Swiss set to relax cannabis laws

Swiss set to relax cannabis laws
Mateusz Atroszko (File)

Swiss pot smokers are expecting a relaxation of the rules when parliament reviews the country's cannabis laws in March.

Although Switzerland voted against full legalization of cannabis a few years ago, the topic is still being debated. Parliament must now consider a new compromise, which could reduce penalties for people over 18 years of age.

The proposal would see a new distinction in the way individuals are treated which would depend on the amount of weed in a person’s possession. Any adult caught carrying 10 grams or less could simply receive an on-the-spot fine of 100 francs ($109) rather than being dragged before a judge.

Minors would not be able to take advantage of this distinction, and would still be required to go before the courts.

Many are critical of the new proposal, such as Toni Bortoluzzi of the Swiss People’s Party. He believes the limit of 10 grams is unacceptably high and thinks it should be reduced, online news website 20 Minutes reported.

Others such as Jacqueline Fehr, of the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland, are against the introduction of a fixed limit. It would be unrealistic to implement as the police cannot be expected carry scales about with them, she said.

Fehr and others believe it would be better if each situation were judged on its own merits, with further action being taken where circumstances pointed to other criminal activity.

But Ruth Humble, of the Christian Democratic People’s Party, believes the idea of a fixed limit is fair.

“It cannot be the case that the police in each canton make judgments on different quantities,” she said.

In St. Gallen, a fining system is already in operation. Here the fines are set at 50 francs ($54) for any adult caught with up to five grams of cannabis. Originally the definition of an adult meant that people aged 15 and older were able to escape with a fine only. This was amended a year ago so that the age limit is now 18 years.

“We have been happy to take on the extra work because it has enabled us to identify young people at risk,” prosecutor Thomas Hansjakob told 20 Minutes.

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