The Swiss government has approved a new draft law to legalise the consumption of cannabis. Under the proposed legislation, which must still be endorsed by parliament, the sale and production of the drug would also be tolerated.
The cabinet said on Friday that Switzerland's drugs law needed to reflect the reality that cannabis consumption is a part of everyday life for many people in Switzerland.
A recent study showed that one in four people in Switzerland have tried cannabis at least once in their lives, and that consumption is particularly widespread among young people.
Ueli Locher, of the Federal Health Office, told swissinfo that the reality is "it's no longer possible to pursue everybody who uses cannabis and we feel it's time to adapt to the present situation."
The government added that it wanted to keep Swiss law in line with international regulations, and that the new legislation would be accompanied by further prevention efforts and well as measures to combat the export of cannabis.
"Switzerland does not want to cause problems for other countries," said Locher, "and we are determined to control any kind of exportation."
The draft law would make cannabis consumption legal, and would lift certain restrictions on its sale and production.
The government said the new legislation was compatible with its drugs policy, which is based on the four pillars of repression, prevention, harm reduction and therapy.
The draft law will now be sent to parliament for approval. One of the leading political parties, the right-wing Swiss People's Party, has already said that it will oppose steps towards liberalisation.
The government has also come under fire from the International Narcotics Control Board, which oversees the implementation of United Nations drug conventions.
swissinfo with agencies