Parliament has launched a new attempt to decriminalise the consumption of cannabis, four years after voters rejected a proposal for the full legalisation of the drug.
The House of Representatives voted to impose a fine of SFr200 ($218) for the possession and consumption of up to ten grams of the substance instead of prosecuting the individuals.
Supporters said a pragmatic, efficient and uniform sanctioning system was necessary to deal with a social reality.
An estimated 500,000 mostly young people in Switzerland are believed to smoke cannabis occasionally or on a regular basis.
Two of Switzerland’s 26 cantons have introduced a similar sanctioning method to decriminalise hemp and alleviate the administrative workload of police and courts.
During Wednesday’s debate opponents, notably among the rightwing Swiss People’s Party and centre-right groups, argued that easing the regulations was tantamount to turning a blind eye to a serious problem and attracting drug dealers from other countries.
The other parliamentary chamber, the Senate, is still to discuss the bill.
Two previous attempts by the government to introduce a liberal drugs policy failed in parliament over the past two decades.
In the 1990s the authorities developed a special policy, including a heroin prescription scheme, which was confirmed in a nationwide ballot in 2008.
However, voters threw out a proposal to legalise the possession, consumption and controlled trade in cannabis.
By Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch