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UN report criticises Swiss drug laws

The UN report says cannabis from Switzerland is widely available in Europe


A new report, commissioned by the United Nations, has strongly criticised Switzerland's drug legislation. The report, published on Wednesday, says Switzerland has become an important source of cannabis in Europe, second only to the Netherlands.

In its annual report, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says the growth and sale of cannabis in Switzerland has become a "grey area".

The INCB fears that a planned relaxation of Swiss drug laws could make the situation worse and the UN agency has urged the federal authorities not to decriminalise cannabis. It also highlighted the problems associated with drug trafficking.

The federal health office disagreed with many of the report's findings. Ueli Locher, vice-director of the Office, said the new legislation would improve the situation.

He added that Switzerland had never planned to legalise the production and use of cannabis and that there had been a misunderstanding with the INCB.

The INCB also criticised Switzerland's programme of providing heroin and methadone to certain addicts under strict medical supervision. It said other ways of helping drug addicts should be introduced, and it warned other countries to consider the consequences of such legislation before following the Swiss lead.

Locher said that, overall, he was satisfied with the INCB's report. He said it had underlined the quality of Swiss preventative measures to deter potential drug users.

Elsewhere in Europe, Switzerland's drug legislation has been applauded.

In a draft recommendation, the Council of Europe's Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee commended the approach taken by Switzerland, saying it had significantly reduced drug-related deaths since 1994.

The Swiss prevention and treatment programmes include needle exchanges and employment schemes for addicts.

The Committee says strict laws against drug possession in countries such as the United Kingdom and Sweden appear to have no effect whatsoever.

swissinfo with agencies


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