Bulgaria’s Central Election Commission (CEC) has ordered the withdrawal of campaign material of a party registered for participation in the May 26 European Parliament elections because its ballot number was depicted against a background of a cannabis leaf.
Bulgarian National Radio reported on May 21 that the CEC decision was taken after a complaint from the public council on narcotic drugs in Blagoevgrad, a town in south-western Bulgaria.
Dr Temenuzhka Lyubenova, head of the committee, approached both the CEC and the Council for Electronic Media, complaining of unacceptable advertising of cannabis in election materials, the report said.
Lyubenova said that this was a “gross manipulation” of young people, in the context of the idea of legalising soft drugs, BNR reported.
The CEC decided that the materials were out of joint with Bulgaria’s Electoral Code and considered that “the pictorial illustration of a cannabis leaf, albeit indirectly, threatened the health of the citizenry and good morality”.
Representatives of the party, unnamed, will be fined between 200 and 2000 leva (about 100 and 1000 euro) and ordered to immediately remove the election posters, according to the decision.
Bulgaria’s current laws against marijuana use are among the most Draconian in Europe. Following amendments to the Penal Code in 2006, possession of even a single joint may lead to one to six years in prison and a fine from 2000 to 10 000 leva (about 1000 to 5000 euro).
Bulgarian law places marijuana in the same high-risk drug classification as heroin, cocaine and amphetamines.
A 2018 report by the EU said that Bulgarian school pupils reported among the highest marijuana use among the European countries surveyed.
In April, three people were arrested because, during a protest in front of Bulgaria’s National Assembly to call for the decriminalisation of marijuana consumption, they were smoking joints – outside the area registered for the protest.