Marijuana use remains stable in Switzerland

Marijuana use remains stable in Switzerland

Marijuana use remains stable in Switzerland
© Keystone – from (English site of La Tribune de Geneve)
by Malcolm Curtis
Geneva – 05 July 2008 | 07:00

Four federal parties rally in support of an initiative to replace a ban on cannabis use for adults, while strictly enforcing its prohibition for those under 18. Swiss voters are set to vote on the issue, rejected by parliament four years ago, in a November referendum.

A coalition of federal Swiss political parties of various stripes has renewed a bid to decriminalize marijuana in the country. Elected members of the Radical, Christian Democrat, Socialist and Green parties on Friday endorsed an initiative that would regulate cannabis use while making it illegal for children under the of 18.

The initiative is scheduled to be voted on by Swiss voters on Nov. 30. The parties have urged people to say yes to the proposal. Members in Bern said the initiative offers a “reasonable policy” governing the use of marijuana that is preferable to the current prohibition.

They noted that the proposal effectively protects young people by banning it for those underage. However the group maintains that for adults smoking a joint is a personal choice over which each person can make their own decision.
“It is necessary to remove emotion from the debate,” said Geri Müller, a Green party member of parliament from Aargau, according to a report carried by the ATS news service. Stéphane Rossini, Socialist party member from Valais, said it was not a matter of minimizing the seriousness of marijuana use but to go beyond dogmatic arguments and issues of conscience.
Marijuana officially remains a banned drug in Switzerland though possession in small quantities for personal use is tolerated in many cantons. The politicians calling for changes to the law say the current prohibition has failed to cut use. Christa Markwalder, Radical member of parliament from Bern, said an estimated 500,000 people in Switzerland are regular or occasional users of cannabis. The more than 27,500 complaints lodged annually with police (based on 2005 figures) have only served to needlessly overload the police and judicial systems, Markwalder indicated.
The initiative previously only had the official backing of the Socialist and Radical parties. Four years ago, the federal parliament threw out a similar proposal put forward by the government. Switzerland gained a reputation for its liberal drugs policy in the late1980s, but public opinion later changed. It remains to be seen whether this time round the pendulum will swing back on this issue.
Marijuana use remains stable in Switzerland
© Keystone