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Reader poll: Four in five want to extend compulsory masks across Switzerland

A poll of The Local Switzerland readers shows overwhelming support for expanding the compulsory mask requirement to shops, supermarkets and in the service industry across Switzerland.

Reader poll: Four in five want to extend compulsory masks across Switzerland
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

More than 80 percent of those who responded said the mask requirement should be extended. 

The poll drew the biggest response in the history of The Local Switzerland, with 142 respondents along with dozens more on social media. 

The vast majority of respondents supported the mask requirements as they stand, while a majority asked that they be extended. 

Do you support the mask requirement – and should it be extended? 

Just under nine in ten respondents were fans of the mask requirement in public transport (85.9 percent). 

Reader Joelle Fellhauer said she supported the mask rule due to the need to protect the most vulnerable. 

“Absolutely YES. We’re all part of a community and if this small Inconvenience is what it takes to protect people, specially the weakest, then we should do it…& the government should make it mandatory when more selfish members of the community are being short-sighted and put others at risk.”

The support was similarly strong for extending the mask requirement to shops and supermarkets, with 80.1 percent of people in favour. 

 

The support declined somewhat for compulsory masks in food and drink service, but 71 percent of respondents still said they were in favour. 

 

When asked where else masks should be made compulsory, the answers varied greatly. 

Plenty of respondents told us that masks should not be made compulsory anywhere else, while some said they felt a mask should be worn at all times when leaving your house. 

Some created their own science around masks to tell us that they were ineffective or harmful, but by and large most of the respondents were sensible and informed when it came to mask wearing. 

READ: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's new compulsory mask requirement 

Are people following the rules? 

Almost four fifths of people felt that the mask requirement was being complied with on public transport, with only 21.1 percent of respondents disagreeing. 

Evie McQuire joined the chorus of many of our respondents who said fines should be increased for failure to wear masks, citing an example of disobedience in the tram. 

“Must be mandatory of wearing a mask for the safety of everyone and they should have a fine for not wearing a mask …so that (a) hardheaded person will learn from it…and for everyones safety..” 

“For example today i was in a tram and theres one woman who didn’t wear a mask and she’s sleeping on the tram with open wide mouth…if she got the virus then everyone around her will b infected too…”

Another respondent, Cassandra Budlong, also called for higher fines:  

“Definitely- and they need to fine those not complying. Have seen some wearing none, and a couple who held the mask in their hand and only put it on when they say the conductor coming!”

Who follows the rules the best? 

Before the masks requirement came into place, several of our foreign readers complained that they were the only ones complying. 

But since the mask has been made mandatory, it appears that both internationals and locals are complying with the rules.

When asked if “expats and internationals were complying more than Swiss nationals” the majority said they were unsure (65.5 percent), compared with almost one in five who thought that Internationals followed the rules more often. 

The remainder – 14.8 percent – felt that locals complied better than foreigners. 

One respondents said there was a stark difference between Swiss locals and foreigners. 

“In shops and other public places, it’s clearly visible that foreigners wear masks while the Swiss do not. Furthermore, every expat I know has said they will not go out without a mask, where as every Swiss person I know pretty much ignores it.”

READ: One in ten passengers abused for wearing masks 

And why? 

Plenty of our readers had strong feelings on who was complying. One said that the Swiss were “arrogant villagers” who don’t use common sense. 

“The Swiss feel above everything, arrogant villagers, that only follow whatever is convenient. Non-Swiss use common sense, irrespective of the regulations or subjective beliefs”. 

Another said foreigners were motivated by fear to stick to the rules: “non-citizens fear reprisals from the government”. 

Another reader drew parallels with wearing masks and the elusive notion of ‘freedom’: “I never hear expats complain about (masks). While Swiss people talk about getting freedom taken away.”

For members

CANNABIS

UPDATE: What are Switzerland’s rules for cannabis consumption?

Switzerland has a complicated set of rules for both medical and recreational cannabis consumption. Here's what you need to know.

UPDATE: What are Switzerland's rules for cannabis consumption?

Long prohibited and seen as a gateway drug with potentially dangerous impacts, countries across the globe have begun legalising cannabis in recent years. 

While the legalisation for medical use has been widespread, there have also been successful legalisation campaigns in several countries. 

The situation in Switzerland is also in flux and has been complicated by a range of recent changes.

Whether referred to as cannabis, marijuana or hemp, Switzerland’s Narcotics Act qualifies it as “a psychoactive substance”, with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) being its most intoxicating ingredient.

The law specifies that “only THC is controlled under the Narcotics Act. Other active substances like cannabidiol (CBD) are not subject to the Narcotics Act as they do not have comparable psychoactive effects”.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Switzerland has legalised medical marijuana 

As of August 1st, the use of cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed in Switzerland

Patients who are medically prescribed the drug will no longer need to seek exceptional permission from the health ministry, as was the case prior to August 1st. 

Demand for cannabis-based treatments has risen sharply, with the health ministry issuing 3,000 exceptional authorisations in 2019.

The government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients” and was therefore lifting the ban on its use for that purpose, it said in a statement.

The previous procedure involved “tedious administrative procedures”, said the ministry. “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”

As of August 1st, “the decision as to whether a cannabis medicinal product is to be used therapeutically will be made by the doctor together with the patient” the government wrote

The sale and consumption of cannabis for non-medical purposes will remain prohibited.

READ MORE: Switzerland to lift ban on medical use cannabis

The new regulations could benefit thousands of people suffering from severe chronic pain, it added, including those with cancer and multiple sclerosis.

READ ALSO: Why Basel is about to become Switzerland’s marijuana capital

The law change will also mean that the cultivation, processing, manufacture and trade of cannabis for medical use will be subject to the Swissmedic regulatory authority, just as with other narcotics for medical use such as cocaine, methadone and morphine.

Legality of recreational cannabis is determined by the THC

THC of at least 1 percent is generally prohibited in Switzerland and use of products with this (or higher) content may be punishable by a 100-franc fine.

Of course, if someone is determined to smoke it, 100 francs may not be much a deterrent — but that’s a subject for another article.

“By contrast, possession of up to 10g of cannabis for personal use is not considered a criminal offence”, the law states, as long as it is not used by or sold to minors.

Italy's constitutional court has blocked the latest efforts to legalise cannabis.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP.

And, as with nearly everything else in decentralised Switzerland, “there are still considerable differences between cantons regarding implementation of the fixed penalty procedure”.

However, “cannabis flowers intended for smoking with a high proportion of cannabidiol (CBD) and less than 1 percent THC can be sold and purchased legally”, according to the legislation. 

That’s because, unlike the THC, cannabidiol “does not have a psychoactive effect”.

In other words, low-content THC and CBD will not give the “high” that recreational users seek.

When will Switzerland legalise recreational cannabis?

Currently, small amounts of recreational cannabis are tolerated in Switzerland.

“The decisive factor for classification as a banned drug is how much THC is contained in a cannabis product. If the THC content exceeds one per cent, the product is prohibited. Hashish is prohibited regardless of its THC content.”

As noted by the Swiss government, “If you are caught in possession of a small amount of cannabis (no more than 10 grams) for your own consumption, you will not be fined. In addition, if you supply (but do not sell) up to 10 grams to an adult, e.g. when sharing joints, you will not be fined.”

“If you are caught using cannabis, you may be given a fixed penalty fine of 100 francs.”

In June 2020, the National Council approved a plan to start cannabis trials for recreational use.

The experiments are to be carried out in Switzerland’s larger cities. Basel, Bern, Biel, Geneva and Zurich have all expressed interest in conducting the trials. 

The study seeks to find out how the market for cannabis works – and how to combat the black market. The social effects of legalisation will also be examined. 

At this point, no decisions have been made. However, Swiss authorities have set certain conditions in case recreational use is approved.

The National Council said if cannabis were to be legalised, it must be locally grown in Switzerland – and it must be organic. 

Health Minister Alain Berset noted that legalisation should benefit Swiss farmers even though “very few producers have experience in this area”.

READ MORE: Switzerland backs recreational cannabis trials – with one condition

Can you grow your own cannabis?

In truth, a number of people cultivate marijuana plants on their balconies or in their (secluded) gardens for their own personal use.

As it turns out, the law allows it, as long as it is a variety of the plant that does not have a narcotic effect — that is, the THC content must be less than 1 percent. 

By the same token, cannabis-based products with THC content of below 1 percent can be brought into Switzerland from abroad.

However, the import rules differ depending on the type of product  it is — flowers, seeds, extracts, oils, or other goods.

How much cannabis is consumed in Switzerland each year?

Precise numbers are hard to come by, but according to an article in Le Temps, which based its information on a medical study, about 100 tonnes are consumed in the country annually.

Cannabis remains the largest market in terms of volume: it represents 85 percent of drugs consumed in Switzerland, netting between 340, 000 and 500,000 francs per year.

READ MORE: Drugs and alcohol: Just how much do the Swiss consume?

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