Swiss To Allow Production Sale and Use of Cannabis

Discussion in 'Marijuana News' started by Superjoint, Mar 10, 2001.

  1. By Andreas Britt
    Source: Bloomberg

    The Swiss government, in an unprecedented move, proposed a law that would allow the production, sale and consumption of cannabis, charging ahead with a policy bound to meet opposition from the United Nations.
    Some 7 percent of all Swiss between the ages of 15 and 39 consume cannabis regularly, a government study showed. Last year, hemp farmers produced 200 tons worth more than 600 million Swiss francs ($364 million) in the nation of 7.2 million people.

    In the 1990s, Swiss authorities embraced a more liberal drug policy than other countries to reduce abuse. It has since handed out heroin to long-term addicts while offering treatment, which is unique in Europe. The police increasingly turned a blind eye to users of marijuana, which today is sold in some city shops.

    ``The government's stance shows clear progress,'' said Peter Zysset, 35, a father of three and a sales assistant at a hemp shop in the Swiss capital. ``I've been smoking between two and three joints a day for about 20 years.''

    With the decision, the government ignored a plea by the United Nations, which last month urged Switzerland not to legalize cannabis, as it would violate a 1961 convention on drugs.

    Herbert Saepe, secretary of the UN's International Narcotics Control Board, declined to comment, saying the board would have to study the proposal first. The next meeting of the board will take place in May.

    Sales Outlets:

    The Swiss government said it can tolerate a ``certain amount'' of stores selling marijuana as well as its production, making it easier to fight the export of the drug. Producers and sellers would have to report regularly to the government.

    Parliament will now have its say on the government's proposal. Both chambers last year gave their support for the legalization of cannabis, and a recent poll showed that half of Swiss people favor such a move.

    If lawmakers approve the proposal, opponents would be able to force a referendum -- which is likely -- if they gather 50,000 signatures.

    ``The general lifting of the punishment of the consumption of cannabis and its preparative acts should take into account social realities as well as relieve the police and justice system,'' the government said.

    While the possession and use of marijuana is illegal in all countries, the Netherlands in 1976 introduced a more liberal approach by making the distinction between the soft drugs such as cannabis and the hard drugs cocaine, heroin and LSD. Thus, Amsterdam became a hub for marijuana smokers.

    In neighboring Belgium, the government in January decided to decriminalize the personal use of soft drugs. Germany tolerates the consumption of single marijuana cigarettes.

    In a proposal to Swiss parliament handed out in Bern, the government also said it set into law the practice of giving heroin to long-term addicts to help them quit the drug.

    Back at his shop in Bern, Zysset said that as soon as cannabis is legal, he would consider adding it to the array of hemp products on offer, such as T-shirts, cushions and tea. ``It's big business,'' he said.

    Author: Andreas Britt
    Published: March 9, 2001
    Copyright: 2001 Bloomberg L.P.

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