Those radical Swiss are at it again. In a report released last Friday (4/23), a federal commission recommended that the possession and sale of cannabis be decriminalized, and proposed that regulations be drawn up to license merchants who would be permitted to sell the plant only to Swiss citizens.
"Cannabis is a drug, and the committee isn't intending to trivialize it or say that its consumption is without risk," panel member Anne-Catherine Menetrey told Swiss radio. "But consumption is rising, especially among young people." The panel concluded that occasional use of marijuana does not lead to the use or abuse of other drugs. Moreover, it noted that the current prohibition of marijuana is inconsistently enforced, which may be contributing to the "growing loss of credibility" of Swiss drug policy.
A national referendum would be required to implement the proposed changes to the law, the panel said. Last year, a referendum to legalize the sale and possession of all drugs was defeated by voters amid concerns about health risks and worries that the country would become a magnet for drug tourism.
But in 1997, Swiss voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative to continue a heroin maintenance experiment after a scientific review found the program significantly cut the crime, disease and unemployment associated with heroin addiction. The Swiss heroin trial limited enrollment to Swiss citizens, and the proposed rules for the sale and possession of cannabis would require similar restrictions.
The commission's plan calls for the development of a mandatory training and licensing program for merchants who sell cannabis, and customers would have to produce identification proving they were Swiss citizens. As in the Netherlands, where marijuana possession and sales have been decriminalized since 1976, the panel recommended strict controls on the production and distribution of the drug, and said cannabis merchants should not be allowed to advertise their wares.