January 8, 2008
In a counterproposition to the Swiss hemp-initiative the commission to the council of the cantons says the use of cannabis should be allowed for adults.
Bern (sda) – Grown-ups should be allowed to light up in Switzerland without being punished. The Healthcommission (Gesundheitskommission, SGK) of the commission to the council of the cantons endorsed a counterproposition to the Swiss hemp-initiative with 7 votes to 4 that comes down to the decriminalisation of cannabis use.
In unison with the Union council (national government) and National council (national parliament) the SGK had declined to support the civil initiative “for a sensible cannabis policy with effective youth protection” (06.106) as stated, with 7 votes to 3 and 1 abstention, as announced to the media by commission president Urs Schwaller (CVP/FR) on Tuesday. However the commission intends to meet the initiative halfway.
Personal use for adults
According to Schwaller the commission proposes to depenalize the growing, possession and use of cannabis by persons over 18. Conditions are that only strict personal use is concerned and that there is no third party damage. The sale of cannabis would remain prohibited.
The civil initiative was to abolish punishment for use, possession, cultivation and acquirement of the psychoactive substances of the cannabisplant. There was no age limit, instead the state was asked to take the necessary precautions to secure protection of the youth. Contrary to the prohibition of cannabis sales the initiative proposed state regulated trade.
Unblock the situation
Schwaller states that the initiative takes things a little bit to far for the majority of SGK members. Last summer a workgroup composed of representatives from different parties (FDP, SP and Green Party) lead by Felix Gutzwiller (FDP/ZH) worked on a counterproposition that could put an end to the deadlock. After all, harming oneself is not considered a punishable crime and repression proves ineffective.
The disagreeing minority of the commission considers the counterproposition a wrong signal and warns that a more tolerant policy will promote a positive attitude towards consumption of narcotics in general. They also thought that allowing use and punishing sales, seem contradictory policies.
Chances are unsure
It is questionable, however, whether the counterproposition will be up for discussion. On the 18th of January the commission of the National council has to make the first move. If they decline, the counterproposition is actually off the table, according to Schwaller. Before the civil initiative was considered in the National chamber they only slightly advised against a counterproposition.
If the SGK of the National council approves, the commission to the council of the cantons can work on the details in February. A possible counterproposition could then be treated in the summer session of the council of the cantons. First the commission has to ask what the position of the Union council (the national government) is on the matter.
The deadline for the treatment (the vote) on the civil initiative expires on July 13th , 2008. The time needed for consideration can be prolonged with 1 year, however, if at least one council launches a counterproposition. If this counterproposition is rejected, the final decision is up to the people and the cantons. Schwaller has not observed any signs of retreat.
National council wages veto
In 2004 the council of the cantons already voted in favour of the decriminalisation of cannabis use. But the National council then rejected the legal revision. Instead it put forth it’s own partial revision that in fact affirms the existing 4 pillars (prevention, therapy, survival aid and repression). This proposition is now in the stage of formal negotiations between the National council and the council of the cantons.