Pubdate: Sat, 10 Mar 2001
Source: BBC News (UK Web)
Copyright: 2001 BBC


The Swiss Government is recommending to parliament the legalisation of
cannabis, as well as the sale and production of small amounts of soft

The government argues that the move brings the law into line with

Surveys have shown that one in four young people smoke cannabis and it
is widely available in big towns.

Some shops even sell it openly, while cannabis farms are legal as long
as they do not sell the crop to smoke.

The cabinet agreed in principle in October last year to legalise
cannabis smoking.

It has now recommended that police be allowed to turn a blind eye to
people growing and trading small amounts of soft drugs, arguing that
this would make it easier to differentiate between small and
large-scale production and the export of drugs.

Free Drugs

The cabinet also proposed a flexible approach to prosecuting use of
other illegal drugs while still adhering to international treaties to
fight drug abuse.

But this liberal approach is likely to meet tough opposition in

Our correspondent says there are fears that decriminalising cannabis
could turn Switzerland into a haven for drug tourists.

And the far-right has indicated that even if parliament approves the
law, it will call a nationwide referendum.

Swiss voters in 1998 rejected a proposal to legalise all drug
consumption, possibly because Switzerland already has one of the most
liberal approaches in Europe to treating heroin addicts - providing
free drugs and needles to addicts who do not respond to other forms of
addiction therapy.

Switzerland once had the dubious honour of hosting Europe's largest
open heroin scene in Zurich's "needle park", but city officials drove
it underground in the mid-1990s after the park became a mecca for
Europe's drug addicts. 
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