Friday, 20 January 2012

High Times for Poland’s Parliament - Emerging Europe Real Time - WSJ

A Polish libertarian opposition leader tried to smoke a joint at parliament premises Friday as part of his campaign to legalize soft drugs, but was prevented by the house speaker. He burned marijuana incense instead.

Controversial lawmaker Janusz Palikot.

Janusz Palikot, the leader of the Palikot Movement, announced in advance his plan to smoke pot at the parliament building, giving the speaker, Ewa Kopacz, time to organize tighter security at the compound in Warsaw. Guards and police officers were instructed not to let parliamentarians bring guests to the building on Friday if they didn’t have authorization from the parliament’s security officers.

Ms. Kopacz reported the Palikot Movement’s leader to a prosecutor, who opened a probe to see if the controversial party leader didn’t “promote or advertise” drugs, which would be a criminal offense. Polish parliamentarians enjoy immunity from prosecution, which can be only lifted by the lower house.

Wearing a cannabis leaf-shaped pin, Mr. Palikot burned incense in front of a crowd of journalists.

“We’ve burned marijuana,” Mr. Palikot said. “It’s incense with a small legal amount of marijuana, which smells like marijuana, bought at a shop in Warsaw.”

He doesn’t expect to get into trouble since the incense was bought legally, he said, adding he had a receipt for it.

Mr. Palikot has made a political career out of courting controversy. While still a member of the ruling Civic Platform party, he once appeared at a press conference with a sex toy in one hand and a gun in the other.

He left the party last year to create his own grouping, which got 10% of the vote in last year’s parliamentary election. Despite having owned a strongly conservative weekly, which once on its front page urged legislators to “stop faggotry,” Mr. Palikot now says he’s an anti-clerical with a libertarian agenda. Among his MPs are Poland’s first transsexual in parliament, Anna Grodzka, and the country’s first openly homosexual parliamentarian, Robert Biedron.

A former businessman who made millions from alcohol production, Mr. Palikot once offended the law by appearing to be drinking publicly after the office of the president at the time, Lech Kaczynski, bought several hundred bottles of liquor.

Mr. Palikot’s campaign to legalize soft drugs stands little chance in Poland. Prime Minister Donald Tusk, the leader of the ruling center-right Civic Platform party, said last year he was against legalizing drugs. Poland’s conservative opposition is even more adamantly against it.