Pot group advises how to avoid new cannabis fine
Authorities in Switzerland decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis earlier this month with the introduction of a 100-franc fine but a pot smokers group is already dispensing advice on how to avoid the penalty.
The fine, introduced on October 1st, replaces the prospect of criminal proceedings for adults caught with ten grams or less of pot.
The relaxation was approved by Swiss lawmakers a year ago to lighten the workload of police and justice officials.
But the Zurich-based group Legalize it! believes the law is still too harsh on pot smokers and in a German-language brochure it advises users to lie to police to avoid paying the fine.
A person checked by police and found in possession of less than ten grams of cannabis “should not answer questions or lie” about earlier consumption, the group says.
If a person admits to smoking “even a single joint” police are then required to issue the 100-franc fine.
Someone who denies having smoked cannot be fined “and the piece of hash or little bag of weed” they may be carrying cannot be confiscated, according to Legalize it!’s 30-page brochure, titled “Shit happens”.
The group printed 5,000 copies of the publication, which it has also posted online with details of the all the legal ins and outs of the revised drugs legislation.
“The brochure is intended to show how to minimize punishment if you are checked by police ,” Sven Schendekehl, the 43-year-old founder of Legalize it!, told 20 Minuten newspaper.
Schendekehl said he obtained the legal information from lawyers and the federal administration.
On its website Legalize It! notes that use of cannabis remains a serious punishable offence in Switzerland.
The group’s guide has received a mixed reception from politicians and drug addiction counsellors.
Urs Schwaller, a Swiss member of the senate from the canton of Fribourg who heads the Christian Democratic Party’s caucus, told 20 Minuten that informing people about the law was not objectionable but advising people to “deceive the police” was.
Addiction group Sucht Schweiz was alarmed by the brochure.
“We consider it a concern if drug users receive advice that will protect them from legal consequences,” the group said.
But Socialist party MP Cédric Wermuth downplayed the impact of the brochure.
“Even for motorists there are tips on how to avoid speeding tickets,” Wermuth is quoted as saying by 20 Minuten.
“Why should we not also give advice to potheads?”
The MP added that the information in the brochure simply advises cannabis users how to avoid unnecessary trouble while saving police a lot of bureaucratic work.
Zurich cantonal police say they have no problem with the brochure.
For more about Legalize it! check here.