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Fixed dope smoking fines make slow progress

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10:35 CEST+02:00

The Council of States wants to introduce a fixed penalty system for fining cannabis smokers, but has become mired in a debate on whether to hit tokers with 200 francs or 100 francs.

Currently people caught in possession of cannabis have to appear in court where a fine is assessed according to the details of each case. This is felt to be consuming too much court time and money, prompting the move to a fixed penalty system.

The National Council proposed in March to set a fine of 200 francs ($213), for adults found with less than 10 grams of cannabis – a higher penalty than that suggested by the Federal Council and a special committee. Those with more than 10 grams will still have to go to court.

A 200-franc fine was considered too high by Switzerland’s upper house, the Council of States, which is seeking to have it reduced to just 100 francs ($106), online news site 20 Minuten reported.

“200 francs is disproportionately high - especially compared to road traffic fines," councillor Felix Gutzwiller for the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland told the website.

"100 francs is enough," agreed fellow party member and President of the Health Commission, Christine Egerszegi.

Some, such as lawyer and Councillor Paul Rechsteiner from St Gallen believe that the fine should be reduced even further to just 50 francs ($53). The canton of St. Gallen has had the fixed penalty model in operation for some time – fining people in possession of up to five grams 50 francs.

“The aim of the fine model is to reduce criminalisation and not to increase the penalties,” he said.

Still others, such as Councillor for the Swiss People’s Party, Roland Eberle, said: “Punishing cannabis smokers is right. 200 francs is not terribly high.”

The Council of States will discuss the matter further on Monday.

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