Fines for possession of cannabis have not been uniform throughout the country due to lack of clarity in the implementation of the law.
According to public broadcaster SRF, the number of fines related to cannabis dropped from 18,000 in 2017 to barely more than 7,000 last year. French-speaking cantons and Zurich especially took a more lenient approach towards cannabis smokers with 70% fewer fines imposed.
According to Marco Cortesi, media spokesman for the Zurich city police, the reason for this massive decline is a 2017 Federal Court decision that ruled that "the mere possession of small quantities of drugs for consumption purposes" should not be punished. Even though consumption is still a punishable offence, the court’s decision has led to a change in police practice.
The northern Swiss canton of St Gallen - which issued a record 1,100 fines last year (or around one in six cannabis users) – will also modify its policy, which should lead to fewer fines in the future.
The Association of Swiss Police Officers called for a greater say in cannabis policy at a recent conference in Bern.
"Today it is difficult to determine whether it is legal or illegal. It is about the THC content. It's about the amount you carry with you," said Jürg Wobmann, head of Lucerne police.
Wobmann wants a “clear and simple law” that makes the work of frontline police staff easier and not more difficult, as well as ensuring youth and public health are protected.