Beginning January 1, 2013, Croatia will no longer criminally prosecute citizens caught with small amounts of marijuana and other drugs. Possession for personal use is being downgraded to a minor offense in the former Yugoslavian republic.
But growing cannabis, even for personal or medical consumption, will remain a criminal offense, and those growing it will still risk facing a fine and up to three years in prison, reports the Croatian Times.
A working group from Croatia’s Ministry of Justice suggested that the possession of small amounts of drugs should be decriminalized, the the group hasn’t yet proposed regulations regarding the production of marijuana for those with chronic health problems.
Croatia’s Justice Minister passed the buck to the Ministry of Health on the medical marijuana issue.
“We cannot regulate criminal law, because it is not up to the Ministry of Justice to decide which substances, when it comes to medical purposes, should be prohibited, and which should not,” said Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic.
“The decision on whether a drug is a medicine or not is up to the Ministry of Health,” Miljenic said. “Everything that a is on the list of banned substances shall be punished in some way.”
Croatian Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor
Last year, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor, the first female prime minister of Croatia, said that her party, the conservative Christian Democratic Union, would not support decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.
“A decriminalization of the possession of quantities of any sort of drugs has never been acceptable to our party,” Kosor said.
No distinction is made in Croatian law between marijuana and other illegal substances. According to current law, growing or sale of cannabis (or any other illegal drug) is considered a felony punishable by a mandatory three-year prison sentence.
The possession of any amount in Croatia is currently a felony with either a fine or a one-year prison sentence, depending on the circumstances of the case, although people arrested with smaller amounts of cannabis are typically just fined.
The possibility of decriminalizing small amounts of drugs was mentioned in October 2010 by then-Minister of Justice Drazen Bošnjaković, who said such reforms were “a trend everywhere in Europe.”
By Steve Elliott