Czech senators, judges, police, school principles and parents have pledged to join forces in the battle against drugs. At a recent meeting at the Senate, the first of its kind, they said it was time for a radical change of approach in the Czech Republic, which has the highest consumption of marihuana and ecstasy in the EU.
Representatives from all fields affected by drug consumption said they, like the Czech authorities, have in the past had a fatalistic attitude to drugs. But now they want to join forces to combat drug use head on, rather than simply aiming to reduce it. Supreme Court judge Marie Benesova says the state has to have a zero-tolerance attitude to win the fight against drugs:
"The problem lies in our penal code. It allows individuals to hold small amounts of drugs for their personal use. This indirectly calls for the need to deal in and produce drugs. Let's not be tolerant, let's not be lenient, and let's not be democratic towards something that is harming us, our children, our economy and our health care."
Attorney Michal Pacovsky is vice chairman of the civic association Parents Against Drugs, the organisers of the conference:
"The statistics for the last five years in the Czech Republic are horrible...absolutely horrible! In the last two years, the Czech Republic is first in the European Union in the consumption of marihuana and ecstasy. That's absolutely crazy and it's because of the very bad anti-drug policy that we've had in the past ten years."
The theme of the conference is Drugs, Crime, and Terrorism. I can see the connection between drugs and crime but why terrorism?
"The money from the drug business is money for terrorism and in the end our children are paying terrorists. The money involved in the business around illegal drugs is more than the GDP of the United States."
Talking about the United States, you had US experts here today to listen to the situation in the Czech Republic and to tell us how they fight the problem in the States. Is there anything that you heard here today that can be used and applied here?
"Yes. For example the practices of attorneys and the police in New York...how to protect the streets and our children from dealers, etc."
Peter Kougasian is a New York City prosecutor and member of the city's specialised anti-drug team. He says the Czech Republic is on the right track when it realises it is not enough to just increase budgets or pass laws that make penalties higher:
"The first step is to form the political will, to make a difference. If I had some advice for my brothers and sisters here in the Czech Republic it would be to examine that very carefully - where they can concentrate their efforts the most effectively. Is it in identifying those criminal enterprises that are importing drugs and selling drugs, is it trying to impose penalties on those who are selling drugs with the hopes of either taking them off the street or forcing them into treatment, or is it to look at individual communities in the Czech Republic in which the sale of drugs and drug addiction have a particularly high occurrence? Those are the things that I think have to be done."
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