Czech Court Sentences Cannabis Publisher

Stephen Andrews
28 Mar 2023

According to a recent court ruling in Czechia, writing about cannabis constitutes an act of spreading toxicomania. Robert Veverka, the editor-in-chief and publisher of Legalizace magazine, the first cannabis magazine in the country, was charged exactly on those grounds by a Czech regional court. His sentence includes a fine of almost $11,500 (a year's salary for many Czechs). Either that or serve time in prison.

Robert Veverka has been publishing cannabis-related content since 2010. His magazine, Legalizace, typically contained information on how to cultivate hemp and cannabis, the therapeutic benefits of cannabis plants, harm reduction, and other relevant topics. The magazine would occasionally also include seeds, the sale and possession of which is legal in the Czech Republic. 

Veverka's Kafkaesque situation started a few years ago when a local Czech grower was caught cultivating nearly 40 cannabis plants using seeds distributed with Legalizace. The grower intended the plants to make topical cream for personal use. But despite that, or the fact that dissemination of seeds is not against the law, Veverka and his magazine were eyed by law enforcement. 

The regional court of Ostrava, the third largest city in the country, launched a case which eventually convicted Veverka and his company for "spreading toxicomania." In 2021, Veverka received a suspended sentence of CZK 50,000 (around $2,000 US dollars) as part of the charges. More specifically, he was found guilty of producing over 200 articles between 2010 and 2020, the content of which could incite readers into illegal cannabis-related activities. 

Veverka appealed the initial court ruling, claiming that he was sentenced under an outdated law with ambiguous provisions on illegal substances promotion. And it would not be the first time that Czech authorities have used the same problematic provision of that law. 

In 2013, Czech police raided dozens of grow shops in the country, otherwise registered businesses that paid taxes and employee benefits. Prosecutors and judges opened dozens of cases for the shop owners then. All were found guilty because of selling "under the same roof" grow equipment, cannabis seeds, and printed material with information about cannabis growing, among other things. This constituted a so-called closed chain that could lead to illegal cannabis cultivation. 

Veverka and his organization behind the magazine Legalizace found themselves in a similar legal nightmare as the shop owners ten years ago. 

The outcome of Veverka's appeal was made known earlier this March. He was again convicted by the Ostrava regional court. The judgment this time is final, and he either settles a penalty of CZK 250,000 ($11,500), or he can go to jail. 

Along with being an apparent attack on the freedom of speech, the ruling is further contradictory. Recently, Czechia announced plans to move forward with legalization, possibly on par with Germany. 

"I feel branded, damaged, and personally disgusted," Veverka said in a recent interview. "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," he told the Cannabis Therapy Magazine. 

Veverka said his next step would be to appeal to the country's higher courts. "I am ready to appeal to the Supreme Court and then to the Constitutional Court with my lawyer and continue to fight for freedom of speech and the right to information," he says in the interview. 

In the same interview, he reveals that he is unwilling to give up on relaunching Legalizace. However, continuing to publish would be very difficult, and it would depend on a list of specifications that he ought to receive in a written judgment from the court. 

Legalizace was founded in 2010 as the first cannabis magazine in the Czech Republic. One of the slogans used by Veverka during his court trials has been "Education is not a Crime." 

Stephen Andrews