Marijuana in Switzerland

In general the European drug market shows on the basis of most recent information that the numbers of illicit substances is still increasing, especially with a growing interest for the more commonly consumed drugs. Due to this fact there is a controversy political debate on the costs and the benefits of different cannabis policy options. Still, Cannabis remains the major income generator for organized crime and the source countries of cannabis encounter the therefore challenging law enforcement since the domestic production of cannabis is increasing.

History of Marijuana in Switzerland

The history of Marijuana in Switzerland has a long tradition. Already in the Middle Ages by wars, commerce between the countries, empires and particularly migration, hemp products were spread all over the world. Clothes, paper, oil, nets and ropes made out of hemp were important products. Apart from that also diseases like jaundice, the pest or also minor things like burnings or just pain were treated with cannabis. The medical care was very often performed together with spiritual rituals. During the Middle Ages the church forbid to use hemp as an instrument for the state of intoxication, since the church was indifferent towards those states and pleasure. So cannabis as a drug was banned, but hemp products for everyday life were not concerned by the prohibition. The highlight of hemp products was the 19th century, in which there were a wide range of hemp products for everyday life, even in sweets some cannabis was added. But then in the 20th century with the introduction of cotton wool cannabis the hemp products were more or less abandoned due to the fact that the elaboration of wool was easier and cheaper than the process of hemp. In Switzerland cannabis was forbidden in 1951. The today known narcotics law was adopted in 1975.

Current legal status in Switzerland

In 2008 there was a referendum if there should be a legalization for Switzerland for hemp but it was refused and at the same time the narcotics law got accepted. The possession and the consummation of cannabis will be punished by the removal of cannabis and a fine; but still the possess little amounts of cannabis remains unpunished but the consummation leads to a fee of CHF 100. Drug dealers have to fear a punishment of three years or fines. The cultivation of cannabis on the balcony leads also to punishment if the THC-quantity is higher than 1%. On the basis of this law, the cultivation, commerce and the consummation of cannabis is forbidden, but there are some exceptions for scientific purposes. Several Swiss cities, including Zürich, Bern, Geneva and Basel, started projects which have been discussed for some time by a municipal working group. Representatives met in Bern to discuss how to regulate the sale of cannabis, which is due to the law illegal to possess in Switzerland, even though the tolerance of the police concerning personal use is very high. The projects are lead by the professor of sociology Sandro Cattacin (university of Geneva) who aims to fight criminalization by stabilizing and regulating the consummation. So the main point of the pilot projects is to authorize and therefore control the use of cannabis for youth and adults who are suffering from serious drug problems. The projects are proposed to run over four years and will be analyzed and also monitored. If the projects get accepted, a maximum quantity of 2000 people will have the chance to participate and to legally smoke joints. Cannabis is the most commonly consumed illegal drug in Switzerland. According to UNICEF is marijuana in Switzerland the second highest rate of cannabis consumption. Almost 25% of all children aged 11, 13 and 15 reported having used cannabis. Since October 2013 use of the drug has effectively been decriminalized. Anyone caught with under 10 grams of cannabis faces a token fine of CHF100. The cultivation, trade and consumption of high volumes of cannabis with more then 1% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a prosecutable offence. Despite this, the federal police estimates that 75% of the cannabis smoked in Switzerland is produced domestically. This is reflected in the fact that the number and size of indoor cannabis plantations are on the rise. In 2014 around 3,000 were discovered by federal police. Of these around 1,000 were highly organized ventures with more than 100 plants and professional equipment. Cannabis is consumed mostly by the under 35year old, where the 15 till 19 years old consume the most with 30% (men) and 17% (women). Here, the male consumers consume was the double of the female. Most notable is the fact, that the experiences with cannabis (in 2002, 2007 and 2012) of the francophone population was a little bit higher than the experience with cannabis of the German-speaking Switzerland.

The start-up Bio Can

Since the consummation is generally forbidden of marijuana in Switzerland, the start -up Bio Can from Zürich invented a joint that can be smoked legally. For years they worked on a structure of the cannabis flower so that it contains hardly any THC, so that the effect of getting high doesn’t work anymore. The founder, Dario Tobler, claims that hemp is a good alternative for tobacco because it doesn’t contain any nicotine. But still Claudia Künzli is criticizing that the lack of nicotine just prevents the addiction.