Pubdate: Fri, 23 Apr 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press


BERN, Switzerland (AP) Switzerland should legalize the sale and use of
marijuana but with controls to keep the nation from becoming a drug haven, a
government-appointed panel urged Friday.

The committee's recommendation to the Cabinet will be considered as part of
an ongoing study to revise Switzerland's drug laws but would probably have
to receive approval in a national referendum.

The existing ban on marijuana hasn't worked and may even encourage its use
among young people, the panel said.

"Cannabis is a drug and the committee isn't intending to trivialize it or
say that its consumption is without risk ... but consumption is rising,
especially among young people," panel member Anne-Catherine Menetrey told
Swiss radio.

The committee said the popularity of the drug and varying attitudes of

different states to consumption and low-level dealing mean the Swiss policy
on drugs is suffering from a "growing loss of credibility."

Under the recommendation, prospective marijuana sellers would have to pass a
training course and be licensed. Purchasers would have to prove that they
lived in Switzerland to prevent tourists from flocking to Switzerland to buy
drugs, the panel said.

Last November, some 74 percent of Swiss voters rejected a constitutional
amendment to legalize the consumption, cultivation and acquisition of hard
and soft drugs, including heroin, for personal use.

Government ministers said the legalization plan was a health risk and would
turn Switzerland into a haven for drug addicts from abroad.

No other European nation, not even the relatively liberal Netherlands, has

legalized the possession or sale of any drugs or has plans to do so.

In 1997, the Swiss overwhelmingly voted in favor of state distribution of
heroin to addicts. Government studies showed this cut crime associated with
the drug scene.

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