Summer 2009: fixed penalties for THC use - the state of the discussion

St. Gallen has had fixed penalties for THC use for some time now, and it has proven its worth. Now there are efforts to anchor this model throughout Switzerland. Is this about an improvement for the users? Or is it a simplification of prosecution?

The second part of the partial revision

After the rejection of the hemp initiative, the legalization of THC-containing products has become a distant prospect. Nevertheless, the topic is not dead: Thousands of people are still consuming, importing, producing, selling… More hidden than before, but the scene is still active. And also the political authorities - because there is still the second, so far postponed part of the partial revision of the narcotics law. The first part was approved by the voters on November 30, 2008, after which the Commission for Social Security and Health of the National Council (SGK-NR) dealt with the second stage and decided at the end of March that it would like to launch a commission initiative. The content: fixed penalties for THC consumption.

What is it about?

We have already reported on the St. Gallen model. Instead of having to report every illegal drug use to the police, the police issue a fixed penalty if they find small amounts of illegal drugs. In concrete terms, this means for cannabis users in St. Gallen: Anyone caught with a small amount (probably less than five grams) will receive a fixed penalty of 50 francs and that is the end of the matter. There is no registration (and therefore no increase of the fine in case of a repeat). However, the narcotics found are confiscated and destroyed. The central point here is that this regime only applies to adult smokers, young people are very well recorded, supervised, sent to courses - here one very well wants to show presence and “properly” intervene. Whether the new discussions are about exactly the same as in St. Gallen is still open. The SGK-NR has only made a decision in principle that it wants to do something. How exactly then the new regulations will look, we can be curious.

The further procedure

Now the sister commission of the Council of States still has to give its OK to this commission initiative, but that should only be a formality. Then the clarification of the content can begin.

What is clear?

It is clear that young users will continue to be tackled more strongly than in the past. They will be reported to the police and, depending on the decision of the juvenile prosecutor's office, will have to pay a fine, do some work or attend an addiction prevention course. The latter would probably be the measure of choice when the young person first becomes conspicuous; the other measures would then come into play in the event of further conspicuousness, or if the young person does not attend the course. The teachers' association, Pro Juventute and the youth associations have thought about this issue, which can also be read in their text: “Trotz Prohibition handeln! Fixed penalties for adults, early detection and counseling for adolescents”. What are the open points? However, the details for the procedure against adults are still unresolved. Open questions include: When exactly should the fixed penalties for adults be applied? Only in the case of consumption of THC products? Also in the case of possession, purchase, cultivation of THC products for personal consumption? With a quantity limit of how many grams? Could balcony plants also fall under this regime? How high would such fixed penalties be (as in St. Gallen 50 francs)? Where would such an fixed penalty model be legally anchored (in the Swiss Narcotics Law or in the cantonal codes of criminal procedure)? Could cantons also apply more liberal models (for example, warnings instead of fines)? There will have to be some more discussion on this, which we will of course follow closely.

What's the point?

Depending on the design and application of the fixed penalty model, this is more a matter of tightening repression or partial decriminalization. The simplified fining reduces the effort of issuing a fine enormously - thus, with the same manpower, many more fines could be “worked out” than today. On the other hand, a “secured” fine amount of 50 francs for THC users in the vast majority of areas in Switzerland is a certain improvement compared to the current situation (where for example in Zurich the first fine, with fees, can be had for 258 francs ). This mixture of simplified repression and a somewhat nicer way of dealing with THC users could, as has already happened in St. Gallen, really be capable of gaining majority support and have a chance of realization.

But of course such a proposal cannot replace legalization!

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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