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Swiss Voters Approve Heroin Prescriptions, But Reject Marijuana Decriminalization

I don’t know quite what to make of this news from Switzerland:

GENEVA (AP) — The world’s most comprehensive legalized heroin program became permanent on Sunday with overwhelming approval from Swiss voters, who separately rejected the legalization of marijuana.

The heroin program, started in 1994, is offered in 23 centers across Switzerland. It has helped eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks and is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.

Of the 2.26 million Swiss who voted in the national referendum, 68 percent approved making the heroin program permanent. But 63 percent voted against the marijuana proposal, which was based on a separate citizens’ initiative to decriminalize consuming marijuana and growing the plant for personal use. [NY Times]

Pete Guither has some good analysis explaining how concerns about Amsterdam-type drug tourism helped to torpedo the proposal. It’s a harsh reality that any nation that considers tolerating recreational marijuana sales must inevitably come to terms with a potential influx of pot smoking tourists. They’re easy enough to deal with, but the idea just makes some people uncomfortable.

A policy that prohibits sales to foreigners might mitigate these concerns, but I can’t get over the absurdity of restricting marijuana sales while permitting tourists to get drunk off their asses anywhere they please. The problem in Amsterdam isn’t that marijuana laws are too loose, it’s the fact that marijuana laws everywhere else are completely unreasonable. So-called "marijuana tourism" is just another symptom of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. and beyond. Can you even imagine what Amsterdam would be like if it were the only place you could legally purchase alcohol?
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Another problem in Amsterdam

Another problem in Amsterdam is that a lot of the pot smoking tourists also use other drugs, so you have an increased black market activity for those other drugs. I've been to Amsterdam, and you can't walk five minutes (in the summer at least), without some guy walking up next to you and going "cocaine, ecstacy". Also, there is a lot of black market violence from the wholesale of marijuana. In Switzerland, the wholesale of marijuana would have been controled by the government, so in that sense they would have been better off than Holland.

That's because the Dutch locate the pot shops....

....in the shadiest areas of town and if there are drug dealers always lurking around then I guess the police don't monitor the shops as much as they should.

It's ironic that the Swiss, like much of the rest of the world, think they have the ability to wipe a large market out of existence but cannot regulate it.

Another term for "drug tourism": tourism

It means increased tax revenue that can fund safety and education. You put "drug" in front of something and people become irrational. That's about the only thing the War on Drugs has acheived.

Amsterdam seems only about 20% of the way toward a free, regulated cannabis market. It's already enough to show success in reducing harm and youth usage, but its black market will continue until production and distribution are also legal (which several mayors are proposing). When it's no longer cost effective to sell cannabis on the street, users will spend less time around pushers of harder drugs.

But, of course, as long as the hard drugs are illegal, there'll be a market.

Erin J Says....

Yeah because heroin is a less harmful drug than marijuana right? LOL! If marijuana is a "gateway" drug, then I would love to see what they classify heroin as.

Amsterdam and Switzerland

With regards to the pushers in Amsterdam, just say no and they are harmless. The police even pass out a large red pamphlet explaining the rules (ie don't buy drugs off the streets, and don't piss on walls and if you are too high drink some soda for the sugar to bring you down a bit etc) The problem with the Netherlands is exactly what the story was about. They have been unsuccessful in getting other countries to follow suit and just like a Grateful Dead show, it has become to popular and is really the only game in town. In 2000, one could buy decent has and ok herb and mushrooms in Christiania on the so-called "pusher street" (misnomer really because they were just a bunch of wodden stalls like Lucy's from Charlie Brown). In 2000, one cauld also buy herb In Switzerland at internet cafes selling duftsackli (aroma therapy bags) with eith outdoor, organic or hydro. Interlaken had a very good shop for this. Ever since 9/11 and Theo Van Gogh's murder, times have been changing in Europe.The Dutch government led by Harry Potter (Balkenede) has turned decidedly right wing. A-dam is NOT the same city it was in 2000. No drinking in coffeshops, no smoking tobacco in any establishment including ones hotel room, the closing down of coffeshops, the banning of Mushrooms and the shutting down of much of the Red Light district says it all.

drug tourism

napa valley anyone?

They would have had less

They would have had less drug tourism than Holland currently has, and so would have Holland. They would each be getting about half the drug tourism that Holland is getting today. Plus, in Switzerland it would even have worked better because the wholesale of pot would have been legal, so they would not have had a black market.

"Can you even imagine what Amsterdam would be like if ...

it were the only place you could legally purchase alcohol?" And that's all anyone should have to imagine to understand why the war on weed is such a crock. But if any of you alcohol supremacists are reading, don't let me disturb your comfortability- go have another drink and another laugh at those "doper potheads" that you love to scapegoat for the sins of your own drug. Liberty and justice for all, my ass.

Canadian bud rules

The marijuana in Amsterdam is good, but damn expensive for a "tolerant" society. I guess it`s a shortage of places to grow and a huge demand. No we don`t have coffeeshops ( I don`t understand what is so special about sitting in those cramped places, smoking with total strangers) but we smoke freely in the mountains and forests. Yeah it`s illegal here, but in such abundance it is impossible to catch every grower.
The Swiss are very smart. International treatys prevent them from legalizing marijuana, the same problem we have found here. Nobody is breaking into your house because of a skunk addiction. But heroin is a different story. Addicts seem resistant to treatment or to comply with methadone maitenence. So heroin must be legalized first. It is legal here but not prescribed for addiction, only in rare cancer pain cases. Heroin addiction, crack and meth will continue to cause misery to society untill these drugs are legalized. Everyone smokes pot, but if you are unlucky enough to live in the U.S. or some Third World country, you might get a lot more than a $100 fine.

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