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Bid to have pot smokers fined not prosecuted

By Urs Geiser

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,