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Court: Swiss police can’t seize small amounts of cannabis for personal use

hands of a person rolling a cannabis joint
In 2012, the possession and personal use of small amounts of weed was downgraded from crime to offense punishable by fine. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Police in Switzerland do not have the unconditional right to confiscate and destroy cannabis quantities less than 10 grams, the country’s Federal Court has ruled.

The possession of such small quantities of weed, if for personal use rather than re-sale, is already not treated as a criminal offense in Switzerland.

However, on Monday the highest court in Switzerland clarified that such mini-amounts are also not liable for seizure – that is, if there is no proof of any crime having taken place, and if the user is not nabbed while actually consuming the drug.

Judges were ruling specifically on the case of a man who had been caught with several grams of weed and hash in canton St Gallen in 2019.

Police took the drugs, suspecting the man of having brought them in from Austria. However, as no proof of this was found, the man should be entitled to get the drugs back, the court ruled.

+ Read more: cannabis distribution projects spread across Swiss cities

SRF public radio described the verdict as part of a “gradual decriminalisation of moderate cannabis use in recent years”. In 2008 Swiss voters rejected legalisation, but in 2012 parliament reduced the penalty for possession and consumption of small amounts to a fine – in order to relieve the police and judiciary and save costs.

However, for those caught in possession of under 10 grams, these fines are only imposed if they are caught consuming – in which case the drugs can also still be confiscated.

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