Swiss Panel Set to Back Cannabis Legalization

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Feb 24, 2003.

  1. By Simone Meier

    Bern -- A Swiss lower-house panel will probably urge lawmakers to accept a government proposal to legalize the consumption of marijuana, committee President Toni Bortoluzzi said in an interview.
    A majority of the group's 25 members is likely to back the change when they meet next month, the Swiss People's Party member said. Approval would pave way for the lower house to accept the draft law, which already has upper house approval.

    ``If voting proportions stay the same within the committee, the legalization plan is going to be passed,'' said Bortoluzzi, who plans to vote against. ``That's already clear.''

    The new law would allow Swiss residents to grow and consume cannabis for their own use, as in the Netherlands and Belgium. Some 500,000 people in the country of 7.3 million people smoke cannabis occasionally to regularly, according to the government.

    Unlike in Belgium, the commercial production and sale would be tolerated under strict regulations. Stores would be forbidden to sell cannabis to youths under 18 and to non-Swiss citizens. Imports would remain illegal.

    Swiss law currently bans the consumption of marijuana, although the police turn a blind eye to the cultivation of plants on private balconies and in back yards. Stores sell cannabis in cushions or scent bags, and offer plant seeds over the Internet.

    Opponents argue the country would become a hub for drug dealers and ``cannabis tourism'' by residents of neighboring France, Germany, Austria and Italy. Bortoluzzi said he will back attempts to force a referendum against legalization if the lower house accepts the new law.

    The isolationist People's Party, one of four in the coalition government, is leading efforts to prevent the change. Opponents also cite concerns that cannabis may contribute to cancer, as well as loss of memory and concentration.

    About a third of Swiss aged between 15 and 35 have smoked marijuana at least once. Police reported 17,350 offenses against the ban on cannabis consumption in 1999, the latest year for which the government provided figures.

    Complete Title: Swiss Panel Set to Back Cannabis Legalization, Lawmaker Says

    Author: Simone Meier
    Published: February 21, 2003
    Copyright: 2003 Bloomberg L.P.

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