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Targeting Cannabis, Czech Republic Takes Aim at… Gardening Store

Lucas Hurt


Tuesday 02 Aug 2016

Michal Otipka is one of the Czech Republic’s most influential cannabis entrepreneurs. He’s also a self-defense instructor. But when it comes to taking on the country’s court system, he’s powerless.

Otipka runs Czechia’s largest grow stores, which offer an array of wares such as cultivation media, nutrients, and lighting systems. The goods are legal, but perhaps due to Otipka’s success he’s become the fall guy in the country’s war on drugs — or, more specifically, the nation’s war on indoor gardening shops.

Back in autumn of 2013, Otipka’s two shops were among dozens raided by Czech police as part of Czechia’s biggest anti-drug operation in modern history. Police justified the raids by arguing the shop owners were promoting drug addiction.

In the vast majority of court cases against owners of smaller grow shops, the judges sided with police. Most owners were found guilty but sentenced only to probation; no one was sent to jail. Still, the cannabis community expected Otipka’s case to be different. Because his shops were the biggest in the country, Otipka’s trial attracted considerable media coverage. Every court session was followed by extensive reporting including from state-run television. And Otipka himself vowed to fight the case to the bitter end.

Apart from running grow shops, Otipka has another noteworthy hobby. He’s a renowned instructor of Krav Maga, a close-quarters form of combat developed by the Israeli army. It’s becoming popular among law enforcement in the Czech Republic, and Otipka has given lessons to numerous police officers. The interactions have allowed him to discuss with law enforcement the motives behind and blunders involved in the massive anti-grow shop crackdown and subsequent criminal trials.

Over the course of his case, Otipka became a symbol. If he beat the charges, the largest anti-drug operation in the country’s history would be viewed by many as fruitless.

In December, just such a verdict was delivered, sparking joy among the country’s cannabis community. But the police don’t like ending up on the losing side.




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