Daniel Cermak, 22, is a proper New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. His mother is American, and his father emigrated to the US some 30 years ago from what was then Czechoslovakia in the dying days of communism. At first Daniel’s dad sold hot dogs. Eventually he became a businessman in the construction industry. He never forgot his homeland, though, and regularly brought the whole family to Czechia.
Both Daniel and his father have a positive relationship with cannabis, and the Czech Republic has a long history with the plant. Their experience in both the United States and Czechia gives them unusual insight into how cannabis culture in the Big Apple compares to the scene in Central Europe. Leafly’s Czech correspondent Lukas Hurt spoke with Cermak during a visit to the country this summer.
Leafly: Where in the Czech Republic did you smoke cannabis for the first time? How did you obtain it?
Daniel Cermak: My first experience with cannabis in Czechia was in Prague. I was staying with friends near Wenceslas Square and we had just arrived by train from Berlin. Most of the marijuana we found in Berlin was low-quality stuff, probably because we weren’t looking very hard, but by the time we arrived in Czech capital, we were hoping for better luck.
Prague is more or less familiar to me, but as we stepped outside our hotel onto the street, I realized I wasn’t sure where to start the search party. Do I try the seedy Wenceslas square? Or would we have more luck taking a walk up to Letná borough, which would probably be full of Czech students who are known for their love for cannabis? In the end, we decided to ponder the question at the bar across the street. The bartender noticed the two of us speaking English and seemed happy to have the opportunity to engage in conversation. As soon as she realized what our mission was, she simply smiled and asked, “How much?” Fifteen minutes later, we were all sorted out.
Was this very different from buying cannabis in New York?
In New York, the industry is changing fast. The days of meeting your neighborhood guy are done and dusted. Most of my friends get cannabis through a service that is primarily based off an iPhone messaging application. Within an hour, a so-called runner shows up at your door, usually with his bike and always with a briefcase full of buds. The service is really quite impressive. The product is well-presented, organized by quantity and strain. They even have their own branding, as the packaging capsules are cleverly designed. The runners are polite, professional, and more than capable of answering any questions one might have about the product. The cannabis itself is also top-notch. I’m not sure whether it’s local or shipped in from out West, but it’s certainly better than whatever I used to smoke in high school.
So which is better—Czech or American buds?
In terms of the actual cannabis, I don’t think there’s a huge difference between what is grown here and what is grown in the US. No matter where you go, there’s always going to be good and bad stuff, but the best part about smoking in the Czech Republic is who I get to smoke with. I don’t worry that I’m disrespecting somebody. Of course, I cannot speak for all Czechs, but all the ones I know seem to treat cannabis rather indifferently. That is the way it should be.
What memory from your visits here really stands out?
A truly novel experience for me was when a Czech friend showed me his outdoor garden in full bloom. There I realized this is actually the first time in my life I could see, touch, and smell living cannabis plants, not only dried buds like at home. He also told me that in this village, and pretty much in every village in Czechia, about one in three seniors grow and use cannabis. Despite the fact that it’s still not legal.