Reuters reported Monday that
opponents of the decriminalization of cannabis in Switzerland are trying
to make an issue of Swiss marijuana's potency in an effort to derail the
pending move. Last year, the upper house of the Swiss parliament
approved decriminalization, and the lower house is scheduled to address
the matter early next year.
But a study of cannabis potency
done by a Swiss consumer watchdog group found that Swiss pot was much more
potent than lawmakers had previously assumed, allowing opponents an attack
opening along the lines of drug czar John Walters' "it's not your father's
marijuana." According to the study, Swiss marijuana contained up
to 28% THC, far more than the 1.5% to 6% reported in 1997.
Some marijuana experts argue
that higher potency simply means that users smoke less to achieve the desired
high, but Swiss opponents are following the lead of US prohibitionists.
"We have to revise our verdict," said Richard Mueller, director of the
Swiss Institute for Drug Abuse. "Smoking cannabis isn't as harmless
as we thought," he told Sonntags Zeitung.
"I will do everything to
prevent this issue from coming through," added parliamentarian Toni Bortoluzzi
of the conservative Swiss People's Party. But the People's Party
is in the opposition, and the governing coalition remains wedded to decriminalization.
"We have always said it (smoking
cannabis) is not harmless," a spokeswoman for the Federal Office for Public
Health told Reuters, "but it is no more dangerous than other substances
out there." The spokeswoman added that the government emphasized
prevention by informing youths of the potential risks of drugs and alcohol.
"Especially with youths, I think it makes sense to tell them cannabis is
treated the same way as alcohol and tobacco. Then we may have better
access to them rather than if we tell them that it's against the law,"
Still, it appears that decrim
faces a rockier road in the lower chamber than in did last year in the
upper chamber. "In the last few months there has been a more restrictive
way of looking at it," Rosemarie Dormann, a member of the lower house's
social security and health committee, told Sonntags Zeitung.
-- END --
Issue #266, 12/6/02
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