No punishment for minors with small amounts of cannabis

Possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis, for personal use, is not illegal in Switzerland. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Possession of less than 10 grams of cannabis is not a punishable offence in Switzerland, regardless of whether you are a minor or an adult, the Federal Court has confirmed.

This content was published on July 18, 2019 - 15:45

In publishing its precedent decision on Thursday, the Federal Court in Lausanne cleared up any lingering confusion around differences in treatment between adults and minors – no distinction should be made, judges ruled.

Referring to the case of a 16-year-old collared in Winterthur with 1.4 grams of cannabis, the court dismissed the appeal of the canton Zurich public prosecutor for minors, who wanted the reinstatement of a punishment initially handed down.

However, the court said that possession of a “minimum quantity”, defined as less than 10 grams and for personal usage, was not punishable for adults in Switzerland, and that there was no reason a youth should be treated otherwise.

Growing, consuming and dealing cannabis are all forbidden in Switzerland. But since 2013 anyone caught in possession of up to ten grams of cannabis will receive a fixed CHF100 ($101) fine and not have it put on their criminal record. 

The court said that while the protection of minors was a key component of the narcotics law, imposing heftier fines on youths was not the solution. Rather, judges said, prevention, therapy, and larger punishments for dealers was a better strategy.

The decision will lead to changed practices among Zurich authorities, who from now on will only punish youths with large amounts of cannabis, or those with the intention to sell.

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