• Switzerland's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Geneva committee backs legalizing marijuana

David Courbet/AFP · 7 Jan 2015, 09:26

Published: 07 Jan 2015 08:51 GMT+01:00
Updated: 07 Jan 2015 09:26 GMT+01:00

Authorities are considering a radical liberalization of drug laws in the Swiss canton in a bid to undermine the black market in cannabis.
   
Swiss children and teenagers top the European table for experimenting with the drug, according to a 2013 Unicef report that found that the more liberal a country's drug laws, the less likely its children were to try marijuana.
   
"We are agreed about going forward with this. Repression has failed as a policy," Geneva's Health Minister Mauro Poggia told Swiss newspaper Le Temps.

"But that does not stop us thinking about going down other avenues."
   
Geneva's cross-party Advisory Commission on Addiction urged the government to seek approval for the reforms from federal health authorities.

It called for a trial legalization to be rolled in the coming months.
   
But the right-wing Swiss People's Party (UDC) — the largest in the federal parliament — have vowed to resist any relaxing of the marijuana ban.
   
While a spokeswoman for Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health didn't say if it would sign off on the proposal, she noted they are looking at "new ways to tackle the issue".
   
Federal lawmakers have already effectively decriminalized the drug.

Since October 2013 anyone caught with under 10 grams of cannabis faces an on-the-spot fine of 100 francs ($99), rather than a criminal record.
   
By taking this approach one step further and creating a regulated, legal marketplace, Geneva's local government hopes to stem the illicit sale of marijuana, the commission's report said.
   
According to Swiss media, the commission recommends adopting a model similar to the one in Spain where growing cannabis for personal use is tolerated.
   
Dozens of private marijuana smoking clubs operate across Spain that serve cannabis users who do not want to buy from the streets.
   
However, the social club model would run counter to Swiss drug law, which states "all consumption of cannabis is punishable, except if it is necessary for a medical use or for the development of a medicine," said Catherine Cossy, a spokeswoman for Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health.

A new approach

Story continues below…

"We have noted, however, that the current situation for the regulation of cannabis is generally perceived as unsatisfactory, especially in the cities, and we are looking therefore at new ways to tackle this issue," Cossy added.
   
Cannabis laws and punishments vary greatly between Swiss cities and some such as Zurich, Basel, Winterthour and Biel/Bienne are following closely what happens in Geneva.
   
Opposition parties in Geneva remain firmly opposed to any plans to relax drug laws, especially politicians from the right-wing UDC.
   
"We are against the legalization and the consumption of drugs, whether they are hard or soft," vice president Claude-Alain Voiblet said.
   
He said it was "totally absurd" that the country's cigarette laws could become more restrictive than those governing marijuana.
   
"We are opposed to the principle of these practices (drug use) and we will see if we will act in parliament with a petition or a bill," Voiblet said.
   
The UDC pushed through a motion last month in Bern's cantonal legislature which bans pilot programmes testing the legalization of marijuana.

For more news from Switzerland, join us on Facebook and Twitter.

David Courbet/AFP (news@thelocal.ch)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French Open tennis
Stan the man survives first round scare
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Stan Wawrinka battles through five sets in his Roland Garros first round match.

Snow puts end to hottest weekend of year so far
Photo: Gstaad Tourism

Switzerland experienced a return to winter on Monday as snow fell in some places, a stark contrast to the weekend's warm weather.

Swiss aerial accidents leave three dead
File photo: Priyandarshi Ranjan

It was a deadly weekend in the skies over Switzerland.

Tourists leave hospital after Interlaken crash injures 17
The accident happened at a level crossing in Interlaken. Photo: AFP

A train crashed into a tourist bus on Friday night in Interlaken.

Swiss champ wins first title on home soil
Wawrinka goes into the French Open on strong form. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP

French Open champion Stan Wawrinka clinches the Geneva Open title.

Police clash with violent protesters in Bern
The march caused extensive damage in Bern. File photo: Jan Geerk/Swiss Tourism

An illegal party in the Swiss capital spiralled into a violent protest march.

Federer absence a ‘loss’ for French Open
Federer’s absence was a primary topic of conversation at Roland Garros. Photo: AFP

Novak Djokovic was among those expressing their disappointment at Roger Federer’s withdrawal from the French Open.

Brother of Belgian bomber wins gold in Switzerland
Mourad Laachraoui was left 'devastated' by his brother's actions. Photo: Emmanual Dunand/AFP

"You don't choose your family," says Mourad Laachraoui.

Savage crimes raise questions over Swiss DNA testing laws
Photo: Caroline Davis

Should Switzerland lift restrictions on detailed DNA testing in criminal cases?

Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
File photo: Abhishek Jacob

The 71-year-old Swiss great-grandmother and her 21-year-old Tunisian fiancé had their marriage application refused.

File photo: Abhishek Jacob
Lifestyle
Swiss court vetoes wedding of couple with 50-year age gap
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
Culture
Dog day afternoon: Swiss saint meets Pope in Rome
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Business & Money
Pink diamond sold for record-breaking $31m in Geneva
Sponsored Article
Becoming an expat: where to start
File photo: Candida Performa
Lifestyle
Revealed: living in Switzerland could prolong your life
Photo: Cervo
Travel
In pictures: Switzerland’s most welcoming hotels
Photo: Aargau cantonal government
‘Beast of Rupperswil’ was local football coach
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Features
Geneva exhibition marks 200 years of Frankenstein
Photo AFP
National
Swiss basic income campaign sets Guinness world record
Photo: St Gallen police
Society
Police hunt killer of man shot dead in St Gallen street
File photo: Martin Abegglen
Society
Presumed jihadist could have Swiss nationality quashed
Photo: Zurich Zoo
Culture
Gallery: giant tortoise at Zurich Zoo is mother at 80
Photo: Caroline Bishop
Society
Swiss farmer loses appeal in row over noisy cow bells
Photo: Esparta Palmer
Health
44-year-old woman refused fertility treatment on insurance
File photo: Thomas Coex/AFP
Society
Jilted admirer shocks woman with tattoo... of her face
File photo: Flickr
Health
Swiss school eyes longer holidays for non-smoking staff
Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
National
Swiss basic income vote: what you need to know
 Photo: Heinrich Plum
National
Lidl uses German mountain to promote its Swiss products
Photo: Illiz Architektur
This old Swiss army bunker is now an incredible new pool
Photo: Stephan Engler
National
Survey reveals some Swiss ‘never’ cross linguistic divide
Society
Swiss parliament snubs plan for two weeks paternity leave
File photo: Giovanni Blank
Lifestyle
Fathers should share parental leave, says commission
Photo: eGuide Travel
Society
Dictator-tracker spices up Geneva planespotting
File photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP
Politics
Swiss army ready to act in worst case migrant scenario
4,553
jobs available