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Swiss want no punishment for smoking pot

A majority of Swiss cantons and most government parties have come out in support of legalising the purchase and consumption of marijuana, the authorities say.

This content was published on January 5, 2000 - 14:44

A majority of Swiss cantons and most government parties have come out in support of legalising the purchase and consumption of marijuana, the authorities say.

Most of the 26 cantons, and three out of four parties represented in the cabinet, said they also would like to stop prosecuting people who grow cannabis for personal consumption.

The findings were part of a consultation process involving all major political authorities and health organisations in the country. They were invited to comment on draft proposals for new drug legislation, about which the government will make its recommendations to parliament in the second half of the year.

Under current law, the purchase, consumption, distribution, and harvesting of cannabis products are illegal and are prosecuted. The essential question for parliament is to decide whether to ease current restrictions.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Switzerland each year consume marijuana more or less regularly, according to federal authority estimates.

The Federation of Swiss Farmers, which sees growing cannabis as a commercially viable crop, supports the latest legislative draft amendments. The farmers say the authorities should not impose tougher regulations, but instead make clear which cannabis seeds can be planted without legal repercussions.

The Federal Police Office said about 250 hectares of cannabis were grown in 1998, but that the authorities were notified of only 40 hectares. Cannabis products have been allowed for controlled medical treatment of various illnesses and diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

At government level, only the right-wing Swiss People's Party opposes legalising soft drugs such as cannabis. The party says it fears that the measure will send the wrong signal and lead to an increased in drug consumption.

In the past year, Swiss police carried out dozens of raids on mostly small shops that were selling cannabis worth hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs.

From staff and wire reports.


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