TF Archives

Swiss Sense: Say No to Prohibition

Author: Skrufff
Sunday, August 12, 2001
Swiss authorities took an 'historic decision' last week to move towards official decriminalisation of cannabis, which will allow citizens to use, possess and cultivate cannabis legally, probably as early as 2003. In fact, the usually conservative, tiny European country already tolerates hemp shops which sell marijuana and police have largely given up trying to bust any of the country's estimated 600,000 smokers.

"We're on the verge of understanding that our society can live with cannabis under certain conditions," top Swiss health official Thomas Zeltner told the Guardian. "We talking about a window of tolerance where we say that if you produce cannabis and sell it in very special shops, only to adults, not to foreigners and in small quantities, we will tolerate it. The limit will be five grams per visit per customer and advertising would not be allowed."

Herr Zeltner's concerns about 'drug tourists' echoed comments by Portugal's drug tsar Vitalino Canas who stressed last week that despite recently decriminalising possession penalties for all drugs (including heroin), Portuguese authorities still have no plans to normalise the drug markets.

"British people are very badly mistaken if they think Portugal is the new Amsterdam, drug use is still prohibited and it is still punished," Senor Canas warned (The Observer). "There won't be any cannabis cafes here as long as I'm in the government." However, he appeared equally unimpressed with the status quo 'change nothing' approach still favoured by many other countries.

"Why not be clear about this and change the law to recognise that consuming drugs can be an illness or the route to illness-" he suggested. "America has spent billions of enforcement but it has got nowhere. We view drug users as people who need help and care."

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair also came under fire this week over his continuing support for total prohibition, in a surprisingly direct editorial in London's Evening Standard (significantly published by Associated Newspapers, who also produce Britain's 'voice of middle England'- the Daily Mail).

"Sooner or later (Prime Minister) Tony Blair will have to withdraw his absolute refusal to consider changes to the drug laws," the Standard said. "There is a growing feeling that much more radical reform is needed to bring the laws on drugs up to date with present lifestyles and ensure they are not simply ignored or treated with derision." (Standard)