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Major Swiss cities set to back 'cannabis clubs'

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Photo: University of New Mexico
10:50 CET+01:00
Adults may be legally able to seek out clubs in certain Swiss cities to buy state-certified cannabis, free of chemicals, for personal use under a pilot project being drafted.

Lawmakers from at least five municipal governments are looking at participating in an experiment to regularize the use of marijuana through “user’s associations”.

Bern has become the latest city to look seriously at liberalizing the use of cannabis through regulations, the Berner Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday.

Zurich, Basel and Lausanne are also interested in joining in the experiment being piloted by the city of Geneva.

A multi-party working group in Geneva in December presented a proposal for “cannabis social clubs” that would have even allowed minors to participate.

But since then the proposal has evolved, the 20 Minutes newspaper reported on Friday.

The groups would be restricted to adults and called “associations of cannabis users”, with the use of “social club” considered too fanciful.

“At first we thought to include minors in the users’ associations but this question proved to be extremely sensitive,” Rolin Wavre, a member of the Liberal party in Geneva told 20 Minutes.

“But we should be clear to exclude them (minors) from the project will not address the problem of marijuana consumption by minors.”

The working group will submit its final proposal to authorities in June but changes to the federal narcotic law would be needed in order for to go ahead.

The Swiss People’s Party in Geneva has staunchly opposed the project, stating that cannabis has become a “hard drug”.

But backers of the proposal say it would reduce the “black market” and illegal street trading of marijuana through strict controls that would allow cannabis to be traced back to certified seeds, the Berner Zeitung reported.

Other elements, such as the level THC, an active ingredient in cannabis, and use of pesticides in cultivation could also be controlled, proponents say.

The use and possession of cannabis remains illegal in Switzerland, although enforcement differs widely depending on the cantons.

However, the federal government moved to liberalize its policies with a law that took effect on October 1st 2013 that makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a ticketing offence.

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The law authorizes police officers to issue 100-franc ($115) tickets for adults found in possession of 10 grans of marijuana or less.

The change aimed to reduce the 30,000 or so pot-related cases that end up clogging Swiss courts annually, given that cannabis is the most commonly used illicit substance in Switzerland.

In February, a federal parliamentary committee looking into drug issues said it wanted to reopen the debate on the legalization in the wake of developments in the US, Uruguay and New Zealand.

The US state of Colorado recently liberalized laws permitting stores to sell small quantities of cannabis to individuals, who are legally allowed to possess up to one ounce of pot while travelling, although smoking the drug in public there remains banned.

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