Tribune de Genève.
Last week a group called “Legalize it“, launched an initiative to have cannabis legalised. They now have 18 months to get 100,000 signatures, the minimum number required to qualify for a referendum, known as a popular initiative.
Unlike a failed referendum on the subject in 2008, this one includes a ban on sales to young people and a plan to impose a tax on sales. Nino Forrer, spokesperson for the organisation, told ATS that sales to minors would be prohibited. The previous vote, rejected by 63% of voters, did not include either of these provisions. It said appropriate measures would be taken to protect young people including bans on advertising to them, a far looser restriction1.
This initiative’s text, which is being examined by the Swiss government, would amend elements of the Swiss constitution which deal with alcohol, extending tax, age and sales restrictions to cannabis.
The initiative also aims to legalise communal cultivation of cannabis for consumption. The initiators argue that their plan would generate money for the state instead of criminal organisations.
In 2013, a new Swiss law reduced the penalty for cannabis possession to a fine of CHF 100 for amounts of 10 grams or less. According to Tribune de Genève, between 350,000 to 500,000 people are estimated to consume hashish or marijuana in Switzerland. And while some cantons hardly ever penalise those caught in possession of the drug, some are very restrictive.
A short film by the Economist looks at countries’ experiments with decriminalisation and legalisation of drugs. In the 90s it was estimated that 1% of Portugal’s population was addicted to heroin. In 2001, Portugal decriminalised possession of small amounts of all narcotics. By 2012, it was estimated that the number of heroin addicts had halved. Unfortunately the initiative had no impact on the supply of drugs.
Parts of the US are now experimenting with cannabis legalisation, which allows registered businesses to legally grow and sell marijuana based products. The US state of Colorado led the way in 2014 and has helped move the business from the black market and into mainstream society. Initial research suggests that teenage cannabis use declined, while the state made US$ 76 million in tax revenue in 2014.
Tribune de Genève article (in French) – Take a 5 minute French test now
1 Text of 2008 referendum (in French)
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