Deep Politics Forum

Full Version: Czech Police Break Own Rules & The Law - And The Government So Far Cares Not.
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.

Police chose "wrong weapon" in raids on marijuana cultivationsuppliers, says owner Michal Otipka

03-02-2014 16:09 | Ian Willoughby

In November, the Czech police's drugs unit raided dozens of "growshops", businesses that sell products necessary for the cultivation ofmarijuana. The police justified the large-scale confiscation of goods onthe grounds that a court had ruled it was illegal for the shops to offer inone place everything needed to grow the drug, from seeds to literature.This is disputed by the grow shop owners, including my guest today, MichalOtipka, who runs four in Prague. Before we got on to the legal niceties, Iasked Otipka how he'd first got into the business.

Download: MP3

[Image: otipka_michalx.jpg]Michal Otipka, photo: Ian Willoughby"I studied at the University of Economics here in Prague and I met twovery interesting guys. Basically it was the idea of my friend. He was kindof a music freak kind of a DJ pioneer.
"He moved to Holland and used to work with vinyl records. There he sawthe whole culture. He came back to Czech, he opened some DJ stores and avinyl shop. And he also said, maybe it could be a good idea to opensomething like a grow shop…"
Which I guess he would have seen in Holland and elsewhere in Europe.
"Yeah. He saw it in Holland, he saw it in Europe, he made new friends inGermany… We are on the market since 16 or 17 years ago and back thenGermany was a pretty restrictive country.
"And in Berlin is one of the biggest shops in Europe. Basically it usedto be called a grow shop but now they want to be more politically correct[laughs] in Western Europe so they call it urban green concept' basically it's fertilisers, pots, soils and all these things."
I came here in the early 1990s and in those days it was quite common tosee people smoking marijuana in bars and clubs. Do you think peopleassociated smoking with freedom in those days?
"For me, it's like an indicator of freedom… One thing is smokingmarijuana, the second thing is our shops there has to be a clear line.
"But there is some style of living, or some culture. I think nowadayspeople are smoking maybe even more than 20 years ago."
And also what they're smoking today seems to be, from what I'm told,stronger than what they were smoking. When I first came here people saidthat Czech marijuana was from the cottage', it was quite weak. Nowit's much stronger. Is that partly because of the success of the growshops?
"I think it's a natural development. There are new strains, morepeople are involved, there's better technology, better fertilisers,better access to information I think it's thanks to the internet. Onthe internet you can find everything. It's speeding the business a lot.
"By the way, the argument that marijuana is stronger these days… OK,it's like with alcohol; you can drink 10 beers or you can have 10 shots.If you can have something which is stronger maybe you can smoke less andstill get to the desired state of mind [laughs]."
I know this isn't your area exactly, but I do have to ask for ourlisteners who don't know the legal situation what is the legalsituation surrounding the possession of marijuana in the Czech Republic?
[Image: konopi3x.jpg]Illustrative photo: Tomáš Adamec"The thing is, they made a stupid law. I think it's a unique law inthe world. It says you can have an amount which is smaller than big. Whichis actually funny, because for some people half a kilo is not enough, andfor some people half a gramme is too much. It leaves a lot of room forspeculation.
"It's not a law. There was some kind of recipe from the police saying,I think, that you can have 16 grammes of marijuana.
"But the Supreme Court ruled half a year ago that they agree with thisbut it wasn't done in a 100-percent legal way, so they had to cancel thisregulation. So now even possessing one joint is a crime, but most peopledon't know that."
But isn't it not a crime but rather a misdemeanour.
"Yes. But the police try to pretend that they are totally stupid andthey treat it like an official crime.
"Basically we are getting to a situation where your wallet is stolen,your car is broken into, then you go to the police and they tell you, hey,we don't have the capacity to solve this.
"But if they want to create pressure… By the way, one month ago theywent to clubs and made raids. If you were smoking they searched you andtook you to a police station like a real criminal and opened something likea case."
Before Christmas, some of your grow shops and many other grow shops aroundthe country were raided by the police's drugs unit. Why did that happenwhen it happened?
"It's a question. I don't know why it happened. There are two main,let's say, theories. The first one is a conspiracy theory, that someex-politicians, some so-called mafia groups are trying… and alsothere's the interest of big pharmaceutical companies… they're tryingto take over the business.
"They want to clear up the market for medical marijuana and this madnesswhich is in the States. They smell money so they want to solve it this way.Maybe it's possible, but I'm not the biggest fan of this theory.
"The second theory is like with the fall of the government of Mr.Nečas. The police and state attorneys are, how to put it, trying to getstronger in the Czech Republic.
"We had no strong government so I'm afraid that it's a decision ofone, two, maximum three people, who are so high and have such power withoutcontrol and they decided just to try it."
If I understand it right, a court ruled the year before last that growshops aren't allowed to sell all the paraphernalia needed to producemarijuana?
[Image: jointx.jpg]Photo: Kristýna Maková"Basically, it's a little bit different story which has beenmisinterpreted about 1,000 times and as we say, if you repeat a lie1,000 times it becomes the truth.
"The whole story is that two guys in a small city… it's a minordetail, but it could be important, they were two gays organising house[music] parties in a small city. The mayor was very conservative…
"The police call it the local game: At the best restaurant in a smallcity, very often the only one there, the mayor, the chief of police, thestate attorney and sometimes the judge meet at one table.
"There were two trials at the base level. If you read it, there was nodefence. The judge just copied and repeated what the police said.
"They sent it to the Supreme Court, the appeal, but they made a mistakein this letter, so the Supreme Court didn't decide in the case it wasjust a formal decision.
"That's one thing. The second thing is we don't have the Anglo-Saxonsystem of law. And another is that the most important rulings are publishedevery six months, in what's called the Green Book of Rulings, but this isnot there.
"Also the judge, Mrs. Kůrková, who has been handling this case, sent amessage to the chief of the anti-drug police saying that they shouldn'tuse the ruling the way they are using it, that the ruling was just a formaldecision and wasn't meant to unify the court decisions.
"The police were looking for a weapon, but they took the first one theysaw and they took the wrong one. I'm sure of this."
What's happening now with your businesses? You have four grow shops andthere are many others that have been raided and had their stuff seized what's the situation now?
"It's already two months ago. They've confiscated from us goods inthe value of one million dollars. They confiscated cash, but they haven'tblocked bank accounts.
"They took the goods and I asked them, does this mean I am not allowedto continue to run my business? They said, no, no, you can continue, I'mjust curious what you're going to sell when we took all your goods.
"It's even stranger because in May last year there was an MMMhappening in Prague 3, at Parukářka, there were eight or nine thousandpeople and we had our promo stand there…"
[Image: marihuana_march09x.jpg]Million Marijuana March, photo: archive of Radio PragueSorry, MMM means Million Marijuana March?
"Yes, exactly. We had our stand and the chief of the toxi-team, theanti-drug police in that district, a very nice lady, came there with agroup of their investigators.
"They came to our stand and we had a long discussion with them. I'msure that they made a recording of it, they taped it for evidence on apolice camera.
"We discussed the situation with them and made a clear deal. She said,OK, you're not allowed to have books and manuals here please hidethem and the rest is OK for me.
"And five months after that the same team with the same boss came to myshop and confiscated all the goods. I said, hey, you're the guilty one you told me that I can and now you're prosecuting me!
"They felt ashamed. They looked at the ground and said, sorry, sorry, wegot new orders and we had to follow them that's the structure."
Is your industry taking any kind of coordinated action to fight backagainst what's been happening?
"Yes. What we are doing is a coordinated action. They wanted to createthe impression that it's not a big raid so it's 50 individual cases,which is much harder for us to defend.
"On the other hand, there were some minor violations of the law in somecases, so it's good we are not connected with those people.
"The first thing we did was to have some meetings and share information.On the other hand, we are under a threat from the police that they couldpersecute us as an organised crime group, so we have to be very carefulwith this.
"You would expect that the police are working on some 21st century levelbut they are not able to use the internet. They don't have the internetin their offices.
"It's a funny story. Twenty police officers came to my shop and theydidn't know that it had two floors. They had only one computer which was10 years old.
[Image: pomahat_chranitx.jpg]Photo: Kristýna Maková"I got to the interview with the police and I knew exactly what wasgoing on in the north, the south, the east, the west, that in some placesthe police had apologised, they gave back t-shirts, in some placescosmetics.
"They were surprised they didn't have this information. You wouldexpect the government authorities to work on some coordinated level and youface a very sad reality when you go there."