Switzerland to legalise recreational and medical cannabis usage

Switzerland will draw up a draft law for the legalisation of cannabis usage, after a parliamentary commission ruled the drug should no longer be banned.

A joint and some sticky icky bud on top of a magazine encouraging you to grow your own.
Switzerland will legalise cannabis production and medical-based consumption, although the specifics of the law remain to be seen. Photo by Shelby Ireland on Unsplash

The production, cultivation, trade and consumption of cannabis will no longer be banned in Switzerland after a commission investigating the drug said the laws should be changed, Swiss news outlet Blick reported on Tuesday

The Social Security and Health Commission of the Council of States (SGK-S) said cannabis should be regulated in Switzerland in order to control the “cannabis market for better youth and consumer protection”. 

EXPLAINED: Which banks are best for foreigners in Switzerland?

The aim of the SGK-S is to eliminate the black market for the drug in Switzerland. A draft law will now be drawn up in Swiss parliament. 

Importantly, it appears that not only will medical use be allowed, but recreational use will also be approved. 

Other rules, for instance how individuals can cultivate and produce cannabis for personal use, as well as taxation issues, will be laid out as part of the legal effort. 

The decision was made on Tuesday afternoon, with 9 of the body’s 11 representatives voting in favour. 

The legalisation has support from across Switzerland’s political spectrum, with 40 members of the National Council signing the initiative. 

While Switzerland’s laws for cannabis production and usage are relatively strict, a movement towards legalisation has been brewing for some time. 

According to one such plan, the cannabis sold in Switzerland would be exclusively produced by Swiss farmers

READ MORE: Ten things Zurich residents take for granted

What are the current rules in Switzerland for cannabis use?

As at mid-October 2021, 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.

Cannabis: What are the rules in Switzerland?

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.

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Does Switzerland really have a national identity and is it changing?

To the outside world, Switzerland comes across as a unified nation of bankers, cheese and chocolate makers, yodellers, and skiers. But the real picture is far more complex.

Does Switzerland really have a national identity and is it changing?

A recent Credit Suisse study examined, among other things, whether Swiss national identity has been changing in view of the events like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

More specifically, researchers looked at the way Swiss people’s perception of their country’s role in the world has shifted in view of this geopolitical event.

But first, what exactly is ‘Swiss identity?’

This question is difficult to answer in relation to any nation, and Switzerland is no exception — even more so because it is not, as many people from other countries believe, homogeneous.

The 8.7 million people who live in the country are not only divided among four linguistic groups — German, French, Italian, and Romansh — but other distinctive characteristics also pay a role in defining Switzerland’s diversity.

For instance:

  • Over 2.2 million of Switzerland’s population (25 percent) are foreigners, mostly from the EU.
  • Nearly 2.9 million people (39 percent) have a migration background, including more than 1 million Swiss citizens.

In terms of mentality too, there are marked differences, not only between language groups — the so-called Röstigraben — but also between the more liberal urban areas and rural regions, which tend to be more conservative in their outlooks.

READ MORE: Röstigraben: The invisible barrier separating Switzerland

So it is fair to say that in matters of identity, the Swiss could be as different as their individual backgrounds, regions, and languages.

Yes, but is there such a thing as a single ‘national’ identity?

While this remains undefinable for all the reasons mentioned above, there is such a thing as “national characteristics,” although that could be part fact and part stereotype.

For instance, the Swiss are known to value punctuality, hard work ethic, rules, social justice, direct democracy, as well as freedom and independence (the latter trait often spilling into the country’s political stances).

They also don’t like to be told by other countries what to do within their own borders, according to the study’s findings.

When asked about various factors that threaten Switzerland’s identity, “external pressure, in its different forms, plays a significant role for many respondents,” researchers reported.

“In concrete terms, Switzerland’s dependence on the global economy, the EU and its problems, and immigration, are increasingly seen as threats to Switzerland’s identity.”

It is true that the Swiss often look down on anything foreign, believing that everything in Switzerland is better than elsewhere. That too, could be regarded as part of the elusive “national identity”.

READ MORE: Why do the Swiss think they are superior to everyone else?

Belief in their country and institutions

Swiss people’s assessment of their own country “remains positive by international standards, although Switzerland’s vulnerability has been laid bare by the pandemic and the war,” the study found.

For 92 percent of respondent, the Swiss economy is in good shape compared with other countries.

In addition, 54 percent of those surveyed still believe Switzerland can compensate for more difficult access to the EU market through increased trade relations with third countries.

This positive outlook ties in with yet another finding: the trust people have in their public institutions is stable and broad-based.

The fact that the Swiss have such confidence in their government is also an aspect of national identity: the unshaken belief that authorities which the people themselves elect will not let them down.

That trait, by the way, extends to foreign nationals living in Switzerland who, in some cases at least, trust the state even more than the Swiss themselves.

READ MORE: Why do foreigners in Switzerland trust the government more than the Swiss?