On the hemp situation: ideas, papers and terms, summer 2014

The cities in particular, led by Geneva, have stimulated the discussion with their ideas for a dispensing trial. Addiction experts have also spoken out and proposed a regulated market. It remains to be seen how these ideas can be turned into real projects.

Old and new ideas

In the last six months, I felt transported back to the 90s. Suddenly, many are talking about decriminalization and legalization again - just like back then…. As we know, not much has come of these discussions. Hemp stores had their boom around the turn of the millennium, but eventually repression destroyed them again. In 2005 came the zero tolerance to THC in road traffic and the fixed penalties just seem to become another, additional variant of repression instead of bringing down the conviction numbers (see repression statistics 2013).

New realities

What is really new, however, is the international development. While Switzerland was at the forefront worldwide in the late 90s and early 00s, and Swiss hemp stores were a big exception (if you ignore Holland), now there are no hemp stores in Switzerland, but Uruguay is starting legal weed production this year, and the US has become more and more open about medical marijuana. And now partial state legalization has occurred in Colorado: There are hemp stores of sorts there, and the images are striking. Large cannabis social club projects are also underway in Spain. And in Switzerland?

Mountain Hemp Farmers

This impressive international development also inspires Swiss ideas. Thomas Kessler (former member of the Federal Commission on Narcotic Drugs EKDF), for example, has brought out his old concept again: Mountain farmers should grow the hemp they need, regulated and taxed by the state. From Neuchâtel, a representative of the police, Olivier Guéniat, came forward with a proposal: legalize cannabis in private, but continue to prohibit it in public.

Government regulation

In early April, the National Addiction Policy Working Group (NAS) presented its ideas for a state-regulated THC market. The NAS brings together various organizations that deal with addiction issues. With their paper(NAS homepage) they want to find a way between prohibition and release and have published a useful table showing the meaning of the different terms used. We print these here in a somewhat simplified form:


Cities as pioneers

For almost 10 years, there have been discussions in some cities about a cannabis dispensary trial. After it had become quiet around these ideas, because no city wanted to mess with the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH, now movement has come again into the matter: In the meantime, the parliaments of Zurich, Winterthur, Basel, Geneva and Bern are in favor of such a trial and are holding exchange meetings.

Discussions have probably progressed furthest in Geneva, where a large part of the political spectrum is interested in new solutions. However, the motivation is not to recognize the injustice of prohibition, but mainly to drive the predominantly black street dealers out of the public eye. Accordingly, the Geneva conception of cannabis social clubs is also rather paternalistic: An entrance interview is supposed to be necessary, which can also result in “measures”…

Even if it was temporarily said from Geneva that they could imagine a project without the approval of the FOPH, Geneva now wants to ask for such a special permit. The decisive decision as to whether this should be done is, however, pending before the Geneva government council at the end of May 2014.

And the relevance?

As interesting as these proposals may be, they lack any clout. For as long as no majority can be formed to amend NarcA accordingly, things will remain as they are. For trials under the current NarcA, the public prosecutors and police forces would ultimately have to give the green light. They would have to consider a more liberal interpretation of NarcA (which would be entirely possible). But they still want to prosecute, as the statistics show.

The options: Initiative, PR, CSC?

We need to build pressure to turn ideas into real projects and really reduce repression against THC. It doesn't really matter how Collecting signatures, doing public relations and/or founding Cannabis Social Clubs.

The apprehension

If the urban projects come to nothing because they don't dare to violate NarcA and the other proposals remain ideas, then nothing real will come of it. That's why it seems important to us that we also create pressure.

Initiative idea and petitions

In LI 65 we have conducted a survey about a possible new hemp initiative. Many are interested in such an initiative, some think it is still too early for a new edition. As far as the content is concerned, we can say that many people don't care. The main thing is that finally something positive happens in the direction of legalization, even if it would then only be a partial decriminalization. Unfortunately, we have not found the necessary foundations, neither on the personnel nor on the financial level. But we have thought through some things and see quite concretely how it could happen. But just: We would need more helpers and more money. That's why we can't start the hemp initiative project now. Perhaps it will succeed in another attempt in the next few years.

Smaller versions, petitions, are running in Zug and Biel. Even if these are not legally binding, they can create some pressure. After Zug experienced a massive increase in repression, the Young Alternative of Zug launched a petition so that Zug should also participate in the cities' dispensary projects: Hemp Petition. In Biel, something similar is underway, organized by the Juso: Cannabis Petition. This petition was submitted to the city of Biel on May 19, 2014.

PR for the hemp

Of course, you can always do media work, and we do what we can. But the journalists are not per se on our side and their knowledge is mostly frighteningly small. In addition, THC users can't really get involved in the discussions - consumption is also illegal, and anyone who admits to it is admitting to criminal acts. This makes PR work difficult.

Cannabis Social Clubs CSC

One could also simply start trying out models in reality without waiting for the FOPH or the cities. People are already smoking, producing and selling hemp anyway. One idea is for consumers to join together in associations to grow hemp together. But there is a big problem: The distribution (and therefore also the sale) of THC-containing material is a misdemeanor, here comprehensive repression measures and high penalties are possible (pre-trial detention, house search etc.). In such a project, the leading persons (e.g. the association board) risk quite a lot. What could a CSC look like in which no misdemeanor is committed? If everyone plants and dries their hemp plants themselves, and thus each plant can be assigned to a specific consumer, no passing on actually happens. Who waters the plants and looks to them, operates assistance to one contravention of another person, that would be punishment-free… The cultivation (and consumption) of the members can be punished as contravention, but this is a lot less illegal than the passing on and gives as punishment no monetary penalty and no criminal record entry, but a fine. In addition, there is also no profit that the state could then recover.

The person who looks after the plants and keeps the club in good shape would best be compensated by the membership fees. These would also have to cover the cost of materials and electricity (if grown inside) as well as rent.

Such a model could be tolerated by the penal authorities. After all, it is only contraventions that are committed, there is no enrichment, indeed no trade at all. Further conditions for this would be that only adult persons resident in Switzerland participate in the project, no advertising is carried out and the club size is limited.

But maybe there will be a raid anyway and the law enforcement agencies will open proceedings. Then the written statements of the users would come into play: that they grow hemp for their own use. This would then have to be punished with a fine. However, the police will also report their findings to the road traffic authorities - people with a driver's license would then have to fear for it. So there are risks involved in setting up and operating such a CSC. But the risks would be somewhat manageable and even: It could most likely be tolerated by the authorities.

At the same time, one has to see: What the cities say about it or addiction experts is only relevant to a limited extent. Ultimately, it depends on whether the public prosecutors can develop a certain tolerance and let such projects run as long as there are no profits, no minors are involved, the neighborhood and the public are not disturbed and the members do not cause any special problems. It is also clear that the more such clubs there were, the greater the pressure would be to allow such decriminalization.

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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