lamented the lack of sufficient public funding going into primary
prevention programs and generally declining support from the state,
something the MOI's Wolgemuth disputed. A Czech regulation that
requires the MOI to vet all NGOs proposing to provide prevention
training may also be complicating matters.

COMMENT

11. (SBU) The overall levels of drug use and official efforts to
lower penalties for carrying marijuana and methamphetamines are not
encouraging trends. However, our discussions revealed that the
Czech law enforcement team fighting the spread of narcotics is
professional and clearly committed to its mission. We have sought to
support Czech police through various training and exchange programs,
including programs offered by DEA in Vienna. These programs have
been welcomed by the Czechs, and we continue to receive requests for
other opportunities. Post therefore encourages State and other
agencies to continue targeting Czech Republic for this form of
assistance.

12. (U) DEA Vienna provided clearance this cable.

GRABER

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