The political situation in autumn 2018

There is a whole glut of political hemp proposals: Experimental articles, cannabis as medicine, a new hemp law and our project initiative. We bring an overview of the current status.

The prosecution runs...

What is real in Switzerland is the repression, i.e. the criminal prosecution of the actions around THC-containing products. In parallel, the discussion about a different, more sensible way of dealing with hemp has been going on for decades. Especially in recent times, the political initiatives are (again) piling up.

...even if there was a lot of talk

We remember: Around the turn of the millennium, there were also intensive discussions about decriminalizing hash and weed. The National Council buried these discussions in 2004. The National Council buried this in 2004, leaving the fines for consumption of cannabis (for adults) and a minimal opening in the area of hemp as medicine. In road traffic, the coercive measures were even greatly expanded.

International development irrelevant

A real improvement of the situation, from the legalization of consumption to the development of a regulated hemp market, remained wishful thinking. Even when internationally a lot happened in real terms: Uruguay, some states of the USA and then Canada introduced different legalization variants. But in our country the repression continues unperturbed.

And now again: many initiatives, articles, discussions. The next double page gives an overview as of the end of August 2018. Further initiatives are announced. All of them are fought by the prohibition supporters, as ever.

What makes the situation so tricky?

Actually, it's similar to 2004, that's the first reason. Back then, the National Council was the hurdle that simply could not be overcome. The Federal Council was in favor of a relaxation in the handling of THC, the Council of States as well, but the National Council did not want to know anything about the business and buried a long discussion phase that had been started in February 1996 with the report of the Expert Commission for the Revision of the Narcotics Law (NarcA).

Is this repeating itself forever?

Now something similar has happened, albeit on a much lower level. The city of Bern had submitted an application to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) for a cannabis distribution project by the University of Bern. But this was rejected at the end of 2017, the current legal situation does not allow such a trial. Within a short period of time, five (!) motions with identical content were submitted to parliament calling for the necessary experimental article: one in the Council of States and four in the National Council. The first one (the one from the Council of States) is now through all deliberations and the National Council has - rejected it. Although four motions of the National Council as well as its responsible commission are in favor (so there are more votes to come on the same topic).

Rejected - and yet it goes on

Immediately after this rejection, the Federal Council sent a detailed proposal for such an experimental article (necessary NarcA amendment including the associated ordinance) for consultation. This will run until October 25, 2018, so there is still a lot to discuss and I am curious whether the National Council can at least warm up to such cannabis pilot trials. For this, it would have to accept the motions of its members or follow the Federal Council proposal. Or will it sink the business in the following votes and remain the big brake against any developments in the hemp area?

The proposal of the Federal Council is very detailed and strictly limits the possibilities. The amendment would be valid for 10 years. During this time, research could be conducted into the health of consumers, consumer behavior or the drug market in a region. The trials would have to be limited to individual municipalities, 5 years (possibly up to 7 years), a maximum of 5,000 people per trial, products with a maximum of 20% THC and a distribution of a maximum of 10 grams of THC per person per month. Consumption in public would not be allowed and the Road Traffic Act would remain in full force. Tobacco taxes would have to be paid and only existing, adult consumers who are not pregnant or breastfeeding and do not have any mental illnesses or take psychotropic drugs could participate.

There is confusion

The second reason: The ignorance is just very big. What NarcA means, how the repression works: There are many opinions floating around in people's heads. But hardly anyone really wants to look at it. It is also unattractive, unworthy of a state under the rule of law, simply embarrassing: the ignoring of the penalty-free small amount, the house searches when ordering seeds for personal cultivation, the absurd THC values in road traffic, the stubborn punishment without proportionality. That the prosecution has no effect on the black market as a whole is also known to the police. Nevertheless, they just carry on. One dealer is replaced by the next, one plant by a new one - there is no shortage, no increase in price. But the consequences of the black market remain: unchecked material, untaxed profits and criminalization of tens of thousands of consumers every year.

Still, most hope that prohibition will prevent consumption. Well, keep hoping, but then don't complain about the excesses of criminal drug scenes!

Is there a common denominator?

The third reason is that the proponents of a change would have to really get their act together in view of the tight political situation and (be able to) all stand behind one proposal. The details can be discussed for a long time (term legalization or regulation?, maximum THC content?, taxation level?, advertising yes/no? and many more). Besides, everyone would have to want to work really hard and together. Because the fact is: even something as small and harmless as a cannabis pilot trial is quite endangered after the last vote in the National Council. So for a real change, you need a lot of resources and staying power.

Well, at least there is discussion. We summarize the status at the end of August 2018 in the following four points.


Cannabis pilot testing: Scientific research on recreational hemp use, with dispensing. After the failure of the big NarcA-revision in 2004, the cities wanted to carry out dispensing projects. Discussions about this have now been going on for over 10 years. Bern has submitted a trial, but it was rejected by the FOPH (due to lack of legal basis).

An experimental article in NarcA should now create the basis for pilot trials with cannabis. This is demanded by five identical motions from parliament. One from the Council of States: Motion 17.4210 Roberto Zanetti (SP). As well as four from the National Council: Motion 17.4111 Regine Sauter (FDP) Motion 17.4112 Angelo Barrile (SP) Motion 17.4113 Regula Rytz (Greens) Motion 17.4114 Kathrin Bertschy (GLP) This is joined by an initiative of the Commission for Social Security and Health of the National Council (SGK-N): Commission initiative 18.402 SGK-N

The Council of States adopted the Zanetti motion in March 2018. The SGK-N also approved it in May 2018. But the National Council rejected it in June 2018: 96 no, 93 yes, 2 abstentions. Thus, this one is done. The other motions have not yet been dealt with.

In addition, the Federal Council has sent a detailed bill for pilot trials with cannabis (NarcA-amendment and ordinance on it) for consultation until 25.10.18. After evaluation, the Federal Council could bring this business to parliament (perhaps 2019).


Cannabis as medicine: facilitating the dispensing of hemp as a medicinal product, including in the form of flowers

Those who want or need to consume medicines containing THC have a hard time. This is because special licenses are required. This makes it very time-consuming for doctors, and so it rarely happens. There are only THC drops, flowers are not available, the costs are high and are not necessarily covered by health insurance. The motion 14.4164 “Cannabis for the seriously ill” of the then National Councilor Margrit Kessler (GLP) was accepted by the National Council and the Council of States in 2015 - but nothing has changed.

The SGK-N has now followed up with Motion 18.3389 of May 2018: “Medical dispensing of cannabis as a medicine to the chronically ill. Lower healthcare costs and less bureaucracy.” The vote was 21 yes, 0 no, 3 abstentions - so something may be possible in this area. On 9/19/18, this bill is on the agenda of the National Council. (For this, the parliamentary initiative 17.439 by National Councilor Thomas Ammann (CVP) from May 2017 was withdrawn).

The Federal Council ordered clarifications in July 2018: Cannabis flowers as an alternative to cannabis tinctures or synthesized cannabis, as well as clarification of the assumption of costs. The Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) must now prepare a consultation draft by summer 2019 to facilitate access to medicinal cannabis. After the consultation, the Federal Council could then bring this business to parliament (hardly before 2020).

Hemp Law

New hemp law: Legalization in principle as for alcohol and tobacco, with own regulations The best thing would be for parliament to take cannabis out of NarcA, provide for it in its own hemp law, and create something similar to the alcohol law. But so far, all attempts have failed because of the National Council. Only the fixed penalties for cannabis use passed this council, albeit very narrowly. A real decriminalization has a very hard time here.

With the parliamentary initiative 17.440 “Federal Law on Hemp Regulation (New Swiss Hemp Law)” by National Councilor Maya Graf (Greens), a new attempt was made. The goal is to replace hemp prohibition with a legal approach with specific regulations.

But already at the SGK-N the bill failed: With 14 no against 11 yes, it was rejected in May 2018. There is not much hope for a better result in the National Council: as we have seen, the SGK-N is still quite a bit more open than the National Council.

(Incidentally, the Youth Parliament has also made a similar demand: 16.2016 Regulated decriminalization of cannabis use from November 2016).

In addition, National Councilor Heinz Siegenthaler (BDP) submitted Motion 18.3150 “Equal treatment of cannabis and high-proof alcohol” in March 2018, but it has not yet been addressed.

Another corresponding motion was announced from GLP circles in July 2018.


Hemp Initiative: Constitutional initiative to introduce a basis for a hemp law As a reaction to the No of the National Council in 2004, the last hemp initiative was launched. In November 2008, it was put to the vote, with 36.7 % of the voters voting in favor. Since then, almost 10 years have passed. So maybe we could dare to go this way again? If the parliament does not manage to pass a reasonable solution, then perhaps the voters could initiate this?

But it is a big job to collect and certify 100,000 signatures. An even bigger job follows immediately if one wants to lead a reasonable referendum campaign. Very few initiatives are accepted, and even if they are, the parliament has to pass implementing legislation - which sometimes has little to do with the content of the popular initiative.

An initiative can force a public discussion on the topic (if you manage to collect it). But a good campaign needs a lot of money, active people - and they also need to want something in common, to agree on the central issues of legalization. Not an easy undertaking!

Our initiative working group has also found this out: Some only want to participate if there is already a lot of money. Others are in favor, but do not want to get involved publicly. Finally, there are also those who would prefer to discuss the text for a while longer.

Last modified: 2024/03/27 08:56

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