Cannabis study part 3

This is the third and last report on the cannabis study of the SFA (Swiss Agency for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems). It is about the image of stoners and opinions about the cannabis policy alternatives of the future.

The image of the stoner

Image is everything! Sounds very much like advertising. I don't even remember where this slogan comes from - and I don't like to agree with it, but especially in politics it could be like that or similar. Images, however, are, as the word implies, only images we have of mostly unknown persons, i.e. projections or illusory images. In a media world where not every politician can be interviewed in person, these images are a means of transport for forming opinions. In order to make decisions more quickly, we form (pre)judgments through a wide variety of information. We all have prefabricated labels that we attach to unknown people, otherwise we would be much slower in our decisions.

In the SFA survey, we were limited to eight adjectives as descriptors. Of course, many questions could have been asked - I would have liked to know more or even the opinion of other “labels” that are attached to people who smoke pot.

It can be seen that the older respondents tend to perceive cannabis users as reckless and unreasonable. A little curious the stoners will probably be, but also misinformed - why else would they do something harmful? Well, the boys only answered slightly positive, i.e. approving, for “curious”. For the “labels” that were not agreed with, there are more similarities between the generations. For example, cannabis users are not seen as cool or brave. People who smoke pot are also relieved to learn that they are not considered criminals - it is enough if many are treated as such…

These (negative) images are rejected much more clearly by the younger ones. The biggest differences of opinion between the generations are found in recklessness and misinformation.

In several of the results of this study, the differences between the language and cultural areas within Switzerland were striking. The image of pot smokers is no exception. In German-speaking Switzerland, pot smokers are considered to be rather curious and somewhat unreasonable, while in French-speaking Switzerland they are seen as reckless. In all parts of the country, people who smoke pot are not considered uninformed. However, they are considered neither cool, nor brave, nor criminal.

The cannabis policy options

The revision of the Narcotics Law is making small progress every now and then. Finally, the whole thing comes to the parliament to be discussed fiercely. However, it will still take years until the conclusion, i.e. a vote. That's where the probe among those surveyed in the study comes in just at the right time. It is a foretaste of “popular opinion,” even though the SFA report emphasizes that no conclusions can be drawn from these results for an eventual vote. This also makes sense, since the respondents were asked to express their opinion on each of the different models and were not presented with the four options as alternatives.

These attitude questions are thus intended to assess how high the openness towards the use of cannabis is in the population or whether different parts of the population can imagine a liberalization in the area of cannabis (use) or whether they would rather continue to stick to prohibition.

  • 1) Tolerance or Opportunity Model: “You should just tolerate cannabis use.”
  • 2) Legalization model: “Prohibition must be lifted. The consumption, cultivation and trade of cannabis should be legal (as with alcohol and tobacco).”
  • 3a) Decriminalization model for all: “At the very least, the use and purchase of cannabis for personal use should be exempt from punishment for all.”
  • 3b) Decriminalization model for adults: “The consumption and acquisition of cannabis for personal use should be exempt from punishment only for adults.”
  • 4) Prohibition model: “Production, distribution and consumption of cannabis must remain prohibited for all.”

The answers to this question show quite clearly that opinions are divided for and against liberalization. Three groups of almost equal size would have been quite conceivable:

The “liberalization supporters,” the “repression supporters” and the “undecideds.” Here, however, we see that only a weak majority would be in favor of liberalization. The opponents are not much smaller. There remains a small proportion of undecideds - according to the SFA, an indication that opinions have already been made.

The report on the study also looks at the differences in terms of gender, age, language region and education. Men seem to be more open to liberalization than women. Younger people are also more in favor of a liberalized variant than the older generation. In German-speaking Switzerland, a tolerant approach to cannabis (users) finds more approval than in French-speaking Switzerland and Ticino. Better educated people are more likely to want liberalization than people with a smaller school bag. But these slices of the whole should not be seen as too rigid - the differences are quite small depending on model and group. And yet, some surprising details emerge: for example, 15- to 19-year-olds approve of the current prohibition model by 40%, while only slightly older 20- to 24-year-olds are in favor of prohibition by only 32%. This growing liberality in the period between youth and adulthood is attributed in the report to the likely changing influence of parents and peers.

Arguments for and against liberalization

In order to better identify people's opinions on cannabis and on how to deal with its users in the future, the participants in the study were asked additional detailed questions. This should make it clearer why one or the other model was preferred.

  • 1) “Public consumption of cannabis should remain prohibited so as not to set a bad example for youth.”
  • 2) “Should Switzerland implement its own cannabis policy, even against international drug treaties?”
  • 3) “Cannabis prohibition deters potential users.”
  • 4) “Cannabis is the first step to using hard drugs.”
  • 5) “Prohibiting cannabis only makes it more enticing.”
  • 6) “Legalizing cannabis encourages use.”
  • 7) “Police should crack down on cannabis users everywhere.”
  • 8) “People should be allowed to plant cannabis for personal use.”

When it comes to setting an example for young people, many no longer understand any joke - so legal cannabis use should also rather not take place in public. If, however, an independent Swiss policy is on the agenda, people are committed to a more liberal cannabis policy against international agreements, even though the highest proportion of undecideds is on this issue. There is no belief in prohibition as a deterrent, which is what today's situation also makes one temporarily aware of. The myth of cannabis as a gateway drug lives on in the minds of many people, but at least it has been acknowledged that prohibition might attract young people in particular. At least it is pleasing that the police are not being considered as a solution to the problems.

Only on the question of whether legalization would promote consumption, there was no majority, however small. But only legalization can provide certain answers, otherwise such questions can never be answered realistically. Only a small majority is in favor of home cultivation - which is a pity, because this would be one of the ways to calmly and pragmatically address the conflicts surrounding the procurement of cannabis.

That's it...

So much for the extremely interesting and, in my opinion, sensible cannabis study that the SFA has brought us. This and other recent studies on cannabis and its use also show that the topic is no longer considered unimportant and negligible - the population is definitely interested in what is going on with hemp, or not. As already mentioned, it will still be some time before the Swiss electorate can decide on a new cannabis regulation. Which model will be debated at all and which will be overturned earlier by the parliament, nobody knows today. Even though opinions seem to be made based on this study, a lot can still happen. In the next few years, many young people who have experience with cannabis today will become eligible to vote, which will hopefully further strengthen the “pro cannabis” vote. Only then could a perhaps even meager improvement really become a lived reality. Let's legalize!

Source: “Cannabis on the threshold of legal intoxication: a representative study on the phenomenon “cannabis” : consumption, attitudes, politics” by Richard Müller, Hermann Fahrenkrug, Sandra Müller. SFA, Swiss Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, 2001. ( - PDF)

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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Shit happens 15 (Summer 2023)

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