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Post office tackles mail-order pot

Over the past few weeks, no fewer than 350 parcels containing cannabis have been seized at Post Office sorting depots in French-speaking Switzerland. The discoveries have cast the spotlight on internet websites that sell mail-order drugs.

Over the past few weeks, no fewer than 350 parcels containing cannabis have been seized at Post Office sorting depots in French-speaking Switzerland. The discoveries have cast the spotlight on internet websites that sell mail-order drugs.

Police say that 120 such packages have been found in canton Geneva, 90 in canton Vaud, 90 in the Valais, 40 in Fribourg and a handful in Neuchatel and the Jura. They've ordered post office workers to open any suspect package.

Switzerland is known for its liberal attitude to drugs. But a great deal of confusion remains about how liberal the law is regarding the consumption of cannabis. That confusion has been made even worse by a recent motion passed by Geneva city council.

In February, councillors passed a motion voicing their support for the decriminalisation of cannabis, and their readiness to host pilot projects for the controlled sale of the drug. The move led many people to mistakenly believe that the drug had been legalised.

"That has caused massive problems here," Geneva police spokesman, Pascal di Camillo, said. "It was only a proposal by the city council. It was in no way a green light for so-called coffee shops to open in Geneva, or
elsewhere," Camillo told Swiss Radio International

"It's caused a great deal of confusion among young people, and their parents, who no longer know if it's legal or not. Well, we can tell them that the law is the same. Cannabis remains a banned substance because there's been no change to the federal law on narcotics." he said.

The law, which is currently under review, states that it is legal to grow cannabis and to sell its seeds. But as soon as it is dried, it is considered to be a narcotic. Its sale and consumption is illegal.

The vast majority of the special deliveries intercepted by postal workers originated with companies or individuals selling cannabis via the internet. It's a real growth area, and the police have begun to clamp down on them. Many add disclaimers urging customers not to smoke the cannabis, but Pasacal di Camillo believes it's just an attempt to circumvent the law.

"If they sell it dried and ready to be consumed, they risk being prosecuted for breaking the law on narcotics. We regularly close down these sites because they sell products considered to be drugs.", he said.

Geneva prosecutors are hoping that it is the people who run the websites, and not the buyers who will feel the full force of the law.

"The consumption of cannabis is illegal. But in Geneva we believe that the customers should not be so harshly punished as the people who are selling cannabis," Christian Coquoz of the Prosecutor's Office said. "We have take the decision that this cannabis should be sent back to the countries or cantons from which it came so that they can be prosecuted. "

by Roy Probert

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